BOSTON (CBS) – He may be battling an MCL sprain, but it certainly didn’t look like the injury was bothering Paul Pierce on Wednesday night.
The Celtics captain put in 24 points in Boston’s 101-91 Game 3 victory over the 76ers in Philadelphia, putting his knee injury behind him and getting aggressive when it came to pretty much every aspect of the game.
“Whether I shot the ball well or not, everything I was going to do was being with aggression,” Pierce said.
Aggressive might be an understatement. Pierce was in attack mode early on, even if his shots weren’t falling. Early in the first quarter, he missed four shots from close range, but it was the fact he fought for the three put-backs in the paint that showed he was determined to make a difference after scoring just seven points in Boston’s Game 2 loss.
He continued to go strong to the basket, following up his early misses with two ferocious dunks. Pierce finishing with nine points in the first 12 minutes of the game. He ended up hitting six of his 17 attempts from the floor, but did most of his damage at — and getting to — the free throw line. After just two trips to the charity stripe on Monday, Pierce found his way to the line 14 times in Game 3, scoring 11 of his points at the line.
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He made it known to all of Philly when he was making his way to the line, following each drive to the hoop with an aggressive scream that would make Mel Gibson’s “Braveheart” jealous.
“Everything I was going to do was going to be aggressive because they were really collapsing on me on the down-screens, on my jumpers,” said Pierce. “I just tried to get to the hole and I was able to get to the line; able to get to the rim a number of times. It’s something I have to continue to do.”
“Paul is just a grinder,” head coach Doc Rivers said following the win. “He really is. You look at him at times and you wonder, ‘How is this guy getting open?’ He just has great fundamentals. He never does it with speed. He just knows how to play basketball. He’s a throwback guy, that he knows how to play basketball. We jokingly call him our ‘professional scorer’ and that’s what he is in a lot of ways.”
“[Pierce] played great for us tonight,” said point guard Rajon Rondo, who scored 23 points of his own while dishing out 14 assists. “Paul has been struggling scoring, but he has been doing the intangibles. On those [first-quarter] drives, he didn’t get some calls early in the game and thought they were fouls, so he went out and was aggressive and finished strong.”
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Pierce had been just 5-for-20 in the series in the first two games, but helped the Celtics send a message as they took a 2-1 series lead. While he only added four assists, he credited the team’s ball movement for getting the offense going.
“Our offense finally came alive,” Pierce said. “We moved the ball. We knew that’s what we were going to have to do to score 100 points.”
“We just wanted to come out and establish who we are as a team,” Pierce said.
They certainly did that. Now they just need to keep it going on Friday night.