Pierce feeling better with 31 points vs. Nets


Pierce feeling better with 31 points vs. Nets

By JessicaCamerato

BOSTON -- Looking back, Paul Pierce knew he wasnt going to be effective against the Miami Heat last Sunday. His one-point performance was disappointing, but not completely surprising.

Pierce was playing with a sore left foot and sprained right hand. Even though he was banged up, he couldnt resist the urge to help his team win.

It definitely bothers me, especially when I know I m not right, he said following Wednesdays 94-80 win over the New Jersey Nets. I told coach Doc Rivers I wasnt right, but I was playing through it. I knew I couldnt make a shot (laughs). It definitely bothers me, especially if Im out there trying to help my team win. Maybe next time Ill sit the game but its hard for me to sit, especially when my team is out there trying to win.

After two days rest -- and MRIs that yielded negative results -- Pierce was back at it again. This time, however, the end result was much different.

Pierce scored a game-high 31 points against the Nets, just two points shy of his season-high. He shot 10-for-18 from the field (compared to 0-for-10 against the Heat) and 10-for-13 from the free-throw line.

The performance has Pierce optimistic for further healing during the All-Star Break.

I felt better, he said. That was the main key -- getting some of my health back. This is a much-needed weekend (All-Star Weekend) for me, I think, just to get back healthy and some of the little nagging injuries that I have been dealing with the last few days. Its a good start heading into a direction for the better.

In spite of playing through pain, Pierce has proceeded with caution dealing with this injury. He seriously injured the same foot in the past and did not want to cause further problems.

When I had the situation a few years back when I broke my foot it was the same type of situation - some pain in my foot just walking around on it, he said. So I just really wanted to make sure I wasnt doing any further damage to it. Its getting better, I just got a bruise on the end of my foot.

Pierce was pleased he was able to cut more on Wednesday than he could on Sunday, and although he still felt some discomfort, he was looked forward to getting better with a few days off.

Its still a little bit of pain, he admitted. I think I feel it more now after the game than during the game because I think my adrenaline was really flowing. These few days of rest, the last few days, its gotten better so hopefully these next few days of rest will make it even better.

The Celtics continued to put their trust in their captain, who came through with a clutch 3-pointer in the fourth quarter after missing his first four attempts. With a tight game down the stretch, they knew they could rely on him.

Hes back, said Rivers. Great players, they dont have a lot of back-to-back games, so that was terrific.

Pierce will compete in the Three-Point Shootout and play in the All-Star Game this weekend in Los Angeles. Nagging injuries aside, Pierce is confident about his chances at defending his title in the contest, even up against teammate and 3-point record holder, Ray Allen.

I only have one prediction, Pierce said. You all know.

Jessica Camerato is on Twitter athttp:twitter.comjcameratoNBA

Bradley's emergence as vocal leader speaks volumes about growth

Bradley's emergence as vocal leader speaks volumes about growth

BOSTON –  Terry Rozier was having a rough stretch where his minutes were limited and when he did play, he didn’t play particularly well.
Among the voices in his ear offering words of encouragement was Avery Bradley who knows all too well what Rozier was going through.
For all his time as a Celtic, Bradley has let his work on the floor do the talking for him.
But as the most tenured Celtic on the roster, his leadership has to be about more than just getting the job done, but servicing as a vocal leader as well.
For a player whose growth from one year to the next has been a constant, being a more vocal leader has been the one dynamic of his game that has improved the most during this past season.
And it is that kind of leadership that will carry into the summer what is a pivotal offseason for both Bradley and this Celtics franchise which was eliminated by Cleveland in the Conference finals, the first time the Celtics got that deep in the playoffs since 2012.
He is entering the final year of the four-year, $32 million contract he signed in 2014. And it comes at a time when his fellow Tacoma, Wash. native and backcourt mate Isaiah Thomas will likely hit free agency where he’s expected to command a max or near-max contract that would pay him an annual salary in the neighborhood of $30 million.
At this point in time, Bradley isn’t giving too much thought to his impending contract status.
Instead, he’s more consumed by finding ways to improve his overall game and in doing so, help guide the Celtics to what has to be their focus for next season – a trip to the NBA Finals.
While Celtics players have said their focus has always been on advancing as far into the playoffs as possible, it wasn’t until this past season did they actually provide hope and promise that Banner 18 may be closer than you think.
It was an emotional time for the Celtics, dealing with the unexpected death of Chyna Thomas, the younger sister of Isaiah Thomas, just hours before Boston’s first playoff game this season.
And then there were injuries such as Thomas’ right hip strain that ended his postseason by halftime of Boston’s Eastern Conference finals matchup with Cleveland.
But through that pain, we saw the emergence of Bradley in a light we have seldom seen him in as a Celtic.
We have seen him play well in the past, but it wasn’t until Thomas’ injury did we see Bradley showcase even more elements of his game that had been overlooked.
One of the constant knocks on Bradley has been his ball-handling.
And yet there were a number of occasions following Thomas’ playoff-ending injury, where Bradley attacked defenders off the dribble and finished with lay-ups and an occasional dunk in transition.
Among players who appeared in at least 12 playoff games this year, only Washington’s John Wall (7.9), Cleveland’s LeBron James (6.8) and Golden State’s Stephen Curry (5.2) averaged more points in transition than Bradley (4.7).
Bradley recognized the team needed him to be more assertive, do things that forced him to be more front-and-center which is part of his evolution in Boston as a leader on this team.
“It’s weird but players like Al (Horford) definitely helped me get out of my shell and pushed me this year to be more of a vocal leader,” Bradley said.
And that talent combined with Bradley doing what he does every offseason – come back significantly better in some facet of his game – speaks to how he’s steadily growing into being a leader whose actions as well as his words are impactful.