Pierce (heel) out, Pavlovic to start vs. Heat

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Pierce (heel) out, Pavlovic to start vs. Heat

MIAMI For the second straight game, Sasha Pavlovic will get the start at small forward for the Boston Celtics in place of Paul Pierce who remains out with a right heel injury.

While there may have been a couple of questionable calls in Boston's 106-104 loss to New York on Christmas Day that went against the C's and Pavlovic, the need to be more aggressive is something Pavlovic and Celtics coach Doc Rivers understand has to happen if they are to have any shot at knocking off the Miami Heat tonight.

The loss to the Knicks, a game in which Carmelo Anthony scored a game-high 37 points, was a teachable moment for both Pavlovic and Marquis Daniels who will also look to fill the void left by Pierce being sidelined.

"Just compete," Rivers said. "It's a learning lesson. We'll be better."

It was a lesson that Pavlovic expects will help better prepare him for tonight's matchup against two-time league MVP LeBron James, a former teammate in Cleveland.

"I just have to be as much as aggressive as I can be, make it as hard as I can for him to score the basket," Pavlovic told CSNNE.com. "Obviously, they're both great scorers. It's not like I'm going to stop them from scoring, but I have to make it tough for them."

Part of that involves him being more aggressive on offense and at times, look to shoot.

In the loss to the Knicks, Pavlovic did not take a single shot from the field and far too often, didn't show any signs of looking to score.

"I have to be more aggressive offensively," he said.

However, doing so with the Celtics is challenging when you consider Pavlovic starts with four players who have all been named to multiple all-star teams.

"We do have a lot of guys with a lot of talent who can score on this team," Pavlovic said. "But I have to make it tougher for them, so I need to be more aggressive offensively."

LeBron James remembers all too well that Pavlovic, while not being one of the Cavalier's top players, was instrumental in their success which included a trip to the NBA Finals.

On many nights, it was Pavlovic - not James - who would defend the opposing team's top scorer at the shooting guard or small forward position.

"Sasha's a very athletic wing," James said. "he plays hard; very physical. He's very gifted."

But those talents that have been talked about so often by players and coaches, seldom show up with any kind of consistency in games.

It's the main reason why Pavlovic is a player whose role in the NBA remains such a mystery despite this being his ninth NBA season.

"I'm just happy to see him in the NBA as well as seine that he's getting an opportunity to play," James said.

But for how long?

Pierce's return will surely cut into Pavlovic's playing time.

When you throw in the fact that newly acquired Mickael Pietrus is probably a week or so away from stepping on to the floor, Pavlovic's playing time now becomes even more important if he is to establish himself as a player the Celtics can look to coming off the bench.

"I'm going to do whatever I can to help us win," Pavlovic said. "That's all I think about right now; helping us win games."

Highlights: Boston Celtics 109, Indiana Pacers 100

Highlights: Boston Celtics 109, Indiana Pacers 100

Catch the highlights of the Boston Celtics 109-100 win over the Indiana Pacers at home and hear from Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley, and Al Horford.

Bradley 'not even tired' after playing 39 minutes vs. Pacers

Bradley 'not even tired' after playing 39 minutes vs. Pacers

BOSTON – As Avery Bradley made his way to the middle of the post-game media scrum inside the Boston Celtics locker room, he was informed that he had played 39 minutes in their 109-100 win over Indiana.

“I played 39?” Bradley said. “Man, I’m not even tired.”

And that may be the clearest sign to date that Bradley, a defensive pest who has been pestered by injuries this season, is as healthy as we’ve seen him in some time.

In addition to scoring 18 points on 7-for-13 shooting, he also grabbed eight rebounds, dished out a couple of assists, had a steal and was the head of the defensive snake that made life as hard as possible on Paul George who still managed to have a big night scoring the ball.

For Bradley to play so many minutes is a bit of a surprise when you consider how overcautious the Celtics were with his return from a right Achilles injury that kept him out for 18 straight games.

Bradley attributes the Celtics having some time off leading up Wednesday’s game.

“It was good for us and we were definitely prepared (on Wednesday),” Bradley said. “And it showed we’re improving every day as a team. We’re really locking in when we need to.”

And while he was one of three different primary defenders on George (Marcus Smart and Jae Crowder were the others), Bradley was the guy head coach Brad Stevens turned to most consistently down the stretch.

Bradley was the only Celtic to play all 12 minutes of the fourth quarter. The only other players that were on the floor for the entire fourth quarter, were Indiana's Monta Ellis and George.

You think Bradley was out there to shut down (2-for-10 from the field) Ellis?

Uh … nope!

“He (Bradley) was on Paul some,” Stevens said. “Not the whole time he was in. Marcus (Smart) guarded him a lot. Jae (Crowder) guarded him some as well. We just felt like we had to rotate bodies on them. I did not plan on playing Avery quite that many minutes.”

Stevens put Bradley back in the game to start the second and fourth quarters, something he normally does for Terry Rozier who did not play (coaches decision).

“And he maybe sat a minute at the end of the second,” Stevens said. “So that’s 24 minutes and usually it’s about twelve-to-fifteen.”

The additional playing time is something Bradley certainly isn’t going to ever complain about.

The same holds true for the Celtics having clinched a playoff spot prior to Wednesday’s tip-off.

“I don’t think anyone talked about it,” Bradley said. “We were just treating this like any other game, try to be prepared, go out there and execute the offensive game plan … I feel we did a great job of doing that.”

Indeed, the Celtics are playing with a flow and overall rhythm that’s making it extremely tough on their foes.

“If you look at their roster, everybody knows what to expect out of everybody,” said Paul George. “There’s never a moment where a guy is like, ‘What kind of shot are you taking?’ or ‘what are you doing?’ They are beyond that.”