Three things we learned Sunday night at TD Garden:
Once again, Celtics captain Paul Pierce brought his ‘A’ game when it mattered most, setting the tone for the C’s early in the game with 10 first quarter points.
He never looked back, finishing the night with 24 points on 10-of-13 shooting (4-of-6 from 3-point range) in just 17 minutes of action.
The small minutes came for two reasons: The C’s went up big early and kept it that way, and Pierce went down (temporarily) with a tweaked knee. He would return in the third quarter but eventually sat with the C’s winning big. But that minor injury is something to keep an eye on.
Don’t forget Rondo
Rajon Rondo had maybe his best game of the postseason Sunday, and he didn’t need a triple-double to do it.
It was clear early on that the Hawks were going to let Rondo shoot and hope that his relatively poor shot would pay dividends. It didn’t.
Rondo made the most of his open shots, going 8-for-11 for 20 points on the day. He even hit two three-pointers. But perhaps the most impressive part of the stat-line was that of his 16 assists and just one turnover.
So yeah, the C’s can win without Rondo – but it’s a heck of a lot easier with him.
C’s smell blood
Now that the Celtics have a 3-1 series lead over the Hawks, it seems like it’s just a matter of time before they advance.
But not so fast.
The Hawks are where they are for a reason, and although they were smacked around Sunday, they can easily come out with something to prove Tuesday at home. The C’s can’t ease up – instead, they must make a point early in the game like they did yesterday, going up by 12 points in the first. The sooner they can clinch the series, the more rest they’ll have. Everything is going their way.