Pierce cold, impacts Game 3 in other ways

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Pierce cold, impacts Game 3 in other ways

PHILADELPHIA It just didn't add up.

At the half of Boston's Game 3 matchup with Philadelphia, Paul Pierce had been awful shooting the ball.

But Pierce's brick-laying aside, the Celtics were still up by 11 points.

As much as Kevin Garnett's dominant performance (27 points, 13 rebounds) and Rajon Rondo's playmaking (14 assists with just one turnover) helped Boston win Game 3 easily, it was Pierce's ability to contribute in other areas that was arguably just as important.

Pierce finished with 24 points, but did so on 6-for-17 shooting from the field. Even more impressive to his teammates was the 12 rebounds, four assists, three steals and -- ready for this? -- zero turnovers.

"He did so many things to impact the game," Garnett said. "Rebound, set guys up, assists, steals, just being active defensively, talking, just so active."

Boston knows that this series has been a difficult one for Pierce as he continues to log major minutes with what team officials described earlier as a sprained medial collateral ligament injury in his left knee. In the three games, Pierce is averaging 15 points while shooting 29.7 percent from the field.

And it looked as though it was going to be another rough night for Pierce in the game's first few minutes, as he struggled to rotate quick enough defensively in addition to having his problems getting free for shots against one of the better perimeter defenders in the NBA, Andre Iguodala.

But everything changed after Pierce threw down a pair of emphatic dunks near the end of the first quarter, which as it turned out would be his only made baskets in the first half.

The C's would have loved for him to make more shots, but on this night, the Captain was finding other ways to make a difference.

After the game, Celtics coach Doc Rivers made a point of singling out the play of Pierce, pointing back to what many might have seen as a rough first half for Pierce.

"I want to point him out because Paul was 2-for-10 (shooting) at halftime, but he had five offensive rebounds," Rivers said. "We talked about it before, if what you do well is not there, what else are you going to do to help your team as a group to each guy? Paul was a great example for that."

As shot after shot taken by Pierce missed the mark, the Captain remained steadfast in his efforts to attack the paint and was rewarded with 14 free throw attempts - more than the entire starting five of the Sixers combined.

"They're really collapsing on me on the down screens for my jumper," Pierce said. "I'm just trying to get to the hole as best I can. I was able to get to the line, get to the rim a number of times. It's something I have to continue to do."

Even though Garnett and Rondo have been the headliners for the C's in this series, some of their success has to do with the Sixers focusing much of their defensive efforts on Pierce.

"We paid a lot of attention to detail on Paul Pierce and trying to get the ball out of his hands," said Philadelphia's Thaddeus Young. "But Rajon Rondo was in the paint and Kevin Garnett was in the paint, and they were getting a lot of paint scores."

Said Rondo: "He played great for us (in Game 3). Paul has been struggling scoring, but he has been doing the intangibles."

And those intangibles have a way of opening things up both for Pierce and the Celtics as they look ahead to what they expect will be a much closer Game 4 matchup against a Sixers team that will play more desperate and in all likelihood, with more energy.

"When you beat a team like this at home, you have to expect them coming out with a lot of energy," Garnett said. "But we'll be ready and we'll be having a lot of energy ourselves."

First-place Celtics continue to focus on playing well, not standings

First-place Celtics continue to focus on playing well, not standings

WALTHAM, Mass. – When it comes to NBA standings, no Celtic pays closer attention to it than Isaiah Thomas.
 
But the 5-foot-9 All-Star is quick to say that while he’s aware of what’s happening with other teams record-wise, Thomas, like his teammates, isn’t obsessed with it, even with the Celtics (48-26) now in first place in the East following Cleveland’s loss at San Antonio on Monday.
 
“It’s a good feeling,” Thomas said. “It’s still not the end of the year; anything can happen. It’s a nice feeling to be the number one seed for once, but we just have to continue to control what we can control.”

The fact that Boston is even in position to finish with the best record in the East is amazing when you consider injuries and illnesses have forced them to use 13 different starting lineups this season.
 
And the preferred starting five of Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley, Jae Crowder, Al Horford and Amir Johnson has played together 31 times and posted an impressive 24-7 record.
 
Celtics coach Brad Stevens has been consistent in his message that while having the best record in the East is nice, he’s more consumed with the team continuing to improve.
 
“It doesn’t mean a whole lot right now,” Stevens said of being in first place. “The whole idea is to make progress, get better every day and stay in the moment. You do that if you’re in last place trying to build up or whether you’re in a position where you’re fighting for seeding. Ultimately, we’ve been able to grow and get a little bit better. But I still think we can play a lot better. That’s where my focus is.”
 
And the same holds true for his players. Thomas knows how unusual this season has been for the Celtics, who continue finding ways to win despite frequently being short-handed.
 
The latest example of that involves forward Jonas Jerebko, who is questionable for Wednesday’s game against Milwaukee because of a sore left knee that limited him in Tuesday’s practice.
 
“It’s a long season. A lot of things can happen whether they be good or bad and we know that,” Thomas said. “We just try to withstand the storm we’ve had a few times this year, and continue to try and stay as positive as possible and we’ve done that. We’re in a good position right now. We just have to continue to take care of business.”
  
And that means steadily improving while piling up the wins, particularly against teams such as the Bucks (37-36), who are among a handful of teams that could potentially be Boston’s first-round opponent.
 
Milwaukee comes in having won 11 of its past 14 games.

“It makes the game that much more important,” said Celtics guard Avery Bradley. “Just like the Miami game. We want to let the teams know now, they go up against us in the playoffs, it’s no mercy. We’re going to play hard. We’re going to bring it every single night. We’re going to play Celtics basketball every single night. Them knowing that, we can scare a lot of teams if we’re playing the right way.”

Jerebko questionable for Wednesday against Bucks

Jerebko questionable for Wednesday against Bucks

WALTHAM, Mass. – The Celtics have spent most of this season playing short-handed and Wednesday’s game against Milwaukee will potentially be another one of those games.
 
Veteran forward Jonas Jerebko has a sore left knee and is considered questionable for the Bucks’ game.
 
“Jonas went through about half of [Tuesday’s] practice,” said Celtics coach Brad Stevens.
 
Jerebko has missed two games this season due to illness.
 
Because of Milwaukee’s length at seemingly every position, Jerebko’s ability to play both forward positions will be something the Celtics will surely miss if he’s unable to play.
 
This season, Jerebko has appeared in 69 games while averaging 3.9 points and 3.4 rebounds while shooting 44.1 percent from the field and 35.0 percent on 3’s.