The Province



WALTHAM, Mass. — When Rajon Rondo first saw his teammates again after Game 2 of their playoff series against Atlanta, he shook their hands and thanked them for pulling out a victory in his absence.

“He was very happy, thanking guys as we were getting on the bus,”celtics coach Doc Rivers said on Thursday before Boston’s final practice for Game 3 of the first-round series against the Hawks.“i don’t know if he would have done that two years ago. He would have been thankful, but he would have been in the back of the bus with his head down, down on himself. . . . That’s a step there.”

The Celtics beat Atlanta 87-80 in Game 2 to tie the series at one game apiece, giving them a chance to take control in Games 3 and 4 in Boston on Friday and Sunday. And they did it without Rondo, who was suspended fortuesday night’s game for bumping the referee when a call went against him in the final minute of the series opener.

“Obviously, they won it for themselves. But they told me,‘we got this one for you.’that felt good. It felt like I was a part of it. It changed the series.”

Paul Pierce scored 36 points and added 14 rebounds in Game 2 to make up for the absence of Rondo and Ray Allen, who hasn’t played since April 10 because of bone spurs in his right ankle. Rivers said there is a chance he could play in Game 3.

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