Pierce bringing it with playoffs approaching

714680.jpg

Pierce bringing it with playoffs approaching

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."

Curran: To gauge Patriots' plans for Jimmy G, look to Brissett

Curran: To gauge Patriots' plans for Jimmy G, look to Brissett

When trying to figure out what the Patriots will ultimately do with Jimmy Garoppolo, forget about the speculation and instead focus on the little things the team does. 

Like how they are tending to Jacoby Brissett. 

After having thumb surgery on Oct. 7, Brissett was put on IR. But the team used its one "Get off of IR free card" on Brissett and he's been practicing with the team for the past couple of weeks while not taking up a roster spot. 

That alone isn't compelling evidence that he's the backup-in-waiting and Garoppolo's about to be packed up and shipped out, argued my compadre, Senator Phil Perry. The team had no other players on IR that they could use the designation on at the time. Why not use it on Brissett?

Prior to that, though, we've seen Brissett accompanying the team to away games including the cross-country junket to San Francisco. A reason? Since the Patriots played three straight at Gillette at the start of the season when Brissett was the direct backup to Garoppolo, he didn't get a good look at the road operation and the tempo of being the visiting team. How things work on flights, in meetings, at opposing stadiums and on the sidelines is worth getting a promising young players' eyes on. Also, getting his offensive teammates used to having him around is probably an even bigger benefit. It's not unprecedented to have IR players travel but its not conventional practice either. 

With so many quarterback-needy teams around the league, Garoppolo is perhaps the most attractive option out there. By the end of this year, he will have apprenticed three seasons behind the best quarterback of all-time in a sophisticated offense for a program that's as demanding as any in the league. In the 10 quarters he was able to play as a starter in place of Tom Brady, he was sensational.

He got hurt and that's not great. But any team making a deal for him that has concerns about his durability can take him for a spin for one season. Garoppolo is on the books for $825K in 2017 and then his contract is up. The team that dealt for him can franchise him if they need another season to think on it. 

I don't think the Patriots are itching to move Garoppolo. They know they are sitting comfortably with a stack of the most valuable commodity in the sport -- good quarterbacks (or at least one great one and two promising ones) - piled in front of them. They can let the game come to them. 

If it does, as former Patriots executive and Bill Belichick consigliere Mike Lombardi thinks it will, the Patriots can rest easy dealing Garoppolo knowing that they already did advance work getting Brissett up to speed.