Pierce cold, impacts Game 3 in other ways

Pierce cold, impacts Game 3 in other ways
May 17, 2012, 2:46 pm
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PHILADELPHIA It just didn't add up.

At the half of Boston's Game 3 matchup with Philadelphia, Paul Pierce had been awful shooting the ball.

But Pierce's brick-laying aside, the Celtics were still up by 11 points.

As much as Kevin Garnett's dominant performance (27 points, 13 rebounds) and Rajon Rondo's playmaking (14 assists with just one turnover) helped Boston win Game 3 easily, it was Pierce's ability to contribute in other areas that was arguably just as important.

Pierce finished with 24 points, but did so on 6-for-17 shooting from the field. Even more impressive to his teammates was the 12 rebounds, four assists, three steals and -- ready for this? -- zero turnovers.

"He did so many things to impact the game," Garnett said. "Rebound, set guys up, assists, steals, just being active defensively, talking, just so active."

Boston knows that this series has been a difficult one for Pierce as he continues to log major minutes with what team officials described earlier as a sprained medial collateral ligament injury in his left knee. In the three games, Pierce is averaging 15 points while shooting 29.7 percent from the field.

And it looked as though it was going to be another rough night for Pierce in the game's first few minutes, as he struggled to rotate quick enough defensively in addition to having his problems getting free for shots against one of the better perimeter defenders in the NBA, Andre Iguodala.

But everything changed after Pierce threw down a pair of emphatic dunks near the end of the first quarter, which as it turned out would be his only made baskets in the first half.

The C's would have loved for him to make more shots, but on this night, the Captain was finding other ways to make a difference.

After the game, Celtics coach Doc Rivers made a point of singling out the play of Pierce, pointing back to what many might have seen as a rough first half for Pierce.

"I want to point him out because Paul was 2-for-10 (shooting) at halftime, but he had five offensive rebounds," Rivers said. "We talked about it before, if what you do well is not there, what else are you going to do to help your team as a group to each guy? Paul was a great example for that."

As shot after shot taken by Pierce missed the mark, the Captain remained steadfast in his efforts to attack the paint and was rewarded with 14 free throw attempts - more than the entire starting five of the Sixers combined.

"They're really collapsing on me on the down screens for my jumper," Pierce said. "I'm just trying to get to the hole as best I can. I was able to get to the line, get to the rim a number of times. It's something I have to continue to do."

Even though Garnett and Rondo have been the headliners for the C's in this series, some of their success has to do with the Sixers focusing much of their defensive efforts on Pierce.

"We paid a lot of attention to detail on Paul Pierce and trying to get the ball out of his hands," said Philadelphia's Thaddeus Young. "But Rajon Rondo was in the paint and Kevin Garnett was in the paint, and they were getting a lot of paint scores."

Said Rondo: "He played great for us (in Game 3). Paul has been struggling scoring, but he has been doing the intangibles."

And those intangibles have a way of opening things up both for Pierce and the Celtics as they look ahead to what they expect will be a much closer Game 4 matchup against a Sixers team that will play more desperate and in all likelihood, with more energy.

"When you beat a team like this at home, you have to expect them coming out with a lot of energy," Garnett said. "But we'll be ready and we'll be having a lot of energy ourselves."