Pierce's latest milestone testament to his versatility

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Pierce's latest milestone testament to his versatility

BOSTON -- For years Paul Pierce was looked to as the floor leader for the Celtics. In spite of being a forward -- not a point guard -- he was the veteran captain and one of the few players with proven experience on an otherwise young Celtics teams. In other years, he was the go-to guy on struggling squads.

It was not uncommon to see Pierce with the ball in his hand, managing the court and directing his teammates. He averaged a career-high 5.1 assists per game during the 2003-04 season in which the Celtics finished 36-46, and dished over four dimes per game for six straights seasons through the Celtics championship run in 2008.

That has changed since Rajon Rondo's emergence as one of the NBA's best passers and ball handlers (he leads the league with 12.8 assists per game). But Pierce still has it in him.

On Saturday Pierce picked up his 4,000th career assist while dishing a season-high nine helpers in the Celtics' win over the Philadelphia 76ers. Rondo led the game with 11.

"I thought my teammates did a good job of getting me the ball in the post area," Pierce said. "I recognized the double teams and I was able to find people, and that's how I got the majority of my assists tonight."

Now in this 15th season, 35-year-old Pierce still draws defenders and is a threat when left alone with an open shot. He is averaging a team-high 19.2 points this season and remains a threat in clutch situations. That alone opens up opportunities for him to stifle his opponents and find his teammates for a shot.

Pierce is posting 3.6 dimes per game this season, down from 4.5 last season, but he has that ability to get his teammates going on any given night. His keen recognition of the open man enhances the Celtics' ball distribution, giving them another strong option in addition to Rondo.

"It's a mixture of both," Rondo said of Pierce's assists. "Paul making the right play and guys finishing for him and making shots. He got trapped, he invited a double team, and he played unselfishly and moved the ball and guys made shots for us."

Pierce's career high is 14 assists again the Orlando Magic last season on April 18. He currently ranks 17th among all active players with 4,006 assists.

BOSTON SPORTS TONIGHT PODCAST: Reaction to weekend protests

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BOSTON SPORTS TONIGHT PODCAST: Reaction to weekend protests

0:41 - Tom Giles, Tom Curran, Kayce Smith, and Michael Holley discuss the National Anthem protests across the NFL over the weekend and the reactions to players kneeling.

10:07 - Michael Hurley joins the BST crew to talk about the Patriots' thrilling last-minute victory over the Texans and how concerning the Patriots' issues on defense are.

18:13 - Michael Holley and Kayce Smith discuss Kyrie Irving and LeBron James' comments about one another during Media Day, including LeBron referring to Kyrie as "The Kid" instead of his name.

22:30 - Evan Drellich joins BST to talk about Mookie Betts and Eduardo Nunez both leaving with injuries during the Red Sox's Monday night loss to the Blue Jays, and other concerns surrounding the team heading into the postseason.

MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL: Prescott, Cowboys pull away to beat Cardinals, 28-17

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MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL: Prescott, Cowboys pull away to beat Cardinals, 28-17

GLENDALE, Ariz. , Dak Prescott kneeled with his teammates and team owner before the game, flipped head over heels for a touchdown in the first half and capped his night with a 37-yard TD pass that proved to be the game winner.

The Dallas Cowboys erased last week's ugly memory on Monday night, with their young quarterback leading the way.

"He just kept battling," Dallas coach Jason Garrett said.

"He kept making good decisions. Obviously he made some good plays, big-time throws, but as much as anything else he's got an amazing spirit and our players follow him."

The Cowboys (2-1), bouncing back from a 42-17 pummeling in Denver, began the game kneeling at midfield with owner Jerry Jones in a show of unity that followed widespread protests across the NFL of critical comments by President Donald Trump over the weekend.

After they kneeled, they stood and walked to the sideline and stood for the anthem.

"We planned and it was executed that we would go out and kneel," Jones said, "and basically make the statement regarding the need for unity and the need for equality."

Prescott, 13 of 18 for 183 yards, broke a 14-14 tie with a 37-yard scoring pass to Brice Butler with 11:52 to play.

"I immediately scrambled and when I scrambled Brice took the right angle and the right initiative going to the back of the end zone," Prescott said.

Arizona, with a spectacular catch by Larry Fitzgerald for 24 yards on a third-and-18 play, moved downfield but the drive stalled. Phil Dawson's 37-yard field goal cut the lead to 21-17 with 6:35 left.

Ezekiel Elliott, who gained 8 yards on nine carries against Denver and drew criticism for not hustling after a couple of late interceptions, was bottled up much of the game, but still gained 80 yards on 22 attempts, 30 on one play. He ran 8 yards for the final Cowboys touchdown.

The Cardinals (1-2), in their home opener, got a big game from Fitzgerald, who caught 13 passes for 149 yards, in the process moving ahead of Marvin Harrison into eighth in career receiving yards. The 13 receptions tied a career high.

"That's Fitz. It's Monday night," Arizona coach Bruce Arians said. "He's a money player. It was a great performance by him. It's a shame we couldn't play better around him."

Carson Palmer had a big first half, completed 15 of 18 for 145 yards and finished 29 of 48 for 325 yards and two scores. He was sacked six times, a career-high three by DeMarcus Lawrence.

The Cardinals dominated the first half statistically, but were deadlocked with the Cowboys at 7-7. Arizona had a 152-57 advantage in yards and dominated time of possession 19:34 to 9:41.

Arizona took the opening kickoff and went 82 yards in eight plays. Palmer was 5-for-5 on the drive, capped by a 25-yard touchdown pass to Jaron Brown.

Before Dallas even had a first down, Arizona mounted a nearly nine-minute drive but a touchdown pass to Brown was negated by a holding penalty and Phil Dawson's 36-yard field goal try was wide right. It was the third mid-range miss for the 41-year-old kicker this season.

And the miss left the door open for the Cowboys to get back in it.

Prescott scored on a 10-yard run, flipping head-first over the goal line to tie it at 7-7 with 3:33 left in the half.

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