The Boston Celtics, who have already had their share of key injuries, had a quick scare seconds into the second half when Paul Pierce fell to the floor hard and was down for a bit before limping to the bench.
After a timeout, the 35-year-old captain shook off the slight injury to his left leg, headed back onto the court and went back to work on his third triple-double of the season.
Pierce had 20 points, 10 assists and 10 rebounds, and Jeff Green scored 27 points to carry the Celtics to a 118-107 victory over the Atlanta Hawks on Friday night.
Pierce was just glad others stepped up, too.
”Well, we need it,” he said. ”It has to come from everybody. Like I said, due to the injuries, guys are getting opportunities.”
Boston coach Doc Rivers knew Pierce was upset over a seven-turnover night in a victory at Cleveland on Wednesday.
”He’s just so smart. He’s never in a rush,” Rivers said. ”We just told him to, `Be an aggressive scorer. Your instincts will have you pass.”’
Jason Terry was 5 of 7 on 3-pointers and finished with 24 points for Boston, which won its second straight following a five-game losing streak. Brandon Bass scored 13 and Shavlik Randolph grabbed a career-best 13 rebounds with nine points.
”Paul just gets everybody involved,” guard Avery Bradley said. ”I love playing with him. He just wants to win.”
Josh Smith led the Hawks with 18 points but shot just 7 of 23 from the floor and 0 for 6 in the second half. Mike Scott scored 19 and Jeff Teague added 17 points and seven assists.
”Paul Pierce is going to score on anybody. He’s been doing it for a long time,” Teague said. ”Jason Terry and those guys making shots, they’re tough to beat.”
The Celtics, who closed to 1 1/2 games behind the Hawks for the Eastern Conference’s sixth playoff spot, won the season series 3-1.
The Hawks sliced an 11-point deficit to 100-94, but Bass nailed a baseline jumper and Terry followed with a 3 from the top of the key after a wild scramble for a loose ball that had it slip through the hands of at least four players. Green then nailed a jumper, making it 107-94 with 5:08 left.
The Hawks never threatened the rest of the way.
”That’s kind of how the game went,” Hawks coach Larry Drew said of the loose ball episode. ”We had some breakdowns and we kept fighting, which was very encouraging.”
Boston, which led by 10 at halftime, pushed it to 83-68 on Green’s 3-pointer from the right corner midway through the third and benefited from a poor shooting quarter by Atlanta’s Smith.
The Celtics owned a 92-80 advantage after three. Smith was 0 for 6 from the field, missing five jumpers and came up short on a drive. He also got a technical. Pierce was close to a triple-double after three quarters, collecting 16 points, 10 assists and seven rebounds.
Terry hit consecutive 3s just 32 seconds apart midway into the second, triggering Boston’s 25-8 run. He made four in the spree and Pierce added one, helping the Celtics to a 66-56 halftime edge.
Jordan Crawford hit a buzzer-beating 3 from directly in front of the Celtics’ bench to give Boston a 32-30 edge after one. The lead flip flopped nine times in the opening quarter.
NOTES: Hawks F/C Al Horford missed the game due to an illness. … Rivers said before the game that the timetable for F/C Kevin Garnett’s return remained the same. ”I think it’s still two weeks,” he said. ”I don’t think it’ll be any longer than that. But if it’s two and a half, I don’t want to you to call me a liar or anything like that.” Garnett missed his fourth straight with what the team called ”left ankle inflammation.” … Boston G Courtney Lee returned after missing three games with a sprained left ankle. ”I worked out (Thursday) and felt good,” he said before the game. ”Then at shootaround (Friday morning) I felt good and decided to give it a go.” … Hawks G John Jenkins left the game with a concussion and the first half and didn’t return. … Boston G Rajon Rondo, out for the season after right knee surgery, was on the bench. ”We felt like we had our captain back,” Bradley said. Rivers said Rondo has been doing most of his rehab work in Florida. ”He told us today he was coming in, and it was good to have him back around,” Rivers said.