Morning Newsletter

Without Rondo, Celtics rally to tie series with Hawks

Paul Pierce battled through another tough shooting night to score 36 points and the Boston Celtics wiped out Atlanta's 11-point lead in the second half even without Rajon Rondo, stunning the host Hawks 87-80 on Tuesday in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference playoffs.

The series is tied 1-1. Game 3 is Friday night in Boston, and Rondo will be back for the Celtics in that one, his shorthanded team having claimed the home-court edge. The star point guard sat out a one-game suspension for bumping an official in the opener.

The Hawks appeared to be in control when they pushed out to a 65-54 lead late in the third quarter. But Boston sliced it to 66-61 by the end of the period, and Pierce led a dominating fourth.

76ers 109, Bulls 92: Jrue Holiday scored 26 points, Lou Williams added 20 and visiting Philadelphia beat Chicago to even their first-round series in the Bulls' first game since Derrick Rose's season-ending knee injury.

The superstar point guard received a standing ovation and waved to the crowd as he limped onto the court to present the game ball, then watched from a suite as the 76ers simply blitzed the Bulls in the third quarter in Game 2.

They outscored Chicago 36-14 in the period, turning an eight-point deficit into an 83-69 lead, and pulled even with the league's top-seeded team. Game 3 is Friday in Philadelphia.

Holiday was 11-for-15 from the field, and the Sixers shot 59 percent overall.

Joakim Noah led the Bulls with 21 points and eight rebounds.

Popovich has evolved

Gregg Popovich can't win like the old days. No longer can the San Antonio Spurs simply feed Tim Duncan the ball, let their defense do the rest and ride that game plan to NBA championships.

But the new way Popovich has them winning isn't bad, either.

That acknowledgment came Tuesday when Popovich was honored as the NBA's Coach of the Year after leading San Antonio to 50 wins and the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference. The Spurs defied naysayers who have written them off as too old since their last title in 2007 and did so in a lockout-shortened season that tested every coach when it came to managing minutes and finding practice time.

"If you can draft David Robinson and follow that up with Tim Duncan, that's a couple of decades of very, very possible success unless you just screw it up," Popovich said. "So it's hard to take credit when circumstances have gone your way so consistently."

Popovich also won the award in 2003 when San Antonio won its second of four championships, and he might be headed for a fifth ring if the Spurs keep this up. They're doing it partly thanks to a supporting cast of rookies and former NBA no-names that Popovich has turned into a surprise frontrunner.

He whipped them into winners quickly. After a bumpy 12-9 start, the Spurs lost just seven more games the rest of the season.

Popovich received 77 first-place votes. Chicago Coach Tom Thibodeau was second (27), Indiana Coach Frank Vogel was third (7) and Memphis Coach Lionel Hollins was fourth (6). Boston's Doc Rivers and Denver's George Karl each received a vote.

Knicks in more trouble with Stoudemire

Amare Stoudemire essentially took himself out of the Knicks' playoff series after taking out his frustration on a glass-encased fire extinguisher Monday night in Miami.

A surgeon at the Hospital for Special Surgery repaired a small muscle in Stoudemire's left hand Tuesday. He is out for Game 3 Thursday night against the Heat and is doubtful for Game 4 Sunday.

Stoudemire will be reassessed after that. But with the Knicks down 0-2 in the best-of-seven series, they would need to win one of the two home games for Stoudemire to have a chance to play again. Game 5 would be a week from Wednesday in Miami.

Stoudemire suffered a large laceration on the side of his left hand after he punched a wall and shattered the glass holding the fire extinguisher on his way to the locker room following the Knicks' 104-94 loss Monday. Knicks and Heat doctors and local paramedics tended to Stoudemire, whose only comments have been on his Twitter page.

"I am so mad at myself right now," Stoudemire tweeted Monday night. "I want to apologize to the fans and my team, not proud of my actions, headed home for a new start."

The Knicks return to practice Wednesday, trying to pick up the pieces and hoping to make it a series against Miami.

Beating the Heat would have been tough for the Knicks at full strength. But they lost rookie Iman Shumpert to a torn ACL and lateral meniscus in Game 1 and Stoudemire to poor judgment after Game 2.

The Knicks went 14-5 without Stoudemire, including 9-4 late in the season when he sat with a bulging disk in his back and Carmelo Anthony played power forward. But Shumpert played a key role. One of those losses — and the only Garden defeat in 12 home games under Mike Woodson — was against the Heat.

Jeremy Lin could return from left knee surgery in Game 4. But Miami might not be the best team for him to return against. Lin (1-for-11, eight turnovers) was overmatched against the Heat in February when he was healthy.