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

Stevens on Thomas' groin injury: 'It’s important that he’s 100 percent'

Stevens on Thomas' groin injury: 'It’s important that he’s 100 percent'

There’s no such thing as a good time to have an injury. 

But in terms of Isaiah Thomas being sidelined with a right groin injury and the schedule awaiting the Boston Celtics … this is about as bad a time as you can imagine to be without their scoring leader.

Thomas returned to Boston ahead of tonight’s game at Orlando, marking his first game missed since the 2014-2015 season. 

He suffered a right groin injury in the second quarter of Boston’s 107-106 loss at Houston on Monday. 

At the time, Thomas was optimistic that he would be able to play tonight. But with a day off from practice, the soreness proved to be too much for Thomas to suit up and play tonight. 

While it’s unclear just how severe his groin injury is, the Celtics are likely to be overly cautious (like they are with most injuries) about his return which may result in him missing more games than Wednesday night’s matchup against Orlando. 

“Those things (groin injuries) are a little unpredictable,” Celtics head coach Brad Stevens told reporters earlier today. “Especially in this sport, you have to be able to stop and change direction on a dime, especially him. It’s important that he’s 100 percent.”

Stevens is spot-on when he talks about how uncertain a return for Thomas is currently. 

New York’s Kristaps Porzingis suffered a groin injury against the Celtics in a preseason game back in October that didn’t result in anything more than him missing a day of practice. 

It was a different story when Orlando’s Nikola Vucevic suffered a right groin injury last spring (March 7-29) that sidelined him for 13 games. 

The timetable for Thomas’ return to the floor is likely to fall somewhere within those two timetables which would make an already daunting stretch of games even more difficult. 

Following tonight’s game, Boston has 12 games remaining in the month of December with nine being against teams with a winning record. And of the three games against teams below-.500 (Miami twice, Indiana), two of them are on the road. 

Marcus Smart will get start for Celtics for injured Isaiah Thomas

Marcus Smart will get start for Celtics for injured Isaiah Thomas

As expected, Marcus Smart will get the start for the Boston Celtics tonight against the Orlando Magic in place of the injured Isaiah Thomas. 

Thomas, who leads the Celtics (12-9) in scoring (26.0) and assists (6.2) this season, suffered a right groin injury in Boston’s 107-106 loss at Houston on Monday.

Head coach Brad Stevens explained his decision a few minutes ago.

“He’s started a lot of games here in the past as a point guard,” Stevens told reporters. “He’s basically our sixth starter. It wasn’t one that I had to think a ton about.”

Starting Smart also allows second-year guard Terry Rozier to continue in his role coming off the bench. 

Whether he’s starting or coming off the bench, Smart’s production has been consistent. 

In the five games he has started this season, he has averaged 10.0 points, 4.2 rebounds and 4.0 assists per game. 

His numbers off the bench are almost identical with Smart averaging 9.6 points, 4.0 rebounds and 3.9 assists as a reserve. 

Stevens also mentioned that Amir Johnson would be back in the starting lineup in place of Jonas Jerebko. Earlier in the day, Stevens told reporters the decision to start Jerebko on Monday was strictly because of the matchup with Houston. 

“We have to be able to be flexible in doing that,” Stevens said. “Houston plays four guards. We didn’t feel like we could defend them unless we switch one through four. I thought he (Jerebko) did a pretty good job. This (Orlando) team is different than Houston other than both are super-hot.”

Orlando (10-12) has won four of its last five games in part because of its size, strength and versatility along the frontline which includes Serge Ibaka, Bismack Biyombo and Nikola Vucevic who now comes off the bench. 

And while the Celtics have benefited heavily from the play of their guards, obviously that plan will be amended tonight with Thomas out. 

“He (Thomas) generates a lot in the open offense what we call flow, spread offense,” Stevens said. “So some of those type of things you may not generate at the same rate. But certainly there are other ways that we’ll look to play when he’s not in the game normally, or when we’re trying to play through bigs in the post. You have different ways to play within all your schemes. Hopefully we can play to each other’s strengths and go from there.”