BOSTON — It was the sight Celtics fans — and players — dread more than anything, superstar forward Paul Pierce collapsing to the floor in obvious pain, grabbing his left knee after a collision.
So, when asked to describe his reaction when Pierce stepped back onto the floor to start the second half, C's guard Keyon Dooling took a deep breath and summed up the feeling of Celtics Nation.
"YES!!!!" Dooling said with smile and a pump of his fist after the game.
Despite battling a knee injury suffered in a freak accident during warm-ups and reaggravated late in the second, Pierce was once again the man for the Celtics last night, scoring a game-high 24 points as the C's pushed the Hawks to the brink of elimination with a 101-79 laugher.
"Hey, he's The Truth," said backup center Greg Stiemsma with a shrug. "That seems to be the answer to a lot of questions lately. He was great."
But, for a tense time, the victory looked as if it could come at a very steep price.
A collective gasp filled the TD Garden, and most every living room in Greater Boston, with 5:45 to go in the first half.
After draining a 3-pointer, Pierce was moving off a double screen while on defense when he collided with Hawks forward Josh Smith.
Pierce, who had already scored 18 points, fell to the ground and reached for his knee. He then hobbled off the court and down the runway toward the locker room.
"Before the game I kind of tripped over someone's foot and had to sit out the last half of (pregame) shoot-around," said Pierce. "Then I kind of reaggravated it when I went into Josh there. But I really didn't want to sit around and let it get sore."