Pierce plays bigger than the rest in Sunday's win

Pierce plays bigger than the rest in Sunday's win
March 5, 2012, 7:21 am
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BOSTON -- Paul Pierce believes great players step up in close games.
On Sunday afternoon against the New York Knicks, he once again showed why he is one of them.
Pierce led all players in scoring with 34 points (13-23 FG, 4-7 3PG, 4-5 FT), but it was a single bucket that prevented the Celtics from leaving the court with a loss after leading by as many as 15 points.
In a back-and-forth battle with five ties and seven lead changes, the Celtics fought back from a halftime deficit to lead 80-72 entering the fourth quarter. The Knicks, though, were looking to reclaim the game.
They scored 31 points in the fourth and took a 101-100 lead with just under a minute left in regulation. Pierce missed a jumper with 19 seconds left that would have put the Celtics up 102-101. On the next possession, Steve Novak made a pair of free throws to push the Knicks edge to three points.
Trailing 103-100, Kevin Garnett handed the ball off to Pierce at the top of the arc. He pulled up for a three with 4.9 seconds to go and drained the game-tying bucket over rookie Iman Shumpert.
The Celtics went on to win, 115-111, in overtime.
I got to a spot where I like to get the shot off from, Pierce said. Maybe rushed it a little bit, but it felt good coming off my hand. Sometimes they go in and sometimes they dont. But I had another opportunity, another crack at it, and I always say, if at first you dont succeed try again.
Head coach Doc Rivers was not pleased that this team had squandered the lead but in the end, his team came through with the win even if it wasnt always pretty.
Paul made a good shot, he said. I thought that the last play -- really the start of it was the play after that -- it was hully gully or whatever you want to call it. We just told our guys to keep handing it off until somebody got free and Paul made a big shot.
Knicks head coach Mike DAntoni watched Carmelo Anthony give the Knicks the lead less than a minute earlier, and then saw Pierce take it away just as quickly.
I dont know if thats execution, thats having a horseshoe up your rear, he said. Thats what Paul Pierce does, though. He hit a hard shot, thats what he does. Melo hits one, thats what he does. Paul hit one, he hit a dagger. You got to give him credit with that, but theres no execution with that one. Thats just going out and making a shot.
It is never ideal for a player to have to save a game with seconds left on the clock, but after nearly 1,000 contests in the NBA, Pierce doesnt mind it.
I guess theyre better than blowouts, theyre more fun, Pierce said of close games. The great players, they really like to play in these types of games. They like to step up as you saw tonight. Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett, (Rajon) Rondo, myself, Melo (Carmelo Anthony) hit some big shots. Thats what makes the game of basketball and these type of games versus New York so fun because you always see the great players rise to the finish.