BOSTON — Paul Pierce is probably still floating today.
With 7.4 seconds on the clock and his team down by two, he took a handoff from Kevin Garnett, dribbled to his right and launched a fall-away 20-foot jump shot just inside the 3-point arc, in front of the "Celtics.com" logo painted on the sidelines and over the outstretched hand of 6-foot-10-inch Al Horford. The ball cut cleanly through the net with half a second remaining, giving Boston a 103-102 victory over the previously unbeaten Hawks.
"Sup-er-star," Celtics guard Eddie House said, enunciating each syllable.
Last night's outburst was just another pump of helium into the suddenly larger-than-life swingman, whose Nike-clad feet probably haven't touched the ground since June's championship celebration. If Celtics fans had their way, his likeness would appear as a giant balloon in this year's Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.
"Get the ball to Paul Pierce; get the hell out the way," Garnett said of Boston's strategy on its final offensive sequence. "Superman's in the booth. Let's go home. That was the play. If y'all don't believe, ask Doc Rivers, he'll say the same exact thing."
Pierce finished with a game-high 34 points. He went 8 of 14 from the field and 15 of 16 at the line. His driving 3-point play at 1:37 in the fourth quarter gave Boston (8-1) what looked like an insurmountable 99-95 lead.
The Hawks (6-1), however, fought back. Marvin Williams' 3-pointer from the corner gave his team a late 102-101 lead. At that point, Lawrence native Steve Holman, Atlanta's radio play-by-play man, leaped out of his seat.
Holman should've known. Only Pierce gets to walk on air at TD Banknorth Garden these days.
Former Celtic Joe Johnson, who led Atlanta with 28 points, seemed resigned to that fact.