Paul Pierce tops Bird on Boston's scoring list

665634.jpg

Paul Pierce tops Bird on Boston's scoring list

From Comcast SportsNet
BOSTON (AP) -- Paul Pierce knew what was on the line with every shot. The pressure was quite clear to Pierce and anyone else in the arena as he stood on the verge of passing Larry Bird for No. 2 on Boston's career scoring list. He needed only 10 points to overtake Bird when the Celtics hosted Charlotte on Tuesday night and those final three seemed as if they would never come. They did early in the third quarter, then Pierce and the Celtics celebrated the milestone by increasing their season-best winning streak to five with a 94-84 win over the Bobcats. "It was a relief. So much was hanging over me the last couple of days. Just hearing about it and knowing that you've got a game to play," said Pierce, who finished with 15 points. "Just to be mentioned with him, with this organization, is a great honor." Pierce now stands alone at No. 2 -- and it is quite a list -- with 21,797 points, six more than Bird's total of 21,791. Only John Havlicek has scored more in team history with 26,395 points. Pierce didn't even try to calculate the gap or how long it could take him to reach Havlicek. "I think the fans would really appreciate another championship more than me passing Hondo," Pierce said. Pierce nearly celebrated with a triple-double, coming up just short with nine assists and eight rebounds. Rajon Rondo added 14 assists and 10 points, Kevin Garnett scored 22 and Ray Allen finished with 17 points on a night that clearly belonged to the team captain known as "The Truth" -- which Mickeal Pietrus had written in big letters on a towel he waved for Pierce. "I thought they tried so hard in the first half. I thought it was never going to happen," Boston coach Doc Rivers said. "I mean, it was unbelievable how our guys were passing out shots. They were doing everything to try to get this thing." Derrick Brown went 10 for 10 from the field for 20 points for Charlotte, but the biggest shooter Tuesday was Pierce on what normally would have been an off shooting night for him. He had seven points at halftime, then got his big moment out of the way with 10:23 left in the third on a 3-pointer from the top of the key. "I'm not going to lie. It was hanging over my head too much," Pierce said. "You kind of just felt it. It was hard to really ignore it and just focus on the game." Reggie Williams scored 21 for the Bobcats, who lost their 12th straight despite staying within 11 points through the first three quarters. Kemba Walker had 16 points and seven assists for the Bobcats, who kept it close before Boston opened the fourth quarter with a 13-2 run. "When you have to play your main guys for as long as we do, it gets kind of tough," Charlotte coach Paul Silas said. "We've just got to keep battling." The outcome never seemed in doubt and fans focused on Pierce making history for a franchise loaded with it. There was no announcement -- or need for one -- as everyone seemed to know what Pierce's shot from the top of the key meant in addition to giving the Celtics a 48-40 lead early in the third quarter. Pierce knew he had it, raising his arms as Boston fans gave him a standing ovation. The applause lasted for several minutes as teammate Garnett waved the crowd on for more. The official announcement finally came during a time out with 5:14 left in the third and Pierce went to midcourt, blew a few kisses and bowed during another round of applause. There was one more when Pierce -- a Celtic his entire NBA career -- went to the bench with 3:57 left in the period. "Paul had a chance to leave us when we were bad and instead of moaning that he wanted to go to a championship team, he stayed," Rivers said. "And he said, I simply want to be a Celtic and I trust that we're going to win a title someday.'" Brandon Bass scored 13 and Garnett added seven rebounds for the Celtics. Boston led 45-38 at halftime and after an even third quarter, the Celtics pulled away in the fourth, leading by as much as 18 against the weary Bobcats. With Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers coming to town Thursday, the Celtics were especially relieved to have Pierce's accomplishment out of the way. "You've got to play some amazing basketball," Rivers said. "Passing Larry Bird -- that's impressive." Notes: Boston's five-game winning streak is its longest of the season. ... Rondo played his third straight game after missing eight with a sore right wrist. ... Charlotte last won on Jan. 14, beating Golden State 112-100. ... Charlotte (3-22) has the worst record in the NBA and fell to 1-14 on the road.

Celtics-Pistons preview: C's need to defend their top-four spot in East

Celtics-Pistons preview: C's need to defend their top-four spot in East

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. -- On Friday night, Toronto’s DeMar DeRozan absolutely torched the Boston Celtics. The game before that, it was Chicago’s Jimmy Butler giving the Celtics major fits with a barrage of baskets. 

Both were All-Star starters this year, the kind of lofty status that helps explain how the Celtics were so defensively-challenged in their efforts in limiting them.

Detroit doesn’t have a bona fide high-scoring perimeter star like those other teams, but don’t think for a minute that tonight’s game will be a breeze for the Celtics. Boston (37-21) comes in having lost two in a row to Chicago and Toronto, respectively. The Raptors loss was especially painful because it assured the Raptors would get the higher seed in the playoffs if these two teams finished with an identical record. 

Boston hopes to secure an edge over the Pistons tonight with a victory that will give them the season series, three games to one. While it may seem a bit early to get too caught up in tie-breakers and their importance, the last thing Boston wants is to finish the regular season tied with one or more teams, and wind up with the lower seed because they lost the head-to-head series. 

“You hear people say every game counts; it’s true,” Boston’s Amir Johnson told CSNNE.com. “We need to win as many games as we can because you never know which game could be the difference between having home court or not.”

If Boston continues to find ways to win and finish with a tie-free, top-four finish in the East, they will begin the playoffs at the TD Garden for the first time under fourth-year coach Brad Stevens.

Meanwhile the Pistons are currently eighth in the East and, like the Celtics, they too opted to stand pat at the trade deadline. And like Boston, they are looking for growth from within as they try to make their way up the Eastern Conference standings. 

“We’re not real happy with how we’ve played up to this point overall,” said Stan Van Gundy, the Pistons’ president of basketball operations and head coach. “But we still have a young group. As much as you would like the progress to be steadily uphill, it’s not always. That doesn’t mean you lose faith in your guys. At the end of the day, we ended up standing pat, which is pretty much what we expected to do.”

One of Boston’s biggest concerns coming into the game will be rebounding. It was among the many factors contributing to Boston’s loss on Friday. But as much as execution at both ends of the floor will be a factor, effort will be just as vital if not more, to the success of the Celtics in the playoffs. There were plenty of reasons as to why Boston lost on Friday night, with effort being near the top of the list. 

“They played harder than us,” said Celtics forward Jae Crowder. 

And that was surprising when you consider what was at stake – a chance to push their lead over Toronto to five games with a couple dozen to go.

Rookie forward Jaylen Brown has heard all the reasons and explanations as to why the Celtics have hit a mini-hiccup following back-to-back losses. And he has also heard how Boston blew a golden opportunity to beat Toronto with Raptors all-star Kyle Lowry still out. 

“We didn’t have one of our key guys, either,” said Brown, referring to Avery Bradley still being out with a foot injury. So it’s basketball at the end of the day. It doesn’t’ matter who is on the floor. You have to do your job; we just have to do our job.”

Merloni: Red Sox have more pitching depth than people think

merlonietalkback022517_1920x1080_885064771525.jpg

Merloni: Red Sox have more pitching depth than people think

Merloni recaps this week of Red Sox spring training.