Pierce provides spark in return

Pierce provides spark in return
December 31, 2011, 4:55 am
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BOSTON The return of Paul Pierce was sure to provide a lift to the Boston Celtics' offense.

But as impressive as Pierce the scorer can be, it's his all-around game that sets him apart from the masses.

And it was that all-around game that helped propel the Celtics to a 96-85 win over the Detroit Pistons, the C's first victory of the season.

Pierce, who had missed the first three games with a right heel injury, had 12 points, 4 rebounds and 5 assists while playing just under 23 minutes.

Having had one practice prior to playing on Friday, no one had any idea what to expect from Pierce against the winless Pistons (0-3).

"I was expecting to be me," Pierce said. "I don't settle for anything less. Doc Rivers wanted me to be aggressive and play the way I play. That's what I tried to do."

Indeed, Pierce's ability to hold his own defensively, help out on the boards and at times, become a scoring threat, was just what the struggling Celtics (1-3) needed.

"Having Paul back was a huge boost for us," said Kevin Garnett. "He gave everybody a little extra lift. When you see one of your best players out there . . . it was a great, emotional boost for us."

Rivers likes the spacing that having Pierce on the floor, provides his team.

"The space is so different," Rivers said. "I felt bad because I took Detroit head coach and former Celtics assistant Lawrence Frank out to dinner last night. He said, 'Is Paul playing? I said, 'No, there's no chance.' "

You could sense that Pierce was getting closer to returning to action sooner rather than later.

His workouts in recent days were picking up, with less and less soreness afterward.

When asked about how the heel felt following Friday's game, Pierce said, "The rest of my body is sore, more than anything; being I haven't had any physical contact or any up and down basketball in quite a while."

Even though Rivers had told Frank that Pierce wasn't playing, Frank wasn't caught by surprise in how Pierce performed despite limited prep time.

"Paul changes the game for them," Frank said. "Regardless, I know he's only practiced once this whole year, but you just know what he's capable of doing. He's an outstanding defender as well."

And it is that complete game that will only improve as Pierce continues to get back into the flow of playing regularly.

"It's going to take me a little time," Pierce said. "Just to get back into pretty good game shape; the shape that I want to be in to play at the level that I want to play at. It'll come."