Pierce turns it up in the fourth quarter

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Pierce turns it up in the fourth quarter

By A.Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com

MINNEAPOLIS Paul Pierce was having another one of those nights.

Shot after shot, rimmed in, then out.

But as the Minnesota Timberwolves continued to make it a game, Pierce once again proved he's one of the best fourth-quarter closers in the game in leading the Celtics to an 85-82 win over the Timberwolves.

Pierce finished with a team-high 23 points, 12 of which came in the decisive fourth quarter.

"My shot wasn't really falling for me, but I just wanted to be more aggressive, going to the basket," he said.

Boston led by as many as 25 points, only to see its dominance wiped out by a flurry of points from the Timberwolves, which included a lay-up by Darko Milicic that put Minnesota ahead, 70-68, with 8:07 to play.

On the ensuing Celtics possession, Glen Davis missed an 18-foot jumper that was rebounded by Kevin Garnett.

Garnett got the ball into Pierce's hands.

The Captain delivered a 3-pointer to put the Celtics back on top.

Later in the fourth, Minnesota's Anthony Tolliver connected on a 3-pointer that gave the Timberwolves a 73-72 lead with 5:05 to play.

Pierce once again responded for the C's, converting an old fashioned 3-point play that gave the Celtics a 75-73 lead that they would not relinquish.

"If the shot was there, I'd take it," Pierce said. "I just wanted to be more aggressive than I was throughout the game. I wasn't worried about the shots I missed, because I thought they were good shots."

Despite Pierce's early shooting woes, coach Doc Rivers had no problem with Pierce taking over the game and delivering some clutch points down the stretch either from the field or free throw line.

"I told Paul after the game, he had to at some point because he couldn't make a shot," Rivers said. "He was getting great shots."

But Pierce is, as Rivers coined him, a professional scorer.

So there wasn't going to be a point in which he didn't feel his scoring touch would return.

Fortunately for Boston, it came back in time for a much-needed road win.

"Eventually some will fall," Pierce said.

A. Sherrod Blakely can be reached atsblakely@comcastsportsnet.com.Follow Sherrod on Twitter at http:twitter.comsherrodbcsn

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Zach Lowe’s most recent podcast is worth a listen, as it features plenty of talk about what the Celtics may or may not due ahead of Thursday’s trade deadline. 

Lowe brought up the possibility of the Celtics top-1 or top-2-protecting Brooklyn’s first-round pick and including it in a deal for Butler. He surmises that the inclusion of the Brooklyn pick -- protected or not -- might not come until the final minutes. 

“Look, if Butler gets traded or if Paul George gets traded, that’s when it’s going to happen,” Marc Stein responded. “It’s going to happen in the last five to 10 minutes, so Boston has to make a decision, and let's see if they’re doing the math that they’ve had these assets for a while and it is time to do something bold and the time is now. Really, I think Boston will do it. The question is what will Chicago or Indiana do? And those are two hard reads.” 

Stein spoke to the Celtics’ lack of activity at certain points, but he said that if the C’s do fail to come away with a star player Thursday, it won’t be for lack of aggressiveness. 

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“I think the Celtics are taking criticism for waiting, and they’ve had all these assets they haven’t moved yet, but I think the record shows that Danny Ainge in general, in total, is very aggressive, not afraid to roll the dice, not afraid to make the aggressive move,” Stein said. “So I have less doubt about Boston saying, ‘Let’s just do it.’ I have far more questions about what Chicago and/or Indiana would do.” 

Lowe said that he imagines the Bulls would “think about” trading the C's Butler if Boston threw in the Nets’ pick unprotected, but added that Chicago would demand to also take two players out of Avery Bradley, Jae Crowder, Marcus Smart and Jaylen Brown. 

“I think that will be the offer and they’ll get there and Chicago will either have a moment where they say, ‘We walk away or we’ll do it.’ And Boston’s not going to throw in the other Nets pick,” Lowe said. “That’s just not going to happen.”

Rating the aforementioned foursome in terms of trade value, Lowe said that Crowder is the best piece because of his “ridiculously good” contract, followed by Brown, Smart and Bradley. 

Lowe added that he considers Bradley one of the “sneaky interesting pieces at this trade deadline” because his contract is up after next season, which is the same time that Isaiah Thomas’ contract expires. Lowe says that given the uncertainty of his future in Boston, he wouldn’t be overly surprised if Bradley is moved at the deadline.