Celtics take some offensive burden off Pierce

Celtics take some offensive burden off Pierce
March 14, 2013, 10:45 am
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Paul Pierce didn't shoot much against the Raptors, and he still moved up on the all-time scoring list.

(USA Today Sports)

BOSTON -- Paul Pierce has spent his entire career putting the Celtics on his back and finding ways to lead them to gutsy wins.

This season the 35-year-old has tapped into the fountain of youth (he's averaging 18.6 points, 6.4 rebounds, 4.6 assists) without the injured Rajon Rondo and Jared Sullinger. And his absence was noticeable on Tuesday as he sat out to rest, and the Celtics were blown out by the Charlotte Bobcats.

Pierce returned to action on Wednesday against the Toronto Raptors, and his teammates stepped up to relieve some of the offensive burden he has been carrying. Pierce is averaging 14.5 field goal attempts this season, including 20+ attempts in eight games. He attempted just six field goals in 24 minutes, the second-fewest all season. More than half of his 15 points came at the free throw line (3-6 FG, 0-2 3PG, 9-11 FT).

“We were awful last night, you know what I mean?" Rivers said following the Celtics 112-88 win over the Raptors. "But clearly having Paul on the floor is important for us because he does more than just stabilize, he scores, and he’s a threat at the end of the clock. That’s huge for us.  Last night we had a lot of end-of-clock possessions and we didn’t have our guy that can get a shot off whenever he wants to and that hurt us. We don’t want to get in those positions, but last night was one of those games when we did.”

The irony of Pierce's limited shooting performance is that he reached major NBA milestones despite it. In the third quarter, Pierce passed Charles Barkley for 20th place on the all-time scoring list and Allen Iverson for 10th in all-time free throws made.

“I just come here night in and night out and do the things I do to make history," Pierce said. "I’m happy. And when you pass a guy like Barkley, one of the greatest players that ever played the game, (that) says a lot.”

With the playoffs approaching next month, Rivers will look to limit Pierce's minutes. Pierce could also benefit if other players take the lead offensively and he doesn't have to be the go-to for the main scoring option. On Thursday, it was Jeff Green who led the C's with a game-high 20 points in 31 minutes off the bench.

“It’s good sometimes, especially at my age," Pierce said of having a night off. "I’ve had a lot of injuries throughout this season and it’s hard to recover from them when you’re playing so many games every other night. As a 35-year old, they don’t heal as quickly as they did when you were younger. So sometimes it’s good to get a night off or a practice off here and there so your body can deal.”

Only attempting six field goals is also a good start.