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May 01. 2012 11:09PM

Pierce lifts Celts to playoff equalizer

ATLANTA — On a night where he knew he would have to come up big, Paul Pierce poured in 36 points and grabbed 14 rebounds to power the Boston Celtics to an 87-80 victory over the Atlanta Hawks Tuesday night.

Despite being without guard Rajon Rondo, who was suspended for one game for bumping an official in Game 1, and Ray Allen, out with an ankle injury, the Celtics were able to tie the series at a game apiece with a second-half surge.

Atlanta seemed to have the game in hand, getting off to the fast start in the third quarter to grab an 11-point advantage.

Josh Smith, who finished with 16 points, had six points and six rebounds in that quarter, and Joe Johnson, who had 22, had a big 3-pointer to give the team a 65-54 lead.

But the Celtics continued to battle.

Keyon Dooling came up with his second of two big 3-pointers in the third to keep the Celtics close, and the Celtics went on a 30-15 run to take 79-72 lead with 3:30 left in the fourth quarter.

It would be a lead the Celtics would not let relinquish.

Kevin Garnett added 15 points and 12 rebounds for Boston.

Boston gave the Hawks everything they could handle and more in the first half, which ended with Atlanta clinging to a 44-41 lead.

The Celtics were able to stay in the game with major contributions from Avery Bradley and Mickael Pietrus.

Pierce got off to a hot start, scoring the first nine points for the Celtics, while the Hawks struggled to get into the game early.

Smith missed a dunk and started just 2-for-7 after being the Hawks' star in Game 1.

The Hawks were able to withstand the early salvo with timely buckets from Johnson and Jeff Teague, who also had a huge block on a three-point attempt by Bradley.

Pierce finished the half with 16 points, while Teague had 12 for the Hawks, who led by six points late in the second quarter and took a three-point lead into halftime.


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