The series isn't over yet, but for some, it already feels like the Boston Celtics have won. Addressing the media before practice on Thursday in Waltham, Rajon Rondo said that the team's Game 2 win was exciting and that it felt like they had already won the series.
Of course, it's not over. Far from it. The series is tied 1-1, but with Rondo returning to the lineup following his one-game suspension, things are looking pretty good for Boston, which hosts the Atlanta Hawks in Game 3 at 7:30 p.m. EST on Friday at TD Garden (CSN/WEEI).
Rondo's absence in Game 2 was supposed to hinder the Celtics, but Paul Pierce made sure that didn't happen. Pierce pulled out a gem, totaling 36 points and 14 rebounds to power Boston past Atlanta, 87-80, on Tuesday night. Pierce did most of his damage in two quarters, scoring 13 in both the first and fourth quarters. Kevin Garnett (15 points, 12 rebounds) and Avery Bradley (13 points) also helped fill the void. Joe Johnson had 22 points to lead the Hawks and Josh Smith, who left the game late in the fourth with a left knee sprain, had 16 points and 12 rebounds. Neither team topped 43 percent shooting.
Getting Rondo back certainly helps, but the Celtics are still down a superstar in Ray Allen. Thursday offered fans of the green team new hope, as Allen said he was feeling better and head coach Doc Rivers told media that Allen has a "better shot" to play in Game 3. Allen has been sidelined since April 10 as he continues to recover from a right ankle injury.
Atlanta has its own problems, with Smith's knee injury creating uncertainty around his status for Game 3. Rivers is certain that Smith will play, and the Celtics will prepare that way. Smith's absence would be tough to overcome for Atlanta, considering he's averaging 19 points and 15 rebounds in the series. Zaza Pachulia (foot), however, will miss Game 3.
The potentially pivotal Game 4 will take place at 7 p.m. EST on Sunday at TD Garden.