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."

Bruins' 2017-18 schedule has three Habs games in eight days

Bruins' 2017-18 schedule has three Habs games in eight days


The Bruins released their schedule for the 2017-18 season Thursday, with their campaign beginning at TD Garden on Oct. 5 against the Predators. 

Two things stand out in Boston’s schedule. Eleven of their final 15 games are on the road, and they don’t play the Canadiens until mid-January.  

Then, when the B’s and Habs do finally meet, they play three times in an eight-day span. The rivals face each other Jan. 13 in Montreal, Jan. 17 in Boston and Jan. 20 in Montreal. The Bruins’ final regular-season meeting with the Habs is March 3. 

To see the full schedule, click here. 

Morning Skate: How Haggs voted for the NHL Awards

Morning Skate: How Haggs voted for the NHL Awards

Here are all the links from around the hockey world and my ballot from last night’s NHL Awards now that the results are in. I can confirm I was not the one person to give Torey Krug a Norris Trophy vote despite what the unwashed masses in Ottawa choose to believe. Also, I did not throw a first-place vote to Brad Marchand in Hart Trophy voting. Still, I think it’s a safe bet that the same person did both.

Anyway, on to my ballot with a brief explanation for each of the votes:

Hart Trophy

1. Connor McDavid

2. Sidney Crosby

3. Brent Burns

4. Patrick Kane

5. Brad Marchand

McDavid was the obvious MVP as he helped lift the Oilers into the playoffs, and was the only guy in the NHL to hit 100 points this past season. In hindsight, I should have included Sergei Bobrovsky and omitted Patrick Kane from the list and always have a difficult time determining when a season from a goalie is or isn’t Hart-worthy. But I certainly feel good about throwing a fifth-place vote to Marchand after a phenomenal season for the B’s.

Norris Trophy:

1. Brent Burns

2. Erik Karlsson

3. Victor Hedman

4. Duncan Keith

5. Zach Werenski

Burns had such a transcendent offensive season for the Sharks and I like the fact that he can play a physical game as well as roaming around creating offense. That being said, it would have been an easy first place vote for Karlsson if the playoffs were included along with the regular season. The fifth place vote was the only one I really had to think hard and long about but felt like Werenski really played a big role in the Columbus turnaround this season.

Calder Trophy

1. Auston Matthews

2. Zach Werenski

3. Patrik Laine

4. William Nylander

5. Matt Murray

Plenty of good rookies to choose from in the voting, but it was fairly easy to choose Matthews as a dominant force for a Leafs team on the upswing. 40 goals as a 19-year-old rookie is a ridiculous amount of goals.

Lady Byng

1.  Oscar Klefbom

2.  Johnny Gaudreau

3.  Brandon Saad

4.  Marian Hossa

5.  Marcus Johansson

My votes are usually all over the map for Lady Byng, but Klefbom and Gaudreau were both solid picks as the top two. Gaudreau finished with 60 plus points and just four penalty minutes, and that’s pretty tough to do.

Selke Trophy

1. Bergeron

2. Kesler

3. Koivu

4. O’Reilly

5. Toews

All Bergeron all the way and there was a wide margin between him and second place. The fact he managed to play at a Selke level while also being hurt the entire season just adds to the toughness factor for the best two-way player I’ve covered in my time in Boston.   

On to the links...

*FOH (Friend of Haggs) Chris Johnston has the Golden Knights ready to take their first step toward contending after building their team, and their coffers, at the expansion draft.

*We’ll see how history views this trade a year or two down the line, but the Islanders definitely got a lot better with Jordan Eberle joining John Tavares in Brooklyn next season.

*Fresh off his Norris Trophy win, bearded Brent Burns was mistaken for a swashbuckling pirate on a visit to Disney.

*Reilly Smith is on the move again, this time to the Vegas Golden Knights, and the word on the street was that Boston inquired about bringing him back if the Panthers were willing to take Jimmy Hayes back. Don’t think it was much of a conversation. I guess there really is no trade-backesies in the NHL.

*PHT writer Cam Tucker has the Nashville Predators pretty busted up after losing James Neal in the expansion draft.

*For something completely different: Ron Howard is taking over directing the standalone Han Solo movie, and I’ve got to say that I don’t hate this.