Pierce answers the bell with a ringing peformance

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Pierce answers the bell with a ringing peformance

BOSTON Doc Rivers was a bit antsy all day, unsure if Paul Pierce was going to play against the Orlando Magic.

Pierce's left big toe has bothered him since he jammed it at New Jersey on Saturday, not to mention that knee to the thigh he took from Tyson Chandler in Tuesday's loss to New York.

Rivers was waiting to hear word from trainer Ed Lacerte as to whether Pierce had contacted him to say if he was going to play or not.

No word.

"Up until when we got here, we didn't know if Paul was going or not," Rivers said. "But we assumed he was because when he didn't respond that means, 'Why are you texting me? I'm fine.' Then he came in and he just played great basketball for us."

That's vintage Paul Pierce, leaving everyone guessing - coaches and opponents alike - as to what his next move will be until he's already done it.

His game certainly kept the Orlando Magic off balance on Wednesday as the C's clinched the Atlantic Division with a 102-98 win.

And it was Pierce leading the way with a game-high 29 points along with a career-high 14 assists.

"He has a good feeling on when to distribute and consolidate the ball," said Kevin Garnett. "And he has a good feel for when to be a lot more aggressive."

With Rajon Rondo (back) out, Pierce knew going into the game that his role would be expanded to include play-maker duties.

No problem.

"Tonight it was in my hands, I got to do a lot of playmaking," Pierce said. "At the end of the day I just wanted to be aggressive, look to score, but when they collapse I just wanted to make the easy pass."

Down the stretch, Pierce showed the ability to hurt the Magic both with his passing and shot-making prowess.

The Celtics ended the third quarter with a 10-0 run that included a much-needed jumper from Brandon Bass - Pierce on the assist - that put the Celtics ahead, 78-70.

And the game's final moments, his 16-foot jumper over former Celtic Glen Davis with 7.6 seconds to play would later prove to be the game-winning points. With 2.9 seconds to play, Pierce made a pair of free throws to ice the victory.

"That's called a good basketball player," Rivers said.

WATCH: Celtics vs. Suns

WATCH: Celtics vs. Suns

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Jones-Molina WBC spat is a clash of cultures . . . and that's great

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Jones-Molina WBC spat is a clash of cultures . . . and that's great

The Adam Jones-Yadier Molina verbal skirmish is as predictable as it is annoying.

Was every cultural nuance for the 16 World Baseball Classic teams explained in a booklet the players had to memorize before the tournament?

No? Then it’s amazing there weren’t more moments like this.

Jones, the Orioles outfielder, said Team USA's championship game win over Puerto Rico was motivated by Puerto Rico's choice to plan a post-tournament parade for the team before the final game.

As Jones and his teammates know, parades in pro sports are for championship teams. Red Sox fans are likely aware of this.

As Jones and his teammates know, discussing a parade before a title is secured suggests overconfidence. Rex Ryan fans are likely aware of this.

After an 8-0 win for the U.S., Jones revealed the parade was used as bulletin-board material.

"Before the game, we got a note that there was some championship shirts made -- we didn't make 'em -- and a flight [arranged],” Jones said. “That didn't sit well with us. And a parade -- it didn't sit well with us."

But apparently, Jones didn't know the full context of the parade. It was reportedly planned regardless of whether Puerto Rico won.

One Team USA teammate of Jones whom CSNNE spoke with didn't believe that, however.

"It was called a champions parade that got turned into a celebration parade once they lost," the player said. "I think they just don't like getting called out by Jones, but all Jones did was tell exactly what happened."

Jones’ comments weren’t received well.

Puerto Rico's going through a trying time, a recession, and the entire island rallied behind the team.

“Adam Jones . . . is talking about things he doesn't know about," Molina told ESPN’s Marly Rivera. "He really has to get informed because he shouldn't have said those comments, let alone in public and mocking the way [preparations] were made.”

No one should be upset Jones explained what he was thinking.

Jones actually asked MLB Network host Greg Amsinger, “Should I tell the truth?”

Yes. It’s better than lying.

Look at the reactions across the WBC: the bat flips, the raw emotion. Honesty conveyed via body language.

People in the U.S. are starting to accept and crave those reactions. The WBC helped promote a basic idea: let people be themselves.

Jones said what was on his mind. We can’t celebrate bat flips and then say Jones should keep his mouth shut.

But there's an unreasonable expectation being placed on Jones here.

He heard about a parade -- which is to say, a subject he wouldn't normally think twice about or investigate before a championship baseball game.

Plus, it gave him motivation.

Why is Jones, or anyone with Team USA, more responsible for gaining an advance understanding of Puerto Rico’s parade-planning conventions -- we're talking about parade planning! -- than Puerto Rico is responsible for keeping U.S. norms in mind when making and/or talking about those plans?

No one involved here was thinking about the other’s perception or expectation. It's impossible to always do so.

But that’s how these moments develop: what’s obvious to one party is outlandish to the other.

Now Molina, Puerto Rico's catcher, wants an apology.

"He has to apologize to the Puerto Rican people," Molina told ESPN. "Obviously, you wanted to win; he didn't know what this means to [our] people."

Jones can clear the air with an apology, but he doesn't owe one. And he definitely doesn't owe one after Molina took it a step further.

"I'm sending a message to [Jones], saying, 'Look at this, right now you're in spring training working out, and we're with our people, with our silver medals,' " Molina said. "You're in spring training and you're working . . . you have no idea how to celebrate your honors, you don't know what it means.”

Team USA had no parade. Manager Jim Leyland made clear how the U.S. was celebrating, by recognizing those serving the country.

The silver lining here is how much attention the WBC has drawn, and how much conversation it can drive. People care, a great sign for the sport -- and its potential to foster better understanding across cultures.

Internationally, the sport is on parade.