MIAMI The disappointment of Thursday's Game 6 loss is a thing of the past now for the Boston Celtics. And while that punch-in-the-gut moment hurt the entire team, it's hard to imagine it hitting anyone harder than it did Paul Pierce.
An elimination game, at home. A chance to send the heavily-favored Miami Heat home for the summer. It was the kind of situation, the kind of moment that typically brings out the best in Pierce. Instead, Celtics Nation had to witness Pierce at his worst, scoring just nine points on 4-for-18 shooting.
If there's a player due for a breakout game in this series, it's Pierce.
The struggles in Game 6 were a reflection on how this entire series has been for the Celtics' Captain.
He is shooting just 33.6 percent in this series which is the worst shooting percentage he has had in 22 playoff series.
"He'll bounce back," said C's coach Doc Rivers. "Paul is a big-game player. Game 7s are the biggest that you can possibly have. What I saw (in Game 6) was I thought he was ready for the game. He just didn't have a great game. We don't look into it much more than that; at least I don't. He was down. Kevin (Garnett) was down. But you can see their resolve in the locker room. They're not just going to pack for (Game 7). They're going to bring suits for Tuesday (Game 1 of the NBA Finals), and they're going to bring suits for Thursday (Game 2 of the NBA Finals). And that's the way we're going to plan it."
Pierce's ability to bounce back and lead the way for the Celtics will indeed be a factor in tonight's Game 7 matchup. Here are some other keys to pay attention to as the Celtics look to do what hasn't been done in the Big Three era - win a Game 7 on the road.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR - Kevin Garnett didn't get nearly as many touches around the basket in Game 6 that he's used to, or the Celtics need in order to be successful. Plan on a heavy diet of Garnett around the basket tonight. "He really made the first post shot, and then he didn't get one for ten touches," said C's coach Doc Rivers. I thought they (Miami Heat) threw him out of his rhythm. We threw him out of his rhythm. And all great scorers or great players are rhythmic. I didn't think we did a very good job of keeping him within the rhythm of our offense."
MATCHUP TO WATCH - Rajon Rondo vs. LeBron James: They won't face each other to start the game, but there's no question they are the two biggest stars in this series. Each has had an out-of-this-world game in this series, the kind of performances that will pale in comparison if they were to have a good game tonight and lead their respective teams to victory.
PLAYER TO WATCH - Brandon Bass is indeed a wild card in this game tonight. The Celtics need him to be a factor both on the boards and in the scorer's column. With so much attention being paid to Kevin Garnett in the post, the perimeter shooting of Paul Pierce and Ray Allen along with Rajon Rondo's dribble penetration, he'll get opportunities to make a difference in what has to be one of the biggest games of his career.
STAT TO TRACK - Of all the statistics from Boston's Game 6 loss that contributed to the C's defeat, their 14 team assists stood out. It was the fewest assists they had in the playoffs, which to some degree spoke volumes about how poorly they shot the ball and to some degree, their ball movement not being as crisp as it usually is. "You can't just look at a stat sheet and say that we only had 14 (assists) and say we didn't move the ball," said C's Rajon Rondo, who had 10 of the team's 14 assists. "Guys missed shots. When you shoot the ball well, if you make a couple of lay-ups, that's more assists. We moved the ball well. We just didn't put the ball in the hole."