We’ve seen it countless times. Paul Pierce buries a big shot in crunch time at Madison Square Garden and takes a bow. Or knocks Nate Robinson off his back. Well, last night was more of the same, as Pierce’s clutch step-back jumper sealed a win in the closing seconds over the Knicks.
Chris Forsberg-Paul Pierce enjoys big stage:
When his step-back jumper over Tyson Chandler in the final minute of Monday’s visit to New York effectively sealed a victory, Boston Celtics captain Paul Pierce — as he is wont to do on the Madison Square Garden floor — smiled and blew a kiss to an audience that couldn’t jeer him loud enough.
Just another night on Broadway for Pierce, who in seasons past has soared like an airplane (while Nate Robinson crashed behind him) and taken a midcourt bow after other big shots on the MSG floor.
Pierce smiled again inside the Celtics’ locker room on the heels of the 102-96 triumph when asked to explain his impulsive reactions.
“I don’t know what I do with a lot of these shots,” Pierce said. “I just react. I don’t know what I’m going to do. I just react. I don’t think about it.”
It has been a while since Pierce could break out a positive reaction. After all, the Celtics haven’t had much to celebrate over the first third of the 2012-13 season. Inconsistent play and a disappearing defense left the team three games under .500 last week.
You definitely saw that the swagger was back in New York last night. This could have been a game that Boston easily surrendered (mentally) before the opening tip, with Rajon Rondo sitting out due to another suspension for bumping a ref. Then, Pierce got in early foul trouble and it looked like this could be yet another regression into “bad Celtics”. But not on this night:
The Celtics could have leaned on Rondo’s absence as an excuse. They could have rolled over when Pierce got in early foul trouble (earning his only cheers of the night) and New York built a double-digit lead without him and Kevin Garnett on the floor.
Instead, Boston dug in, leaned on the depth it had compiled this offseason, and scrapped its way back. The Celtics so completely frustrated the Knicks and got under their skin thatCarmelo Anthony was left chasing Garnett into the tunnel leading to the teams’ locker rooms after the game.
For Pierce and the Celtics, it probably felt like old times. And having worked everyone from Melo to Spike Lee and the rest of the blue-and-orange-clad fans into a full lather, Pierce offered a little smooch to the crowd.
Mwaaaaaaah! The Celtics officially are back.
“It’s big for us,” Pierce said. “We’re starting to put some games together. The Knicks have really been playing well all year long, one of the top teams in all the NBA. It’s a real confidence boost when you come in on their floor with the way they’ve been playing and get a win.”
This 3-game win streak is very reminiscent of last year’s Boston Celtics. The team muddled through an ugly 15-17 start, the went on to win 8 of 10, and really started to come together. But we’re still only 17-17 this season. Fortunately, Doc, KG and company are not satisfied and know this squad can play much, much better. And defense must be a top priority:
“When you have Indiana and Atlanta back-to-back, then you play the Knicks after that — to win all three of those games, that’s great for our team,” Rivers said. “Winning this game here, without Rondo, just tells you our guys hung in there. It’s funny, we didn’t have much of an offense, just spread. That’s all we could run, because we didn’t have a lot of sets without Rondo.
“But our defense was fantastic. In the first half, I was upset because I thought we gave up [about] seven 3s that they shouldn’t have had, and it was our mistakes. In the second half, we corrected them, we took them off the 3-point line and made them make 2s for the most part. That’s what we wanted to do.”
And this is how Boston wanted to play from the start of the season. Rivers is hoping Monday’s win is a bit of a microcosm: A rough start and a gritty finish that closes with Boston getting varied contributions and making key plays at critical junctures.
“We’re just playing decent basketball,” Garnett said. “Obviously, we can get better, and that’s where we’re at. We’re just trying to improve as a team.”
“We’re defending a whole lot better,” Pierce added. “We’re putting more pressure on teams, we’re rebounding the ball a lot better, we’re moving the ball, and this is the type of ball we envisioned when we came together. So hopefully we can keep it going.”
The rest of the links:
Globe: Anthony attempts to confront Garnett on Celtics’ bus| Herald: Celtics show they belong| CSNNE: Tension mounts ESPN Boston: Doc-Sullinger not going anywhere