Well-rested Pierce key to a Celtics second-half run

Well-rested Pierce key to a Celtics second-half run
February 19, 2013, 3:30 am
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DENVER The stretch run is here and Paul Pierce finds himself in an unfamiliar place right now - well rested.

Pierce's strong play which catapulted the C's to victory in eight of the last nine games, came too late for it to affect the voting by the league's coaches for All-Star reserves.

So instead he rested up for what he anticipates will be a tough road ahead with nine of the C's next 11 games away from the Garden.

For Boston to make the kind of second-half surge that we saw last season, they will once again need big-game performances from Pierce.

And that's why him not being selected might actually be a blessing in disguise for both him and the Celtics.

"When you play so many games, sometimes mentally and physically you get fatigued," Pierce said. "But with the way we were playing, who knows? Maybe the guys wanted to keep going. But I felt at this point in the season, my body needed, our minds needed ... there's so much we've been going through with the injuries. The last one with Barbosa, it really took a toll on us mentally even more."

Barbosa suffered a torn left ACL and sprained MCL in Boston's 94-91 loss to Charlotte on Feb. 11. Prior to his injury, Rajon Rondo suffered a torn right ACL injury and was lost for the season. Sandwiched between the two injuries is Jared Sullinger who underwent back surgery that will keep him sidelined for the rest of the season.

But the Celtics as they have done throughout their recent string of success, spend little time thinking or talking about players who are unable to perform.

Their success hinges heavily on how well they can re-create the consistent play they enjoyed leading up to the break.

Things certainly broke right for the Celtics during the lockout-shortened season of 2012. At the break last season, the Celtics were 15-17 with 17 teams having had more victories at that point. But after the break, the C's became a dominate team, racking up more wins after the all-star break than all but two teams (San Antonio and Chicago).

It should come as no surprise that the lift Boston saw in terms of wins coincided with Pierce playing some of his basketball of the season.

Prior to the break last season, Pierce averaged 17.6 points, 5.0 rebounds and 5.3 assists per game.

Those are decent numbers, but sitting on a 15-17 record certainly did not do much to give anyone outside of the Celtics locker room much hope that things would turn around.

Did they ever.

The C's turn-around was fueled in large part by Pierce's ability to take over games more consistently.

Pierce's numbers after last year's All-Star break were an impressive 20.9 points, 5.4 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game.

And while this team is completely different than last season's club, the keys to success then aren't all that different today.

"We just have to play our game, and that's defend, make it tough as we can on teams," C's Avery Bradley told CSNNE.com. "We don't care that much about what other teams are doing. We care more about what we have to do, in order to win. That's the way we played before the break and that's the way we have to play now that it's over."