CHARLOTTE, N.C. The playoffs are going to be here before you know it.
No Boston Celtics player seems to understand this better than Paul Pierce, who delivered yet another big-game performance in leading the C's to a 102-95 win at Charlotte.
Pierce finished with a season-high 36 points in addition to grabbing 10 rebounds for his fourth double-double this season.
With the victory, the Celtics (27-22) move into a tie atop the Atlantic Division with Philadelphia which was idle on Monday.
'Idle' is certainly not a word anyone would use to describe Pierce's play in recent weeks.
While Pierce's attack-mode mentality was present from the opening tip-off on Monday against the Bob-kitties, uh, Bobcats, he has been approaching games with a go-for-the-jugular mindset for a while now. He's averaging 18.6 points per game this season, but has dropped more than 22 per game in the month of March. He has five games with 30 or more points scored, three of which have come in March.
"I been feeling that way for the last couple of weeks now," Pierce said. "It's that point of the year, we're 40, 50 games in so I think it's important that I start getting into a comfortable flow heading into the playoffs."
The most clear example of his aggressive, attacking nature on Monday was seen in him getting to the free throw line a season-high 18 times.
"From the beginning of the game he was in attack mode," said C's coach Doc Rivers. "That is why you have great players. One of them steps up and you can win a game."
Pierce indeed stepped up for the Celtics, and in the process, stomped out any hopes the Bobcats (7-40) had of rallying for a win.
Throughout the game, every mini-surge by Charlotte was countered with a big shot, or a big pass or a rebound, by Pierce.
"It makes it easier for everybody when he's attacking like that," Brandon Bass, told CSNNE.com.
Pierce's knack for getting to the line opened the free throw floodgates for his Celtics teammates, as Boston shot a season-high 45 free throws - that's 11 more than their previous high set against Oklahoma City on Feb. 22.
"I just wanted to take advantage of opportunities," Pierce said. "I saw lanes. I just tried to mix it up between driving, and taking the jump-shot."
And that kept the Bobcats defense off-balance all game, which in turn allowed Boston to pull away for a victory that now has them tied atop the Atlantic Division for the first time this season.
"It's good, but at the same time we haven't beat Philadelphia yet," Pierce said. "If it comes down to a tie record, they have the advantage on us. So it's good for now, but we still have a lot more ball to play."