Keyon Dooling was brought to Boston to be a mentor to the Celtics' young guards, give Rajon Rondo some relief at point guard from time to time and hit a few big shots in the playoffs.
After Tuesday, he had accomplished all three.
The 13th-year veteran, about whom the coaches and players have spoken glowingly for his locker room presence this season, came through for the Celtics on the court in their 87-80 win over the Atlanta Hawks in Game 2 of their first-round Eastern Conference playoff series. Dooling's two 3-pointers in the third quarter knocked to lid off the rim that had prevented the Celtics from hitting a single trey in the first six quarters of the series.
"Listen, Keyon is a veteran," Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. "That's why you want guys like that on your team. No situation's going to be too big for him."
The situation, in both cases, was serious. Dooling's first deep ball came almost halfway through the third quarter, cutting a nine-point Celtics deficit to six points and drawing a sigh of relief from Boston's bench. They were not going to be shut out from beyond the arc in the series, although it had felt that way, being 0-for-19 cumulatively from downtown before Dooling's shot. To Paul Pierce, who scored a game-high 36 points and played all but four minutes in the game, that shot was a turning point. "That shot gave us our feet back," Pierce said, according to Rivers.
Three minutes later, after the Hawks had built their lead back to 11 points, Dooling drained another deep ball. This one sparked the run that would vault the Celtics back within striking distance to eventually win. The Celtics outscored the Hawks 15-4 over the final 3:34 of the third quarter and the first 3:11 of the fourth quarter, knotting it up for the first time since the second quarter on a jump shot by Avery Bradley.
When the Celtics were finished evening the series at 1-1, they pointed out the defensive contributions of Kevin Garnett, Marquis Daniels and Sasha Pavlovic to label Game 2 a "total team win," in Rivers' words. Without their defense, Pierce's scoring or any number of other performances, the Celtics could be looking at a 0-2 deficit heading into Friday's Game 3 at the TD Garden.
Without Dooling's shots, the Celtics might still be wondering whether their shooting strokes had deserted them at the most crucial time. Instead they head back to Boston with home-court advantage in the remaining five games of the series, and winning the series does not look like such a long shot.
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