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Old 04-29-2009, 09:46 AM  
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Paul Pierce = Clutch

Just Like Old Times For Celtics' Pierce
By Marc J. Spears
Special to ESPN.com

BOSTON -- Injured forward Kevin Garnett was on the bench in street clothes. Ray Allen was nearby in warm-ups and done for the night with six fouls. The Big Three was down to just the one Boston has been accustomed to seeing over the past 11 seasons.

And just as Paul Pierce has done so many times for the Boston Celtics, he came through with a scoring barrage when the C's needed it most during a crucial 106-104 overtime victory over the Bulls in Game 5 of this wild best-of-7, first-round series. The 2008 NBA Finals MVP scored 15 of his 26 points in the fourth quarter and OT to spark the Celtics and has now put his team in position to knock off the pesky seventh-seeded Bulls with a win in Game 6 on Thursday.

"It was phenomenal. Sweet spot. In-between game," Celtics coach Doc Rivers said about Pierce's performance.

"Obviously, Paul, the shots he made down the stretch were huge. He got to his spots."

Until he got cooking, Pierce had been stymied by the Bulls for most of the series. With Luol Deng out with an injury, John Salmons had smothered the Celtics star while the Bulls' big men had closed down Pierce's driving lanes. Salmons had been able to contest Pierce's shots, most memorably when he snuffed Pierce's potential game-tying jumper in the second overtime of Game 4.

Pierce had entered Game 5 averaging a team-best 23.5 points in the series, but he had made only 43 percent of his shots from the field and attempted only 20 free throws while turning the ball over 15 times. Only an early scoring outburst in Game 3 had been vintage Pierce.

The Bulls continued to keep Pierce in check through the first three quarters of Game 5. He had just 11 points on 5-of-13 shooting, including 1-of-5 from 3-point range, no attempted free throws and a turnover, with Boston down 70-66. From there, the Bulls quickly took an 11-point lead as Pierce remained quiet.

"They had guys clogging up the lane a lot," Pierce said. "They have guys reaching. Maybe I can do a better job of trying to get to the line, get my rhythm going and maybe that can get me going. But maybe better late than never."

With Garnett sidelined, Pierce has had the challenge of making up for KG's offensive production. That was compounded in Game 5 when Allen surprisingly fouled out with 5:27 remaining in the fourth quarter.

It was a familiar spot for Pierce. Before this version of Boston's Big Three came into existence in the summer of 2007, Pierce took the big shots -- in fact, as many shots as he wanted. With Garnett and Allen out, Pierce had to revert to his old shoot-first approach just to give the champs hope of getting out of the first round.

Fortunately for the Celtics, Pierce hadn't been discouraged by his shooting struggles.

"I missed a couple wide open 3s that I had, missed a couple layups," Pierce said. "I never got down over the shots I missed because I thought a lot of them were good shots.

"I just knew before long they would fall. I thought when Ray fouled out it was time for me to really step up."

Pierce's layup with 1:13 remaining in the fourth quarter tied the game at 91. Then, with the Bulls ahead 93-91, he nailed a clutch 15-foot jumper to the tie the game again and send it to overtime.

He stayed hot in overtime; consecutive step-back, midrange jumpers over Salmons pushed Boston ahead 104-101. And with Game 5 tied in the final seconds of OT, the Celtics' captain added another big shot to his résumé, nailing a 19-foot pull-up J with 3.4 seconds left to give the Celtics the lead for good.

"I just thought I didn't over-penetrate tonight," Pierce said. "I took my time. I got some space off the dribble. I got into my sweet spot and got the shot."

After the game, Salmons sounded like a lot of other players who have tried to stifle Pierce's midrange prowess.

"I was just trying to keep him in front of me and contest the jump shot," Salmons said. "That's what I've been trying to do the whole series. Be even with him. Try to stay in front of him.

"He hit some shots. He hit three contested shots."

This is the first playoff series in NBA history to have three games to go to overtime, and it appears destined to be the most memorable first-round series ever. It's had almost too many story lines to mention, starting with the saga of Garnett's injury and the emergence of two great young point guards in Rajon Rondo and Derrick Rose, and along the way we've had incredible shot-making by Allen and Chicago's Ben Gordon, among others.

On Tuesday, Pierce ensured on Tuesday that he will be remembered, too, with what might be two more exciting chapters still to come.
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Old 04-29-2009, 09:47 AM   #2
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Old 04-29-2009, 09:47 AM   #3
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Old 04-29-2009, 09:47 AM   #4
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Old 04-29-2009, 09:48 AM   #5
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Old 04-29-2009, 09:48 AM   #6
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Old 04-29-2009, 09:51 AM   #7
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Yeah right... Clutch once every ten games or so.
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Old 04-29-2009, 09:52 AM   #8
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Yeah right... Clutch once every ten games or so.
shit, like The Truth didn't step it up last year during their championship run?
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Old 04-29-2009, 09:52 AM   #9
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Just so everyone knows...the best Jayhawk in this series has been Kirk Hinrich and he doesn't even start.

Paul Pierce had 1 good quarter before OT where he made some money shots...other than that, Salmons and Hinrich have SHUT HIM DOWN.

Boston is going to win this series because of Rajon Rondo...period.
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Old 04-29-2009, 09:54 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by KCChiefsMan View Post
shit, like The Truth didn't step it up last year during their championship run?
I'm not questioning that...

but Stacy King is right...Paul Pierce looks like an old man out there...what happened to his slashing ability? What happened to his "second" and "third" gear? His game is primarily the fall-away jump shot now...if that's not going in, he's a liability just like Ray Allen.

How many times did John Salmons beat Pierce off the dribble yesterday? Just about every time he tried...

Whereas Hinrich and Salmons are handling Pierce with ease.
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Old 04-29-2009, 09:55 AM   #11
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Old 04-29-2009, 09:55 AM   #12
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Old 04-29-2009, 09:55 AM   #13
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Old 04-29-2009, 09:56 AM   #14
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I'm not trying to bash Pierce, either...he's a part of one of my fondest childhood memories...watching him drop 30 at Kemper Arena in the final Big 8 Championship game...that's right, I was there!
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Old 04-29-2009, 09:58 AM   #15
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I'm not questioning that...

but Stacy King is right...Paul Pierce looks like an old man out there...what happened to his slashing ability? What happened to his "second" and "third" gear? His game is primarily the fall-away jump shot now...if that's not going in, he's a liability just like Ray Allen.

How many times did John Salmons beat Pierce off the dribble yesterday? Just about every time he tried...

Whereas Hinrich and Salmons are handling Pierce with ease.
Agreed. If Boston ends up playing Cleveland I think Lebron is going to abuse Pierce. Pierce did a pretty good job guarding him in last years series but I don't think he can hang with him this go around. Pierce is out of gas. Boston needs KG.

He was nails last night in OT though. No denying that. His fall away jumper in the lane is money.
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