Pierce will play, but how effectively?

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Pierce will play, but how effectively?

BOSTON Doc Rivers confirmed that Paul Pierce (sprained MCL, left knee) will play tonight in Game 6 against the Atlanta Hawks.

How well and how long, however, remain to be seen.

"Obviously it's not the best situation," Rivers said. "But he is going to play. We just have to figure out what he can do on the floor."

One of Pierce's strengths in this series, when healthy, has been his ability to get to the free throw line.

In the first three games, Pierce averaged 10 free throw attempts per game. In the last two both of which have been played with his left knee injury Pierce has only taken one free throw attempt.

"He's not going to get to the free throw line as much. We know that," Rivers said. "It's just what it is. We have to try and create other ways, get Kevin Garnett in the post more. They're trapping him, so it's tough for him to get to the line as well. That clearly takes something away from us. We just have to find other ways to score."

Finding others to fill the scoring void will indeed be a challenge for Boston which ranks 10th ( out of 16 playoff teams) in scoring with 87.6 points per game. There are a number of Celtics like Mickael Pietrus who are seemingly due for a breakout-type game shooting.

Pietrus, who battled swelling in his right knee near the end of the season, has appeared in all five playoff games for the Celtics.

While his strongest asset in this series is his defense against Joe Johnson, the C's are also counting on him to make shots when given an opportunity.

That hasn't happened, with Pietrus missing 11 of his 14 shot attempts in this series.

"We need him. We need him to play well tonight," Rivers said. "Shot's just not going in right now. When you're shot doesn't go in and you're not a great player, your confidence obviously struggles a little bit. I think he's going through that some as well. I don't know if what's causing it is injuries or not."

Celtics force overtime, come up short in 127-123 loss to Blazers

Celtics force overtime, come up short in 127-123 loss to Blazers

BOSTON – For the second time in as many games, the Boston Celtics ran into a team that played with a greater sense of desperation.

And the result was yet another defeat as the Portland Trail Blazers, playing their second game in less than 24 hours, were able to get off their losing skid with a 127-123 overtime win over the Celtics.

Boston (26-17) has now lost back-to-back games at home, while the Blazers (19-27) snapped a four-game losing streak.

In the extra session, Portland jumped out to a 117-113 lead only for Boston’s Al Horford scoring on a bank-shot in the paint and Thomas draining a go-ahead 3-pointer for Boston.

Portland regained the lead when Al-Farouq Aminu made a pair of free throws with 59.3 seconds to play to make it a 119-118 game.

Boston soon fell behind 122-118, but a pair of Thomas free throws with 44.8 seconds to play made it a two-point game.

Mason Plumlee scored with 24 seconds to play in overtime, and an Al Horford miss – rebounded by Plumlee who was then fouled by Horford – essentially put the game away with 13.5 seconds to play.

Boston found themselves down late in the fourth quarter and seemingly headed towards defeat, only to get an unexpected lift in the final seconds from Terry Rozier.

Trailing by three points late in the fourth, Boston had one last chance to force overtime so who did they turn to?

If you were thinking Thomas which is what the Blazers and most fans were thinking, you would have been dead wrong.

The fourth quarter may be Thomas’ time to shine, but at that point in the game it was Rozier’s moment as he drained a 3-pointer with 8.4 seconds left that ultimately forced overtime. He finished with 15 points, three rebounds and three assists off the bench.

The Blazers came into the game with the kind of potent scoring punch in the backcourt that strikes the fear into the heart of any defense, let alone one that has been as up and down as the Boston Celtics this season.

For most of the game, Portland’s 1-2 punch of Damian Lillard (28 points) and C.J. McCollum (35 points) lived up to the lofty billing as they combined for 63 points.

McCollum and Lillard both did their share of damage down the stretch, but it was their bench – specifically Meyers Leonard – whose play kept Portland in the game early on.

He finished with 17 points off the bench.

Boston led 65-56 at the half, but soon found itself in a 67-all game after McCollum made the second of two free throws.

But Boston countered with a put-back basket by Kelly Olynyk and a 3-pointer from Isaiah Thomas to push Boston’s lead to 72-67.

Once again the Blazers fought back and eventually took the lead 74-72 on a powerful put-back dunk by Haverill (Mass.) native Noah Vonleh.

Brad Stevens had seen enough of his team getting pushed around, as he called a time-out with 5:31 to play in the quarter.

It didn’t help as Portland continued to bully their way around the rim for second and third-shot opportunities with their lead peaking at 78-72 following a put-back basket by  Plumlee.

But the Celtics responded with a 7-2 spurt capped off by an end-to-end, driving lay-up by Rozier that cut Portland’s lead to 80-79 with 2:44 to play in the quarter. Boston continued to be within striking distance as the third quarter ended with the Celtics trailing 88-86.