Paul Pierce played only 15 minutes and scored only three points. The Celtics were in deep trouble, right? Wrong.

Eddie House to the rescue.

The instant-offense guard came into the game to start the second quarter and provided one of the best shooting displays this arena -- or the NBA for that matter -- has ever seen in Boston's 112-94 Game 2 win.

In 27 minutes of play, House lit up the scoreboard with a career playoff-high 31 points on 11-of-14 shooting. His electric scoring had the Garden on tilt all night, and it was leaning in Boston's direction from start to finish.

House's performance had Stan Van Gundy's head spinning during the game, and after the game all he could do was say how critical House's performance was -- four straight times.

"Rondo's always got the speed and quickness going to the basket -- but the change in the game was Eddie House," he said. "That was the change in the game. He changed the game. That's what changed the game from the way it was."

"I've seen some great shooting shows in my life, but that was incredible."

Well put.

The Celtics led from start to finish, going up by as many at 26 points in the early moments of the fourth quarter.

If the Orlando Magic thought the C's were hot in the first quarter, they hadn't seen anything yet. In the second frame, House scorched the nets for 11 points on 5-of-6 shooting. His hot touch rubbed off on the rest of his teammates, too. The C's shot 65.2% from the floor in the quarter and had five players score at least five points.

Even more impressive was the team's assist numbers. The Celtics put on one of the most beautiful displays of basketball the NBA has seen this season. After Ray Allen's pull-up jumper to start the quarter, Boston assisted on their next 14 consecutive baskets. Heading into halftime, they had assisted on 22 of their 25 made field goals.

Rajon Rondo played a large part in that. He was back to his first-round self, pushing a triple-double by halftime with his eight points, 12 assists and seven rebounds.

His loudest basket, which gave him his third triple-double of the playoffs, came with 2:45 remaining in the third quarter. Boston swung the ball two passes from the left corner to Rondo at the top of the key and he decided to take the ball right down Main St.

Reminiscent of his resounding dunk attempt in Game 1, Rondo flew from the floor with a lot more than a layup in mind. With his legs spread wide, looking like the Air Jordan Jumpman logo, the NBA's Defensive Player of the Year, Dwight Howard, and Rashard Lewis both decided they wanted no part of this play. They stepped aside and let the No. 9 rock the rim.

Rondo descended upon the rack and slammed one home with enough power to run the North End for weeks. The dunk was so astounding that it garnered at least five replays, in succession, on the jumbotron.

"I was tired of Dwight (Howard) challenging my shots and I was struggling with my floater, so I just wanted to take it to the basket pretty strong," Rondo said of the play.

"Pretty strong" is quite an understatement for what he did. This one wasn't a "dunk", it was a "dunk!" that put an exclamation point on a near perfect night for the Celtics.

Again, Van Gundy summed it up well in just a few words by saying, "They dominated from the get-go."

Rondo's third triple-double tied Larry Bird for the most in one postseason run by any player in Celtics history. With the win tonight, Rondo has at least three more chances to leave himself standing alone atop that list. He finished the night with 15 points, 18 assists and 11 rebounds.

But while Rondo dictated the pace of the game with his speed and tenacity at both ends of the floor, it was House who was percolating from the outside and had the Garden crowd chanting "EDDIE, EDDIE" yet again.

House realizes his performance was outstanding, but he noted after the game that more importantly, the team grabbed a key victory.

"We needed to get this to even the series out and it was more like a statement game for us," he said. "We knew we came out and were half-stepping in the first half of the last game, and the way we ended that first game, we needed to come with that same energy."

They certainly did that, from player one to player 12.

Allen recovered from his poor performance in Game 1 by finishing with 22 points, six rebounds and four assists. Off the bench, Brian Scalabrine also performed extremely well, scoring eight points, grabbing two rebounds, dishing out two assists and defending Lewis nearly all game long.

Again the overshadowed, Kendrick Perkins outplayed Howard nearly all night long. His 16 points were four better than Orlando's big man, he had twice as many blocked shots (2 to 1) and shot 7-of-10 from the floor, compared to Howard's 5-of-13. Perkins had three less rebounds (nine) than Howard (12), but also played nearly 5 1/2 less minutes.

Rivers has to be satisfied with grabbing an 18-point victory while his captain was a non-factor. In some ways, it may be a dual positive for the Celtics moving forward.

"I'm hoping that Paul has the game that Ray had when he went back to Chicago after he sat that whole game with foul trouble," Rivers said, referencing Allen's 51 points in Game 6 against the Bulls after fouling out of Game 5. "So, that would be terrific."

Pierce will essentially have three days of rest to prepare for a Game 3 matchup that could potentially give home court advantage back to Boston.

For both teams, work is far from finished. The Celtics have won three of the four halves, but that doesn't really matter. What matters is that the series is tied 1-1, and the Celtics must take back home court advantage.

Friday night's 7 p.m. visit to Amway Arena will be their first opportunity to do so, and it's presumed that the Captain will rebound from his Game 2 performance just as Rondo and Allen did tonight from their quiet Game 1s.