Pierce's leadership not wavering amidst C's up-and-down play

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Pierce's leadership not wavering amidst C's up-and-down play

CLEVELAND With a nickname like the Truth, you know Paul Pierce at some point is going to probably keep things more real than some might be comfortable with hearing.

But the Boston Celtics are at a critical point in the season.

Pierce has seen too many highs and lows to shrug off the importance of where the C's stand now.

They are on the tipping over the ledge of mediocrity, and the fall is a painful one.

If not for the Los(t) Angeles Lakers and their woeful play, more attention would be cast on the Celtics and their problems this season.

For Pierce, who has won a title in Boston as well as been a part of a team that lost 18 straight, this season has to rank up there as being one of his most frustrating.

When they lost 18 straight, there was a clear and well-defined reason: that team sucked.

And when they won it all in 2008, that was just as clear: they were smashing teams all season, so winning it all was what they were supposed to do.

But this team, one that was built to be a contender, has been a major letdown. Team Flatline has shown little emotion on the floor or inside the locker room, giving no hint or clue as to whether they understand that there needs to be a heightened sense of urgency.

Right now.

Pierce doesn't know the answer to why this team continues to be so inconsistent, but he wouldn't rule out them lacking an understanding of how important these regular season games are for them to be a team that can go deep into the playoffs.

"A lot of guys on this team never won, been deep in the playoffs," Pierce said. "Don't understand the building process it takes. That's me, Rajon and Kevin's job to help them understand."

Leadership comes in various forms, obviously. And that has been among the many issues that the Celtics have been dealing with this season.

But like most of their problems, it's not on one player or one group or one unit to make it all better.

It has to be a collective turn-about, otherwise it will fail.

About the only positive the Celtics can take from their play this season, is that there's still time to make a strong finish and position themselves well for the playoffs because no one in the East has truly separated themselves yet.

Despite all the up and down play, Pierce remains confident that this group as they are assembled, is still good enough to make a run even if their play suggests otherwise.

"I know we got the pieces in here," Pierce said. "I know we can compete with anybody in the East, anybody in basketball. I'm looking around the league and there's no clear cut team that you can say that just stands out. You can say Oklahoma, maybe them. We played them and showed we could play with them, we beat them on our home court. Miami has their issues. We feel like we can play with them. So that's the frustrating part; how wide open this thing is this year. For us to be sitting (around) .500, this is the point in the season when you want to start making a run, start developing consistency."

And no sooner did the words roll off his lips, Pierce responded, "every time I say it we take steps forwards and then steps back. It's too far in the season for that now."

He's right.

And Tuesday's loss to Cleveland was yet another game in which the C's had their chances, only to squander them away down the stretch.

It is far and away one of the most trying times in Pierce's career, as he tries to get his teammates to see this squad as a work in progress and not a team that's going to continue to get worked over every night.

"I just have to continue to try and lead by example," Pierce said. "Show them on a daily basis how hard it is, how hard you have to work. On top of telling them and explaining ... keep them confident; that we can play with anybody. We know we can do this. Some of these guys sometimes get discouraged. But you have to keep pounding in their head, 'we can beat anybody.'"

With Thomas drawing attention, Stevens turns to Rozier in big moment

With Thomas drawing attention, Stevens turns to Rozier in big moment

BOSTON – Prior to Saturday’s game, Terry Rozier talked to CSNNE.com about the importance of staying ready always, because “you never know when your name or number is going to be called.”

Like when trailing by three points in the fourth quarter with less than 10 seconds to play?

Yes, Rozier was on the floor in that scenario and the second-year guard delivered when his team needed it.

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But Rozier’s fourth quarter heroics which forced overtime against Portland, did not provide that much-needed jolt that Boston needed as the Blazers managed to fend off the Celtics in overtime, 127-123.

For Rozier’s part, he had 15 points on 6-for-13 shooting.

The 15 points scored for Rozier was the most for him since he tallied 16 in a 30-point Celtics win at Orlando on Dec. 7.

But more than the points, the decision by head coach Brad Stevens to draw up a play for him in that moment, a time when most of what Boston does revolves around the shooting of Isaiah Thomas who has been among the top-3 scorers in the fourth quarter most of this season, was surprising to many.

And at that point in the game, Thomas already had 13 fourth-quarter points.

Stevens confirmed after the game that the last shot in the fourth was indeed for Rozier, but Thomas’ presence on the floor was important to its execution.

“He (Thomas) also draws a lot of attention,” Stevens said. “So I think you just weigh kind of … what kind of shot you’re going to get, depending on who it is.”

Rozier had initially screened for Thomas, and Thomas came back and screened for him.

“I was open as soon as I caught … and I let it fly,” Rozier said. “Coach drew up a play for me and it felt good to see the ball go in.”

Being on the floor at that time, win or lose, was a victory of sorts for Rozier.

He has seen first-hand how quickly the tide can change in the NBA for a young player.

After a strong summer league showing and a solid training camp, Rozier had earned himself a firm spot in the team’s regular rotation.

But a series of not-so-great games coupled with Gerald Green’s breakout night on Christmas Day, led to his playing time since then becoming more sporadic.

Rozier, in an interview with CSNNE.com, acknowledged it hasn’t been easy going from playing regular minutes to not being sure how much court time, if any, he would receive.

But he says the veterans on the team have been good about keeping his spirits up, and one in particular – Avery Bradley – has been especially helpful.

Like Rozier, Bradley’s first couple of years saw his playing time go from non-existent to inconsistent. But Bradley stayed the course and listened to the team’s veterans who continued to tell him that his hard work would pay off sooner or later.

Those same words of wisdom Bradley received in his early days, he passes on to Rozier.

“It’s big,” Rozier told CSNNE.com. “He (Bradley) tells me things like that. I felt I was ready for this (inconsistent minutes) after all that he told me. It’s big to have a guy like him that has been through it all with a championship team, been around this organization for a while; have him talk to you is big. It’s always good. That’s why I stay positive, and be ready.”

Which is part of the reason why Stevens didn’t hesitate to call up a play for the second-year guard despite him being a 33.3 percent shooter from 3-point range this season – that ranks eighth on this team, mind you.

“He’s a really good shooter,” Stevens said of Rozier. “I think with more opportunity that will show itself true, but he made some big ones in the fourth quarter. We went to him a few different times out of time-outs, and felt good about him making that one.”

And to know that Stevens will turn to him not just to spell Thomas or one of the team’s other guards, but to actually make a game-altering play in the final seconds … that’s major.

“It helps tremendously,” said Rozier who added that his confidence is through “the roof. It makes me want to do everything. You know defense, all of that. It’s great, especially to have a guy like Brad trust you."