BOSTON Good effort. Good job. Good effort.
Lots of words come to mind when you look back at Paul Pierce's Game 6 performance in the Eastern Conference finals on Thursday.
Those are probably not the first ones that come to mind, however.
Pierce, one of the NBA's best in big games, delivered a dud of a performance in Boston's 98-79 Game 6 loss to the Miami Heat.
With the loss, the C's are now in a 3-3 series tie with the winner of Game 7 on Saturday advancing to the NBA Finals to face the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Several Celtics struggled shooting the ball, but none stood out more than Pierce.
He finished with just nine points, his lowest-scoring game in this series, while mission 14 of his 18 shot attempts.
Pierce has had his share of rough games before, but to struggle the way he did, with a chance to move on to the NBA Finals, makes this loss tougher than most to put in the past quickly.
"You got an opportunity to close out the series on your home floor for us to come out and play like the way we did, it's very tough."
Of course the story of the game was LeBron James, who had 45 points, 15 rebounds and five assists.
But just as significant was James' dominance, was the disappearing act of Pierce for the bulk of Thursday's loss.
Despite the C's overall struggles, C's coach Doc Rivers didn't believe that it was a lack of trying on the part of his players to do well.
"I think every single guy showed up, and he wanted to play as hard and the best that he could," Rivers said. "Sometimes it doesn't happen, even when you want it to happen. The good news is we get to do it again. So that's the good news. The bad news, we have to do it on the road. We're comfortable on the road. We've been comfortable. But we're going to have to play a hell of a game."
And for that to happen, Pierce is going to have to deliver in a big way at both ends of the floor.
"He'll bounce back," Rivers said. "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."
In a weird way, the Celtics blowing a game at home and having to win on the road in order to get to the finals, is par for the course with them this season.
"It's been that kind of year for us anyway," Pierce said. "I think we're in the perfect opportunity. We've been the underdog all year long, going into Game 7 the underdog we are right where we want to be."