On 30-point games and playoff momentum

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On 30-point games and playoff momentum

Earlier this morning, I was flipping through some of Paul Pierces old playoff games on Basketball-Reference and came across a relatively meaningless, but still interesting statistic.

Ready?

Over the entirety of his 14-year career, Pierce has scored 30 points in consecutive playoff games only once.

Slightly shocking, no?

The consecutive efforts came in the first two games of Boston's 2003 series with New Jersey.

In Game 1 (which was played nine years ago tomorrow), Pierce had 34 points, eight assists, five rebounds, four steals, two blocks and eight turnovers.

In Game 2, Pierce messed around with 32 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds.

(Pretty great, except that the Celtics lost both games on their way to being swept by Jason Kidd, Brian Scalabrine and the far-more-talented Nets. Also, the only other constant between that Nets series and this Hawks series? Jason Collins was New Jersey's starting center.)

And that's it. That's the only time over the course of 112 career playoff games that the Captain has broken 30 in consecutive outings. And I have no other commentary except that I imagined it would be more. (By unfair comparison, LeBron has done it 20 times in 95 playoffs games, including two four-game streaks and a five-gamer.)

Tonight at the Garden, Pierce will try to do it again.

In theory.

In reality, with Rondo (and maybe even Ray Allen) back in the mix, the Celtics don't need Pierce to carry them like he did on Tuesday. There's no way he'll take as many shots (his 26 field goal attempts in Game 2 were a new personal playoff high), or play as many minutes. Honestly, I'd say it's just as likely that Pierce scores 15-16 points as it as that he drops another 30.

Then again, if Rondo decides to make a run at 20 assists, and if Pierce is feeling fresh and energized by the home crowd

Man, isn't crazy how one game can change everything?

When the Celtics took the court on Tuesday, the situation was bleak. No one had ruled out the possibility of them stealing that game from the Hawks, but the overall vibe just looked and felt so helpless.

All it took was one victory, and now everything is calm and confident.

One victory, and we're right back to writing off the Hawks as pretenders, and looking ahead to Philly or Chicago.

One victory, and I spent the morning casually perusing box score porn and contemplating 30-point games instead of sitting in a dark room, pining over the end of a historic era of Celtics basketball.

It's wild.

But through all the calm and confidence, we never lose sight of of the fact that it only takes one loss to for it to all come crumbling down. That it doesn't matter if Ray Allen plays or Josh Smith doesn't because nothing is for sure in the NBA playoffs.

We know that.

More importantly, the Celtics know that. And with a surely-psychotic Rondo leading the way, and the Garden crowd just waiting to explode, you have to feel good about the C's taking care of business.

As for Pierce dropping another 30-spot?

Eh, not so much.

Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrich_levine

Blakely: This could be the start of something big for Celtics

Blakely: This could be the start of something big for Celtics

BOSTON -- Prior to this year, the Celtics hadn't been to the Eastern Conference finals since 2012. That trip served as a curtain call of sorts for the last great C's dynasty.
 
But this one, which ended with Cleveland's emphatic 135-102 Game 5 victory Thursday at TD Garden, is very different.
 
Rather than closing another chapter in the Celtics' longstanding legacy of greatness, it could serve as the beginning of a new narrative in the franchise's steady growth.
 
"For us to be in the Eastern Conference finals after the first year of this team really being together, adding additions like Al Horford and Gerald Green . . . I can go down the list of guys that we needed to learn to play with, and for us to talk about where we wanted to be and actually make it, it's a big-time accomplishment," said Avery Bradley.
 
Boston has been among the younger teams in the NBA, with the 31-year-old Green being the oldest player on the roster.
 
But what the Celtics lacked in experience, they made up for with great effort.
 
"The great thing about this is the experience," Bradley said. "We were able to go to the Eastern Conference finals, learned a lot about being in this position, and I feel like it's going to help us for next year."
 
But as we all know, the Celtics will look to strengthen themsevles this offseason, which means there's a very good chance they'll have a different look when they gather again in the fall.
 
How different is anyone's guess.
 
"It's difficult every year whenever you don't have guys back," said coach Brad Stevens. "I think you share a bond (over the course of a season)."
 
Stevens and this group have been together for eight months. Eight months of struggles, successes, frustrating defeats and euphoric victories that brought them to the conference finals, which is where their season came to an end.
 
But as disappointed as the players and coaches are inow, there's definite excitement about this franchise in the very near future.
 
Boston has the No. 1 overall pick in next month's draft, with all indications -- for now -- pointing to Washington's Markelle Fultz as their choice.
 
And their top first-round pick from a year ago, Jaylen Brown, seemed to steadily improve as the season progressed. It was one of the few times in his life where minutes weren't just handed to him, which he admits was a learning experience unlike anything he had ever had, yet he adjusted and played better as the year went along.

"I've had ups, I've had downs, I've had opportunities, I've had mistakes," said Brown. "So I've been learning and growing and improving all year and I'm going to continue growing and improving and prove people wrong, prove doubters wrong."
 
Having the season end the way it did has indeed left a bad taste in the mouths of many Celtics.
 
"I can use it as fuel," Brown said, adding: "I want to get back to the same place I'm at now."
 
Bradley, who was on the 2012 team that lost to the Miami Heat in the conference finals, knows the Celtics are going to do whatever they feel is necessary to give them the best chance at competing for a title.
 
"It's out of our control as players," Bradley said. "We had a great year together. If guys are here, if guys aren't, we all wish the best for each other.

"But I do feel this is a special group. We all gave our heart every single night, played as hard as we could. I respect all my teammates, and I really appreciated playing with all the guys I had a chance to play with this year; a special group."