So when Pierce fouled out with 4:16 to play in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals, any thoughts of a potential meltdown for Boston wouldn't be too crazy.
Rajon Rondo quickly put a stop to any of those thoughts.
The Celtics point guard proved that this is quickly becoming his team — if it's not already — with a performance for the ages late in Boston's Game 7 win over the Philadelphia 76ers.
Rondo scored nine points in the gameâs final 3:30 and registered yet another triple-double to ensure that the aging Celtics would live to see at least one more series.
"I thought that I was part of the reason that [Pierce] fouled out," Rondo said. "I had two turnovers that made us get back on defense and led to two of the fouls. My night wasn't going well all night. I just tried to stay positive, stay with it and something would happen."
"He had no choice," Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. "That's what makes it good. Rondo wants to run the team. He's a great quarterback. … He had to take charge of the team. That's good to see as well. He's been aggressive throughout this entire playoff run."
It wasn't a typical Rajon Rondo performance. Sure, he was able to create for his teammates, as evidenced by the assists, and he was there to clean up on the glass once again. But when the game was on the line, and when it mattered most, it was Rondo who stepped up to take the big shots.
His jump shot has been a point of contention throughout his entire career, but on Saturday night, Rondo looked like he wanted to shoot the ball. That much was clear when he stepped into a 3-pointer from the right side of the court that was a good three feet behind the arc. It was a game-changing shot, a shot that may have been the final dagger in Philadelphia's heart.
"Our new weapon," Rivers joked. "When he's in rhythm, I think he's a good shooter. The second one, he wanted that shot. He stepped into that shot."
"I'm just trying to make a play," Rondo said. "I thought I had a pretty good rhythm, so I wanted to stay confident and continue to shoot the ball. And you know, they went in at the right moment."
Rondo's shooting was impressive, but so was his resiliency. He had, by his standards, a poor Game 6. His performance in Game 7 didn't look much better at times. When things aren't going well for Rondo, he sometimes struggles to keep his composure. Saturday night, with the season on the line, he did not let that happen.
"I just get frustrated," he said. "I'm the leader. I'm the point guard. I take pride in taking care of the ball. It's a team effort, but it's never when I'm mad at someone else. I just try to be great every night."
Rondo was great when it mattered most, and if the Celtics are going to pull off an upset of the Heat, he's going to need to be even greater.
It's becoming more and more apparent that this is Rondo's team. By the nature of his position as a point guard, he's called on to be a leader, but it's evolving into more than that. He has become the main focus, even as he shares the parquet with three superstars destined for Springfield.
"I don't look at them as the Big Three," Philadelphia coach Doug Collins said. "I look at them as the Championship Four. If you leave Rondo out, youâre making a huge mistake, because that guy has become the motor that drives this team."
The Boston Celtics are now Rondo's team, and they'll only go as far as he can take them.