BOSTON Paul Pierce continues to be the Boston Celtics' Mr. Do-Everything, tallying his second triple-double of the season in leading the Celtics past Denver in a 118-114 triple overtime thriller.
Pierce finished with 27 points, 14 rebounds and 14 assists for the Celtics (27-23) who moved four games above .500 for the first time this season, and have now won a season-high seven straight games.
"This was a great game to be a part of," Pierce said. "This is the type of win that can give us confidence moving forward."
Especially considering it was Boston's sixth straight game with at least five double-digit scorers.
And while a number of players took center stage at different points in the game for Boston, there was no mistaking the steady play of Pierce who seemed to find a way to put his imprint on the game in a variety of ways.
His play continues what has been a trend in this post-Rajon Rondo run the C's are on, a run that has in large part been fueled by the play of Pierce.
Pierce hit a number of big shots for the C's on Sunday, but none as big as the 3-pointer with 5.2 seconds to play in the second overtime that tied the game at 107.
Celtics coach Doc Rivers said the original play was Pierce coming off a pick-and-roll, and he could get a 3-pointer off, take it.
"Then it was broken and Paul just made a play," Rivers said. "I mean, that's what great players do. I would love to tell you I had something to do with it. I was sitting just like the fans praying, 'Please, Lord, Paul make a shot.'"
Pierce's clutch shot making was among the many keys in arguably the Celtics' most hard-earned wins of the season. Here are some other keys identified prior to the game, and how those keys played out.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR: The Nuggets are all about getting buckets, all the time. For the season, they have averaged 104.8 points per game which ranks third in the NBA. During their nine-game winning streak, they lead the league in scoring with 114.6 points per game. Meanwhile, the C's counter with a scoring defense (93.8) that ranks 6th overall this season, and is 4th in the league (89.7) during the Celtic's six-game winning streak.
WHAT WE SAW: The triple overtime affair certainly skewed the scoring numbers for both teams. But considering the Nuggets needed three overtime periods to reach their scoring average during the winning streak that is no longer, it speaks to how well the Celtics defense played against one of the most prolific offenses in the NBA.
MATCHUP TO WATCH: Paul Pierce vs. Kenneth Faried: Pierce has been playing some of his best basketball of the season lately, but the 6-foot-8 Faried presents a different and in many ways, tougher challenge for the Captain. Faried is a high-energy, always-on-the-move player with great rebounding instincts evident by his 9.7 rebounds per game this season. Keeping him off the boards should be an even bigger priority for Pierce than doing what he does best, which is score.
WHAT WE SAW: Pierce had another big game for the Celtics with his second triple-double of the season with 27 points, 14 rebounds and 14 assists. As for Faried, he had 14 points and 12 rebounds for Denver, but committed a huge gaffe by committing a technical foul after Ty Lawson gave the Nuggets their first lead, 90-89, with 1:43 to play in the fourth quarter. Jason Terry made the game-tying free throw moments later.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Boston's second unit has been in attack mode of late, but Denver's JaVale McGee might make the C's think otherwise. He's averaging 10.1 points off the Nuggets bench, in addition to 2.02 blocked shots per game which doesn't factor in the shots his presence around the paint can alter. His four blocked shots at Cleveland on Saturday was the seventh time this season he has had at least four in a game. That's tops among all NBA reserves this season.
WHAT WE SAW: McGee was a monster on the boards with 16, but he was out of position far too often in the third overtime which allowed Kevin Garnett to have wide open to lightly-contested shots that paved the way for Boston's victory.
STAT TO TRACK: Limiting Denver's offensive rebounds will be an across-the-board challenge for Boston. The Nuggets average an NBA-best 13.6 offensive rebounds per game. Boston has been among the better defensive rebounding teams of late, but during their six-game winning streak they are still giving up 13.2 offensive rebounds per game.
WHAT WE SAW: The Nuggets stayed true to form, grabbing 15 offensive boards which led to 23 second-chance points. However, Denver only grabbed two offensive boards in the three overtime periods that resulted in just three points.