Pierce overcomes pain to play hero

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Pierce overcomes pain to play hero

BOSTON -- After playing 43 minutes and scoring a game-high 30 points, Paul Pierce assessed his health at 81.6 percent, down from his recent calculation of 83.7.

My hip is bothering me right now, he said, noting that he strained it during the game.

The Celtics captain showed no signs of it late in the C's gritty 91-89 win against the New York Knicks on Friday night at the TD Garden.

Doc Rivers contemplated taking Pierce out earlier in the game, but the determined Celtics captain began hitting a rhythm his coach couldnt ignore. Pierce was getting in the zone, a mindset he slips into when shots seem to come naturally and the basket seems wide open.

I think my concentration level, my focus really goes up later in the game, he said. You think about so many times youve been in this situation before and it almost comes natural, just being there, not really feeling too much of the pressure. You try to relax and play the game and let it come to you. When those shots are there, you try not to rush it. When youve been there so many times, it really comes naturally for me.

Pierce scored a game-high 30 points, including four three-pointers and 10 free throws. His trey with 1:29 left in the third quarter cut the Knicks lead to seven and kicked off a 12-5 run in which the Celtics tied the game in the fourth and took over the lead.

Even though Pierce's three-point attempt with less than 15 seconds to play was reviewed and called a no basket -- I thought it was off my hand before the buzzer went off, but ref made a judgment call. I havent seen the replay, he said -- his energy carried the Celtics through their comeback.

Paul carried us, said Ray Allen. Paul, he was awesome. The couple shots I made, its almost like it was a breath of fresh air for Paul because he was carrying us. And with them, you feel like you stop something theyre doing and then you start getting hit from the other side. It does take the pressure off of Paul and he can continue doing what he does. But also, theyve softened up a little bit because theyre getting attacked from that strong side and they tend to want to help. Kevins getting shots and then I slide in there and Rondos cutting. So its a well-oiled machine for us. Weve just got to make sure we continue to oil it.

WATCH: Celtics vs. Raptors

WATCH: Celtics vs. Raptors

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Celtics-Raptors preview: DeRozan, Lowry a challenge for Bradley, C's

Celtics-Raptors preview: DeRozan, Lowry a challenge for Bradley, C's

BOSTON – Avery Bradley doesn’t mind being a standout, but this is probably not what he had in mind. 

Injuries have ravaged the Boston Celtics’ starting five to the point where only one player, Bradley, has been with the first unit in all 22 games this season. 

Just like Bradley was looked upon to step his game up in the absence of Isaiah Thomas (right groin) at Orlando on Wednesday, he will once again be challenged to lead Boston (13-9) to victory tonight when the Thomas-less Celtics face the Toronto Raptors. 

Bradley’s emergence as a two-way talent this season has overshadowed at times what has been another season of elite play defensively. 

And he’ll need to be on top of his defensive game tonight against a Raptors All-Star backcourt of Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan. 

Both Lowry and DeRozan present a different kind of challenge for Bradley who will spend time defending each of them at various points during the game. 

Lowry has good size, strength and deceptive quickness in addition to an under-rated perimeter game that will keep Bradley on his toes for sure. 

This season he's averaging 20.8 points, 4.9 rebounds and a career-high 7.6 assists while shooting 42.9 percent on 3's which is also a career mark. 

And DeRozan is having the kind of season that might get him a few league MVP votes. 

His 28.0 points per game ranks fifth in the NBA, but making his numbers even more impressive is that unlike most guards DeRozan doesn’t generate much offense from three-pointers.

DeRozan averages 1.8 three-point attempts per game which is the fewest attempts among any player ranked among the league’s top-25 scorers.

The 6-foot-7 All-Star is the master of the mid-range game which accounts for 31.5 percent of the points he scores. And when he’s not shooting the mid-range, he’s working a defender in one-on-one iso-situations. 

That helps explain why 76.4 percent of his two-point made field goals are unassisted. 

But here’s the thing about Bradley. 

As much as we give him props for what he does defensively, it’s his offense that has put him on the map as a potential All-Star this season. 

Bradley is averaging a career-high 17.9 points while shooting 47.2 percent from the field. He’s also averaging a career-high 7.8 rebounds per game in addition to shooting a career-high 40.7 percent on 3's.

But for Bradley, individual accolades are only going to come his way by the Celtics winning games; preferably against above-average teams like the Toronto Raptors.

And that would make both Bradley and the Celtics stand out this season.