Pierce leads the way over Wizards

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Pierce leads the way over Wizards

WASHINGTON This was the Paul Pierce we had been waiting to see all season.

It doesn't matter if it was against the Washington Wizards, one of the worst teams -- scratch that, the worst team -- in the NBA.

Seeing the Truth do what does best -- dominate games -- was a refreshing sight.

And with one starter down (Rajon Rondo) and another one by halftime (Ray Allen), Pierce could not have picked a better time to go into full takeover-mode for the Celtics (6-9) as the C's held on for a 100-94 win.

Pierce finished with a season-high 34 points along with a team-high 10 assists. Washington's John Wall led the way with 27 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists.

"It feels good to get the win," Pierce said. "We have been struggling as a team as of late and we have to try and round up these wins and play some more consistent basketball."

Pierce added, "I just want to come in with the mindset to be more aggressive. That's when I am a better player. Having Rondo out, I over-think the game at times but I just need to focus on what's going to get me better. My legs are getting stronger and hopefully I can start developing a rhythm."

Washington (2-14) led 84-83 with 6:06 to play following a 3-point play by Nick Young. The C's responded with a rare fourth quarter run of its own, as Pierce capped off a 10-2 run with a lay-up to put the C's up 93-86 with just over three minutes to play.

With Rondo (right wrist) out and Ray Allen (left ankle) out by halftime, the C's had little choice but to ride the back of Pierce.

Winning was certainly a motivating factor for Pierce.

But according to Kevin Garnett, some of the Washington players may have fired him up a bit as well.

"They started talking a little garbage to him, a little trash," Garnett said. "We call that, 'hitting the button.' Truth (Paul Pierce) hit the button tonight. It was good to see him have a game like this. He came out very strong tonight, and we needed it."

But with Rondo and Allen out, the Wizards had to know that more of the scoring load would fall on Pierce.

It didn't matter, though, as they threw a slew of defenders on him who all struggled.

"It's tough with a player like that," said Washington's John Wall, who spent some time guarding Pierce as well. "He does a good job of picking teams apart and that's what he did to us. He's a great player and he's going to the Hall of Fame. We just tried to guard him straight up and make him take tough shots."

Added Wizards guard Nick Young, "You saw what Paul was doing out there. It's tough to stop a guy like that when he has it going."

The C's will need more of that from Pierce, as the Celtics try to build off of Sunday's success against a talented Orlando Magic team on Monday.

"That's going to be a big game for us," Pierce said. "We have to show that we can beat some of the better teams around the NBA. It's going to be on our home court. Orlando is playing good basketball. It's going to be a good challenge for us, especially on a back-to-back. We'll see."

First-place Celtics continue to focus on playing well, not standings

First-place Celtics continue to focus on playing well, not standings

WALTHAM, Mass. – When it comes to NBA standings, no Celtic pays closer attention to it than Isaiah Thomas.
 
But the 5-foot-9 All-Star is quick to say that while he’s aware of what’s happening with other teams record-wise, Thomas, like his teammates, isn’t obsessed with it, even with the Celtics (48-26) now in first place in the East following Cleveland’s loss at San Antonio on Monday.
 
“It’s a good feeling,” Thomas said. “It’s still not the end of the year; anything can happen. It’s a nice feeling to be the number one seed for once, but we just have to continue to control what we can control.”

The fact that Boston is even in position to finish with the best record in the East is amazing when you consider injuries and illnesses have forced them to use 13 different starting lineups this season.
 
And the preferred starting five of Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley, Jae Crowder, Al Horford and Amir Johnson has played together 31 times and posted an impressive 24-7 record.
 
Celtics coach Brad Stevens has been consistent in his message that while having the best record in the East is nice, he’s more consumed with the team continuing to improve.
 
“It doesn’t mean a whole lot right now,” Stevens said of being in first place. “The whole idea is to make progress, get better every day and stay in the moment. You do that if you’re in last place trying to build up or whether you’re in a position where you’re fighting for seeding. Ultimately, we’ve been able to grow and get a little bit better. But I still think we can play a lot better. That’s where my focus is.”
 
And the same holds true for his players. Thomas knows how unusual this season has been for the Celtics, who continue finding ways to win despite frequently being short-handed.
 
The latest example of that involves forward Jonas Jerebko, who is questionable for Wednesday’s game against Milwaukee because of a sore left knee that limited him in Tuesday’s practice.
 
“It’s a long season. A lot of things can happen whether they be good or bad and we know that,” Thomas said. “We just try to withstand the storm we’ve had a few times this year, and continue to try and stay as positive as possible and we’ve done that. We’re in a good position right now. We just have to continue to take care of business.”
  
And that means steadily improving while piling up the wins, particularly against teams such as the Bucks (37-36), who are among a handful of teams that could potentially be Boston’s first-round opponent.
 
Milwaukee comes in having won 11 of its past 14 games.

“It makes the game that much more important,” said Celtics guard Avery Bradley. “Just like the Miami game. We want to let the teams know now, they go up against us in the playoffs, it’s no mercy. We’re going to play hard. We’re going to bring it every single night. We’re going to play Celtics basketball every single night. Them knowing that, we can scare a lot of teams if we’re playing the right way.”

Jerebko questionable for Wednesday against Bucks

Jerebko questionable for Wednesday against Bucks

WALTHAM, Mass. – The Celtics have spent most of this season playing short-handed and Wednesday’s game against Milwaukee will potentially be another one of those games.
 
Veteran forward Jonas Jerebko has a sore left knee and is considered questionable for the Bucks’ game.
 
“Jonas went through about half of [Tuesday’s] practice,” said Celtics coach Brad Stevens.
 
Jerebko has missed two games this season due to illness.
 
Because of Milwaukee’s length at seemingly every position, Jerebko’s ability to play both forward positions will be something the Celtics will surely miss if he’s unable to play.
 
This season, Jerebko has appeared in 69 games while averaging 3.9 points and 3.4 rebounds while shooting 44.1 percent from the field and 35.0 percent on 3’s.