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Irish Coffee: Paul Pierce’s Top 5 Celtics playoff moments

05.02.12 at 11:36 am ET
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Jesus Shuttlesworth wasn’t available, so Paul Pierce channeled sports spirituality’s next best thing: Tim Tebow.

Pierce became the only Celtics player in the last 25 years to total 36 points and 14 rebounds in a playoff game, bringing the Celtics back from the dead, erasing an 11-point Hawks lead and avoiding an 0-2 postseason hole. In the absence of Rajon Rondo (suspension) and Ray Allen (ankle), everyone in Atlanta knew the C’s playoff hopes rested on Pierce’s shoulders — and he delivered a game for the ages, one of his many in Celtics lore.

Like Tebow’s completion percentage last season, Pierce shot 46 percent from the field, and his eight turnovers were every bit as bad as the new Jets quarterback’s pass attempts, but the inexplicable happened and the fourth quarter became Truth Time, so Pierce earned the right to Tebow at midcourt of Philips Arena.

Where does that performance rank among the Celtics captain’s Top 5 all-time great playoff moments?

5. In Game 4 of the 2003 Eastern Conference quarterfinals against the Pacers, Pierce scored 32 of his 37 points in the second half in addition to totaling 10 rebounds and seven assists in a 102-92 Celtics win. He set the C’s playoff record for points in a half, including a trey in trash-talking Al Harrington‘s face to end the third quarter.

4. In Game 3 of the 2002 Eastern Conference finals against the Nets, Pierce scored 19 of his 28 points (8-21 FG, 0-5 3P, 12-15 FT) in the fourth quarter of a 94-90 Celtics win. The Celtics trailed 64-53 after three quarters, and Pierce’s performance highlighted the greatest fourth-quarter comeback in NBA playoff history.

3. In Game 1 of the 2008 NBA finals against the Lakers, Pierce scored 11 of his 22 points, including a pair of 3-pointers just 22 seconds apart, after leaving the game on a wheelchair with what we thought was an ACL tear in the third quarter of a 98-88 Celtics win. He also helped hold Kobe Bryant to 9-for-26 shooting (24 points).

2. On Tuesday night, in Game 2 of the 2012 Eastern Conference quarterfinals against the Hawks, Pierce amassed 36 points (12-26 FG, 1-5 3P, 11-13 FT), 14 rebounds and four assists in an 87-80 Celtics win. Carrying a depleted C’s roster, he played the Hawks even through the first five minutes and outscored them 18-15 in the final 15:08.

1. In Game 7 of the 2008 Eastern Conference semifinals against the Cavaliers, Pierce netted 41 points (13-23 FG, 4-6 3P, 11-12 FT) while registering five assists and four rebounds in a 97-92 Celtics win. He out-shined LeBron James, who totaled 45 points (14-29 FG, 3-11 3P, 14-19 FT), six assists and five rebounds.

HONORABLE MENTIONS

— In Game 5 of the 2009 Eastern Conference quarterfinals against the Bulls, Pierce sunk the game-tying shot with 10 seconds left in the fourth and the game-winner with three seconds remaining in overtime while playing 50:40 of a 106-104 Celtics win. The victory came with an injured Kevin Garnett and fouled-out Ray Allen on the bench.

— In Game 3 of the 2010 Eastern Conference quarterfinals agains the Heat, Pierce scored 32 points (11-23 FG, 4-10 3P, 6-8 FT) and grabbed eight rebounds in a 100-98 Celtics win. After draining a 3-pointer with 1.7 seconds left in the third quarter, he then sunk his patented right elbow jumper in isolation at the buzzer to seal the victory.

— In Game 5 of the 2002 Eastern Conference quarterfinals against the 76ers, Pierce scored a playoff career-high 46 points (16-25 FG, 8-10 3P, 6-7 FT) to go along with six assists and four rebounds in a 120-87 Celtics win. His effort helped the C’s snap a 2-2 tie on their way to their first playoff series victory since 1992.

(Have a question, concern or conception for the next Irish Coffee? Send a message to @brohrbach on Twitter.)

Read More: 2012 Playoffs, Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics, Paul Pierce
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