Pierce's leadership gets Celtics on track

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Pierce's leadership gets Celtics on track

ATLANTA It figures that it took the words from 'The Truth' to get the Boston Celtics to play the Atlanta Hawks honestly.

Trailing by 15 points at the half, the Celtics found themselves arguing with one another with some players frustrated with some of the words spoken by head coach Doc Rivers about what they needed to do.

"We're kind of bickering with each other at halftime about what to do defensively, and I just reminded the guys that the fight isn't against us, it's against the other team," Pierce said. "Once we remembered that, we stepped up and played the kind of basketball that we're capable of playing."

Pierce challenging his teammates seemed to do the trick as Boston took control in the second half before pulling away for an 89-81 win.

Pierce's team-high 26 points - 17 of which came in the third quarter - was huge, obviously.

But his words at the half had an even bigger impact.

"He was saying, 'this ain't us. Where we at? Where's our grit at?'" C's guard Jason Terry recalled. "'We come out of this locker room, let's show 'em."'

Did they ever.

The Celtics overwhelmed the Hawks with a gritty, physical defense, clutch shots and within minutes, Atlanta was playing catch-up on a night when they had led by as many as 19 points.

Boston played with the kind of defensive fire and intensity that during some tense moments inside the locker room, seemed to be directed at Rivers.

"I told our guys we have to accept coaching," Pierce recalled saying. "Doc was telling us what to do , and guys were getting angry with him, and I told them the ones we need to be getting angry with is the other team."

And Pierce to some degree was angry as well; not at his teammates but at the fact that the Celtics have dug themselves (again) a hole that they will continue to have to fight out of between now and the playoffs.

But the fight becomes a lot easier when they play how they did against Indiana on Friday and in the second half of Saturday's win at Atlanta.

"It's time now," Pierce said. "I'm tired of seeing flashes of it for six minutes here or there, and then take six minutes off. I'm tired of that now. I don't have too much left in the tank as far as my career, so this is it. I feel like the East is wide open, so there is a tremendous opportunity out there for us."

Drellich: Devers is a keeper, even with the addition of Nunez

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Drellich: Devers is a keeper, even with the addition of Nunez

BOSTON -- The cherub stays.

There's no way Rafael Devers is headed back to Triple-A before the homestand starts Friday, right, Dave Dombrowski? Not for the newly acquired Eduardo Nunez, who's a fine player but has nowhere near the offensive upside of Devers, the 20-year-old phenom you just rushed to the big leagues.

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You probably weren't really considering sending Devers straight back, were you now, Dave? Sometime in the 3 o'clock hour Eastern time on Wednesday morning (after a 13-inning, 6-5 loss to the Mariners), you did tell reporters in Seattle that you would need to sit down with manager John Farrell to figure out the plan at third base from here.

Likely, you're just making sure your ducks are in a row. That Nunez himself has a chance to shake hands with you, and gets to hear straight from you what he'll be doing.

That's fair. But let's be doubly sure we're on the same page.

As long as something else doesn't happen between now and then -- no other trades for third basemen, no injuries -- Devers must at least platoon at third unless he shows he can't handle it. Nunez bats right, Devers left.

But it wouldn't be crazy to let Devers have the bulk of the playing time, either, and use Nunez to spell Xander Bogaerts and Dustin Pedroia. Or simply have him come off the bench.

Devers didn't look overmatched in his very first big-league game Tuesday night. On the contrary, he was patient at the plate, drawing the walk that started a sixth-inning rally against Felix Hernandez. (King Felix is quite the draw for a someone making his major-league debut, we should note.) He looked like a happy kid, and sounded like one after the game.

"For me it's just going out there and playing my brand of baseball and having fun out there," Devers told reporters through translator Daveson Perez. "That's what I was trying to do and I think I did that."

Devers finished 0-for-4 with a pair of walks, one strikeout and a run scored. He didn't make any errors and looked smooth and quick, his athleticism shining through some baby fat.

Dombrowski spoke during the last homestand about the lack of league-norm production at third base. Nunez can bring that, if nothing more. He is, at a position that's had no certainty, some form of certainty. A stable piece that can help out around the infield and has valuable versatility.

But Nunez is not what the Sox need most: A bopper.

Devers has pop. The chances he blossoms this year are not in his favor because he is the youngest player in the majors. But it would be a most strange and almost cruel choice to call the kid up for two days and then decide you don't need him because of Nunez, who entered Tuesday with the same OPS as Mitch Moreland (.745).

If you're the glass-is-half-full-type, the first four-game losing streak of the season for the Red Sox was numbed by a third-base situation that's been upgraded twofold. Let's assume the Sox know how to best deploy the two from here -- in the big leagues together, until shown a reason to change course.