Feb 13, 2017; Dallas, TX, USA; Boston Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas (4) tries to control the ball as Dallas Mavericks guard Yogi Ferrell (11) defends during the first quarter at American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Isaiah Thomas battles for control of the ball as Dallas Mavericks guard Yogi Ferrell (11) defends during the first quarter at American Airlines Center. (Kevin Jairaj/USA Today Sports)

The Celtics once again had their finishing kick in high gear Monday in Dallas. 

Perhaps the most important quality the Celtics have shown over the course of this promising season is their ability to close out teams in the fourth. They did it again Monday as they scored 28 points in the final 12 minutes in a 111-98 win over the Mavericks at American Airlines Center. No team in the NBA scores more in the final 12 minutes than Boston’s 29-point average. 

Something else they’ll need come playoff time is balance. They showed that Monday, also. Isaiah Thomas led six players in double figures with 29 points. They improved to 17-11 on the road, the best such record in the East. 

The Celtics finished off their 4-game West Coast swing with three straight victories after a loss in Sacramento. They come back home with a great deal of momentum, taking on the fast-improving 76ers Wednesday night at TD Garden. 

For a full recap and box score of Monday’s win over the Mavericks, click here.

The Celtics improve to 36-19 and draw to within two games of first-place Cleveland (37-16) in the East. 

Thomas had 29 points, his 39th straight game with at least 20 points. The Celtics got a dose of their own medicine as 5-foot-7 rookie Yogi Ferrell scored 20 points and put a scare into the Celtics in parts of the game. 

Early in the game, 5-foot-7 Isaiah Thomas was guarding 7-footer Dirk Nowitzki. Nowitzki hit a couple of jumpers over him.

The Celtics then switched to Marcus Smart. The man who has “Dallas” tattooed on his forearm put on a show in his hometown early. 

The two teams were red hot to start the game from the perimeter. Thomas hit his first three shots from beyond the arc while Smart also hit an early three, making the Celtics 4-for-4 from deep. But the Mavericks connected on six of their first seven shots as they kept pace.

The Celtics finished the first quarter hitting 7-of-11 from 3-point range while Dallas was 4-for-6 from deep.

The game was a continuation of the coming out party for rookie Yogi Ferrell. He is the Mavericks’ answer to Isaiah Thomas. For a good part of the first half, he played like it. He hit his first five shots and scored 11 points in just nine minutes of action.

Deron Williams was ejected when he drove to the basket with just under 40 seconds left in the first half and was called for an offensive foul, drawn by Smart. Williams picked up two quick technicals and was tossed.  

Then with just 0.6 seconds remaining, Ferrell was whistled for a questionable foul on Isaiah Thomas, who was firing up a deep three. Thomas hit all three shots and finished off an 8-0 run to put the Celtics up, 61-50, at the half. Thomas led the Celtics at the break with 18 points while Smart added 17. Gerald Green had 10. 

With Deron Williams gone, the Mavericks had to rely more on Ferrell. That meant trouble for the Celtics as Ferrell did to them what they’ve been doing all season to other teams with Isaiah Thomas. Ferrell hit a pair of shots in the opening three minutes as the Mavericks pulled within five points. 

Dallas spent most of the third quarter making charge after charge at the Celtics, thanks in part to 8-of-11 shooting. The Mavericks cut the deficit to just one, 83-82, heading into the fourth quarter. 

After Ferrell missed a three to take the lead, Marcus Smart threw a perfect full-court pass to Isaiah Thomas, who converted the miss into the first points of the fourth for either team on a layup with 10 minutes left, giving Boston an 85-82 lead. 

With 4:31 left, Thomas drilled a three to cap a 6-0 run to put the Celtics up, 100-89. The other three points came on a fortunate trey from Kelly Olynyk on the right baseline. Thomas drove and then looked for Jae Crowder in the post. The ball was deflected to a wide-open Olynyk, who drained the three. 

Then after a three-point play by Dirk Nowitzki, James Young came down and hit a jumper. After a defensive stop, Crowder nailed another three, putting the Celtics up, 105-92, with just 3:38 left. 

Avery Bradley missed his 14th straight game (and 18th in 19) with a strained Achilles while Jaylen Brown missed the game right hip flexor injury. Neither player is expected to return until after next Sunday’s All-Star Game in New Orleans, missing Wednesday’s game against Philadelphia and Thursday’s game in Chicago. 

JBL_CMYK_NoHarmanNoRBallWEEI is how you listen to Celtics coverage. JBL cutting-edge wireless headphones and speakers are how you feel like you’re there. As the official Sound of the Celtics, Isaiah Thomas and the NBA, JBL is Made for the Biggest Stage.

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia

In case you haven’t been paying attention, the Celtics — even without trading what could very well be the No. 1 pick in the draft — have entered the NBA’s elite.

Isaiah Thomas is leading the Celtics to new heights. (Russell Isabella/USA Today Sports)

Isaiah Thomas is leading the Celtics to new heights. (Russell Isabella/USA Today Sports)

In case you haven’t been paying attention, the Celtics — even without trading what could very well be the No. 1 pick in the draft — have entered the NBA’s elite.

The C’s are just 2 1/2 games out of the top spot in the Eastern Conference, and have now won nine of their last 10 games. During that run Brad Stevens’ club managed wins over the East’s No. 4 team (Toronto), and the third-, fourth-, and fifth-best teams (Houston, Utah, Clippers) in the Western Conference.

The latest reminder came Saturday night, when the Celtics picked apart one of the best defensive teams in the NBA, the Jazz, on the way to a 112-104 win over Utah. (For a complete recap, click here.)

This time around the non-Isaiah Thomas scoring came from reserves Kelly Olynyk (19 points) and Gerald Green (16 points), with Al Horford doing his thing with 16 of his own. But what the win over the Jazz did was once again remind us what a good coach Stevens is.

The Celtics had already come away with a win over the Jazz at the Garden, so a very good Utah team had every opportunity to adjust when hosting the C’s this time around. But Stevens managed an offensive game-plan that exposed the Jazz’ usual lock-down defense.

For the night, the Celtics finished shoot 59 percent fro the field, keyed by Olynyk and Green going a combined 15-for-19. Sure, there is still the prevailing notion that the Celtics are a player away. (Watching Kevin Durant return to Oklahoma City Saturday should have gave C’s fans a quick jolt of what-might-have-been.) But, the way this team has found a way to make the most of what they have should at least make the Cavaliers nervous.

The Celtics should be favored in the remaining six games they have in February, leaving two contests that should be circled: March 1 at Cleveland and the March 8 road game against the Warriors. By the time those games roll around, Danny Ainge could very well have secured that one piece everybody is looking for.

It coast would seem to be clear if Celtics fans wanted to adjust expectations a bit.

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Blog Author: 
Rob Bradford

The Celtics had one of their toughest and most satisfying wins of the season Thursday in Portland. 

Trailing by 17 points with under three minutes left in the second quarter, the Celtics went on a 23-4 run to get back in the game, and then held off a rally by the Blazers late in a 120-111 win at the Moda Center in Portland. 

Feb 9, 2017; Portland, OR, USA; Boston Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas (4) shoots over Portland Trail Blazers center Mason Plumlee (24) in the second half at Moda Center. Mandatory Credit: Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports

Isaiah Thomas (4) shoots over Portland Trail Blazers center Mason Plumlee (24) in the second half at Moda Center. (Jaime Valdez/USA Today Sports)

The Celtics had one of their toughest and most satisfying wins of the season Thursday in Portland. 

Trailing by 17 points with under three minutes left in the second quarter, the Celtics went on a 23-4 run to get back in the game, and then held off a rally by the Blazers late in a 120-111 win at the Moda Center in Portland. 

Gerald Green hit a three with 11:25 left in the fourth quarter to give the Celtics the lead for good. Boston improves to 34-19 while Portland falls to 23-31. 

With Avery Bradley (Achilles) and Jae Crowder (family illness) unavailable, Marcus Smart and Gerald Green stepped up while Isaiah Thomas was his standard unstoppable self, scoring a game-high 34 points. 

Smart had 18 points, six rebounds, five assists and five steals while Gerald Green was 5-of-6 off the bench with 11 points, including a spectacular put-back dunk with 7:06 left in the game that put Boston up, 94-91.

“That’s a heck of a win, considering we didn’t have Avery and Jae out there. That was a hard-nosed, tough win. Down big but stuck with it. End of the first half was outstanding,” head coach Brad Stevens told reporters afterward. 

As for Smart?

“He was terrific. Marcus was good, he was really good,” Stevens said. “We were guarding at a much-better rate.”

The Celtics cut the 17-point hole down to six before half and continued their spurt to open the third quarter. 

The Trail Blazers big took early advantage of the soft middle. 

One night after coming up empty late against a Kings team without DeMarcus Cousins and watching their seven-game win streak end, the Celtics again looked a step slow against one of the best tandem guards – Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum  – in the league. Lillard finished with 28 while McCollum had 20. 

McCollum made a sick hesitation dribble on Kelly Olynyk with 34 seconds left in the first quarter. He drove to the basket and drew the foul. 

Then McCollum, on the next Blazers possession, made a spectacular pass across the lane to Al-Farouq Aminu, who was fouled. He made both free throws and the Blazers led, 32-22, after 12 minutes. 

It was Aminu with the great bounce pass midway through the second quarter, finding Lillard to grow the Blazers’ lead to 43-28. 

Former Celtics sixth man stud Evan Turner missed the game as he’s out 5-6 weeks with a broken bone in his right hand. 

For a full recap and box score of Thursday’s loss to the Blazers, click here

 

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia

Feb 3, 2017; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas (4) reacts on the bench during the first half against the Los Angeles Lakers at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Isaiah Thomas and the Celtics will look to finish out the regular season as a top-tier team in the East and make a deep run in the playoffs (Bob DeChiara/USA Today)

With 51 games through the regular season, the Celtics (33-18) have the second-best record in the East and will look to finish strong and make a deep run in the playoffs. WEEI.com’s Josue Pavon and Logan Mullen recap the highs and lows of the 2016-17 season, and make predictions for how far the C’s will go and what needs to happen for them to get there in this Celtics midsesaon report.

Biggest surprise

(Josue) Isaiah Thomas averaging 30 points per game

When the Celtics signed Al Horford over the summer, guys like Isaiah Thomas and Avery Bradley were destined to see a bump in their scoring average. However, Thomas becoming the NBA’s second-best scorer (29.9) isn’t what I had in mind.

According to basketball-reference.com, he’s averaging 43.2 points per 100 possessions this season and his fourth-quarter scoring has made him an MVP candidate behind Russell Westbrook and James Harden. Thomas is averaging a league-leading 10.7 points in the fourth quarter and is easily the biggest surprise of the season for the Celtics. 

(Logan) Fourth-quarter Isaiah Thomas

Even the biggest flag-waving Isaiah Thomas supporter probably wouldn’t have guessed that he could do what he has in the fourth quarter. But it’s a good thing he did, having bailed the Celtics out of numerous potential losses.
 
While a big season was absolutely on the docket, his fourth quarter performances alone blast everything else out of the water.
 
Biggest disappointment
 
(Josue) Team defense

After finishing last season as one of the best defensive teams, the Celtics entered the 2016-17 season with lofty expectations. Adding big man Al Horford certainly had a lot to do with those assumptions, however, the slippage falls on the entire roster.

Last year, the C’s were great defensively because it was a group effort and made the difference in narrow victories against last season’s top-notch teams. Although scoring is up across the league this year, it still doesn’t prove why there’s been such a dramatic drop off. It could be a combination of Amir Johnson having a down year compared to last season, Jae Crowder not being the same lock-down defender he was a season ago or the fact that the small-ball lineup – while it’s effective offensively – welcomes mismatches that favor their opponents.

One of the biggest differences between last season’s team and this year’s is their decline in forcing turnovers. The Celtics finished second in forced turnovers last season – averaging 16.3 per game. This year, they’ve dropped to 14th in that department.

(Logan) Marcus Smart’s offense 

The discussion has become an offseason staple: will Marcus Smart ever become an offensive threat? It has gotten better, but not much mind is required with the ball in Smart’s hands.
 
With defense as his calling card, it is not so much an issue that Smart struggles offensively, but his shot selection is what is most concerning. At times it seems he has trouble discerning whether he is hot or not, leading to wasted possessions with plenty of time on the shot clock. He’s shooting a rough 35.6 percent from the field on nine attempts.
 
He asserted constantly over the summer that he’s working on his offense, and while at times his playing validates that, on many occasions it hasn’t. He’s proven his value to the team countless times this season, but if only his offense could consistently stay at a high level he would be entering a whole new strata of NBA players.

 Bold prediction 
 
(Josue) Jaylen Brown becomes a go-to scorer off the bench

Not making the Rising Star Challenge at All-Star Weekend left a foul taste in the rookie’s mouth. Determined to prove that he is one of the best prospects of his draft class, Jaylen Brown scored a season-high 20 points the day after the rookie and sophomore rosters were announced and is averaging 10.3 points in his last three games.

Brown’s work ethic, along with his athleticism, will push him to become a reliable scoring threat after Aver Bradley returns and further down the road – just in time for the playoffs.

(Logan) Jonas Jerebko becomes a long-term replacement for Amir Johnson in the starting lineup
 
Jerebko has finagled his way into the starting lineup fairly consistently of late, and I think that trend is here to stay. While Jerebko and Amir Johnson do many things quite similarly, there’s one thing Jerebko does much better: shoot free throws. The value of free throw shooting this season — with all the close games the Celtics have been a part of — can’t be forgotten. Jerebko is more reliable at the line, and can shoot from a broader range than Johnson (save for his 3-point deluge at the beginning of the season).
 
And let’s not forget Jerebko’s perfomance in the postseason last year, underscoring that he can play down the stretch. If Jerebko continues to play solid in a supporting role, he may earn the trust of a nightly appearance in the starting lineup.
 
Potential deadline move
 
(Josue) Trade for Tyson Chandler 
 
The veteran big man is the prototypical center the Celtics really need down low. At 34, Chandler can still protect the rim, grab boards and run the floor at an efficient rate. He’s having one of his best rebounding seasons of his career, averaging 11.7 a night and would put the C’s in good position to make a deep playoff run this year. Chandler’s contract expires in 2019 – giving the Celtics a serviceable center for the next two years.

Amir Johnson’s $12 million expiring contract and the Celtics’ 2019 first-round pick would free up cap space for Phoenix this summer and give them a second first-rounder in the latter years of their rebuilding phase.

Celtics will most likely need to get a third team involved in this speculative deal but if they can pull it off without giving up any of their core guys, Danny should pull the trigger.

(Logan) Tyler Zeller is the only player moved at the deadline, and it’s part of a three-team deal
 
Tyler Zeller has somewhat put himself in a “if a tree falls situation.” Brad Stevens giving him minutes is nothing beyond a mere formality at this point, with Zeller oftentimes not even seeing the floor. 
 
He doesn’t provide anything the Celtics don’t currently have, but he is not totally worthless on the trade market in terms of skill. He is capable of grabbing rebounds, and a team could be willing to take a chance with him as an off the bench option if he is, in fact, part of a three-team deal.
Where you reach a problem is his contract. Zeller is in his first year of a two-year, 16-million dollar deal — not exactly team-friendly given what he brings to the table. If the Celtics were to move him they would likely have to eat some of that contract.
 
2016-17 record
 
(Josue) 53-29
 
With Isaiah Thomas putting the team on his back at the end of games, the Celtics should have enough offensive firepower to close out wins against sub-.500 teams. Although they dropped a couple of games that they shouldn’t have, the C’s had a favorable January schedule.
 
Aside from Thomas’ absurd numbers, it’s the biggest reason why they’re sitting comfortably in second place in the East. Their toughest games from here on out will be one last meeting against the Raptors, one against the Warriors, two against the champion Cavaliers and other opponents like the Wizards and Bucks – teams that always give the C’s a good fight.
 
Still, I say they finish out the season, 20-11.
 
(Logan) 51-31
 
Here’s the good news: the Celtics are starting to figure out how to beat good teams.
 
The problem is, they are not totally adept at it, and after a softer stretch in late February/early March, they are going to see a lot of quality teams come their way. I don’t think they will totally fade, but I sooner trust Toronto to answer the late season call than the Celtics.
 
Playoff prediction
 
(Josue) Lose in conference semifinals 
 
Brad Stevens will reach the next step in his NBA coaching career by winning his first playoff series. The Celtics will push the Raptors to six games in the conference semifinals but ultimately bow out against Toronto in what will be a very entertaining series.  
 
(Logan) Lose in conference semifinals 
 
While the East has grown in talent exponentially since, say, four years ago, there are still plenty of less than average teams that will get into the playoffs. If the Celtics do finish third and play the current six seed, it would be the Pacers. Not a huge problem.
 
From there, any remaining team could conceivably give the Celtics a run in a seven game series. If they were to draw the Hawks or Wizards, for example, they could absolutely compete. Cavs or Raptors? Not so much.
 
The Celtics are getting better, and I would not be astounded to see them make it to the conference finals, but depending on the matchup, I think conference semifinals will be as far as they go this season.
 
NBA MVP
 
(Logan) James Harden
 
Let me preface this by saying it should be Russell Westbrook. What he’s done to put the Thunder on his back after Kevin Durant’s departure is nothing short of stunning, and the way he’s proven to crank out triple-doubles is equally impressive. The Thunder just don’t have the notoriety and power anymore for Westbrook winning to really be a logical option.
 
Harden, however, has carried a Rockets team that looks poised to make a deep run in the West. Still far from a shutdown defender, his consistency on offense (28.9 points, 11.4 assists, 8.2 rebounds) on a nightly basis has helped blast the Rockets into a legitimate competitor in the Western Conference.
 
(Josue) Russell Westbrook 
 
Not only has Russell Westbrook stuffed a stat sheet better than anyone this year, he’s doing it on a playoff-bound Western Conference team that has no business reaching the postseason. While averaging a triple-double (30.9 points, 10.2 assists, 10.5 rebounds), Westbrook has lead the Thunder to a 30-23 record – good enough for seventh place out west.
 
To put that in perspective, if they were in the east they would be fighting with the Wizards for the fourth seed. Wow, that’s impressive, considering the fact the Thunder’s only other viable scorers are Victor Oladipo (16) and Steven Adams (12.1).
 
Yeah, not a whole lot of other options after those guys (was this the reason why Kevin Durant left?). Either way, there isn’t another player who is more valuable than Westbrook. Mr. Oklahoma City does it all.
 
Blog Author: 
WEEI

Feb 5, 2017; Boston, MA, USA;  Boston Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas (4) during the second half against the LA Clippers at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

After winning January’s Player of the Month award, Isaiah Thomas wins the Player of the Week award for the second time this season  (Bob DeChiara/USA Today)

Isaiah Thomas followed up his incredible month of scoring by earning the Eastern Conference Player of the Week award.

After winning Eastern Conference Player of the Month honors for the month of January, Thomas led the Celtics to a 4-0 record, while averaging 37.8 points and 6.8 assists. In two of those four games, he scored 40-plus points against the Pistons (41) and Raptors (44). 

Thomas also averaged an astonishing 17.5 fourth-quarter points last week.

Since his 52-point performance on Dec. 30, the All-Star guard has been on an unbelievable tear — averaging 34.8 points and 6.6 assists in 16 games.

Throughout that span, the Celtics (14-4) are tied with the Pacers (14-4) for the second-best record behind the Warriors (15-3). 

The C’s (33-18) are currently in second place in the Eastern Conference and will look to stretch their winning streak to seven consecutive games on Wednesday when they kick off a three-game road trip in Sacramento against the Kings.

Blog Author: 
Josue Pavon

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Paul Pierce looks forward to the day him, Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo have a reunion for the first time since 2012 (Josue Pavon/WEEI.com)

Before playing his final game in Boston, Paul Pierce answered an array of questions about his legacy, playing at TD Garden one last time and his role with the Clippers.

But when Pierce was asked about his relationship with Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo, he smiled. And talked about how he still keeps in touch with most of them.

Garnett is “having the time of his life,” said Pierce. He says Garnett’s show “Area 21,” a segment part of TNT’s weekly Thursday night broadcast along with being a consultant for the Clippers, has kept him busy throughout his first post-retirement season.

When he was asked about Rondo, Pierce said him and Rondo “talk all the time” and that Rondo’s rift with Bulls teammates Dwyane Wade and Jimmy Butler was simply, “Rajon being Rajon.”

“Just like Manny being Manny, he’s Rajon being Rajon,” Pierce jokingly said. “Man, you know what, I respect Rajon with some of the stuff he said, truthfully. I thought it was the truth. I didn’t have a problem with none of the stuff he said about Wade or Jimmy Butler because it was the honest truth. [If you] see the next game, Wade and Jimmy they got benched because what Rondo said was right.”

The Rondo conversation took a convenient segue into another member of the 2008 champion Celtics — Ray Allen. When Pierce was asked if he thought Garnett could ever patch up his relationship with Allen, one that deteriorated after Allen left the Celtics in 2012 to sign with LeBron James, Wade and the rival Heat, he replied:

“100 percent,” Pierce said. “I have no hard feelings towards Ray. That’s pretty much [what] a lot of people [think because of] how things ended kind of spicy with him going to Miami. But I think over time things will blow over. We’re all grown ups, we’ll all get over things. I’m sure that time will come. I don’t know when but like I said, I don’t have any hard feelings towards Ray.

“After he won a championship in Miami, that was the last time I talked to him,” Pierce said. “I congratulated him.” 

Will it take someone like Danny Ainge or Doc Rivers to set up a reunion between the four of you guys?

“I think it’s gonna come from one of us, I think we’re just gonna reach out. Maybe we’ll all have a reunion on Area 21 or something (laughs), maybe we’ll meet up over there.”  

Blog Author: 
Josue Pavon

20170205_140202

Paul Pierce listened to Celtics fans cheer before his name was called during player introductions (Josue Pavon/WEEI.com)

It was a perfect ending for the Celtics.

Paul Pierce knocked in the final shot, and the Celtics won the game. 

Towards the end of a 107-102 Celtics win over the Clippers, fans spent the most of the second half chanting for Pierce to come back in the game. With 19.8 second left, Clippers head coach Doc Rivers finally reinsert Pierce — who had been on the bench since the first quarter — and TD Garden went nuts.

With the game out of hand, the Celtics legend took a deep 3-pointer in front of Isaiah Thomas, and drained.

The Garden erupted.

What a fitting moment by Pierce to knock down the final shot, just like he’s done dozens of times throughout his 15 years with the Celtics.

“It’s a tough situation, been sitting for like the last two hours, then had to come in there and get a shot,” Pierce said with a smile on his face. “But I’m glad I ended it that way, [glad] I was able to. You know, you want to come in and get a win but it was a tough day, not only for me but for my teammates, it was a lot of emotion running through; my teammates kind of felt it too. I’m glad I was able to cap it off, my last game in the Garden, at least I can just say I put one last bucket in at the end of the game. 

“But it was tough, man. The fans are awesome. These are the best fans in the world. I never felt anything like this. I truly appreciate my time here. I truly appreciate tonight. These are the best fans in the world. I never felt anything like this. I truly appreciate my time here. I truly appreciate tonight. The fans showered me with a lot of love.” 

TD Garden wasted little time in showering Paul Pierce with a tribute video. During the first timeout of the first quarter — which was called at the 8:13 mark — a montage of some of Pierce’s greatest moments on the court played on the jumbotron to commemorate his final game. After Celtics fans gave a thunderous standing ovation for Pierce, one that continued as the game resumed, fans began chanting a “Thank you, Paul Pierce” chant.

Pierce didn’t come back into the game until the Clippers’ final play at the end of the fourth quarter. 

“You know you really don’t know what you meant to a team when you’re out there playing,” Pierce explained. “You really don’t get a chance to really reflect on it. It hit me a lot tonight and I’m sure it’s going to hit me a lot more when I’m done playing. This is something that I truly felt tonight.”

During the game, the home team gave their fans plenty more to cheer about. Behind Thomas’ 13 first-quarter points, the Celtics leaped out to a quick start by grabbing a 15-point lead. 

Isaiah Thomas’ 26 points led seven Celtics in double figures. Amir Johnson, Marcus Smart and Kelly Olynyk each finished with 13 points, while Jae Crowder, Al Horford and Jaylen Brown each added 11. 

Blake Griffin and Jamal Crawford both led their team with 23 points, Raymond Felton added 16 points off the bench and DeAndre Jordan grabbed a game-high 16 boards.

The Clippers found their offensive momentum in the in the second quarter by cutting their deficit to two points before the Celtics went an 11-2 run in less than two minutes. Horford, Crowder and Thomas all drained in three consecutive 3-pointers and Smart followed that up with a put-back layup to push their lead to 11.

Throughout the second half, the C’s kept their opponent at bay — grasping a double-digit lead through most of the final frame. 

After the game, Celtics fans stuck around and doused Pierce with a standing ovation as the former Celtics captain waved one last final time before he walked towards center court and kissed the logo. 

It was Pierce’s way of saying goodbye one last time.

“That was kind of pre-planned, I know I wanted to give Lucky one last kiss,” Pierce said. “Lucky’s been through it all with me, the ups and downs, even helped me out on a couple occasions. It was the last time I’m gonna touch this floor as a player. I’m sure I’ll be back as a fan but as a player that was my last time so I kissed the floor goodbye.”

Blog Author: 
Josue Pavon

May 3, 2013; Boston, MA, USA;  Boston Celtics small forward Paul Pierce (34) during the second quarter in game six of the first round of the 2013 NBA Playoffs against the New York Knicks at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

Paul Pierce will play his final game in a building he called home while creating countless memories for 15 years (Greg M. Cooper/USA Today)

History won’t only be taking place in Houston’s NRG Stadium on Sunday.

Nearly 2,000 miles away from Super Bowl LI, the purest scorer in Celtics history will play his last game in Boston. 

Paul Pierce, who plans to retire after this season, will give Celtics fans one final performance on his beloved parquet when the Clippers visit TD Garden in a pre-Super Bowl matinee at 2 p.m.

Although it’s been nearly four years since Pierce donned a Celtics uniform, his contributions to the city and organization feel fresh. Fifteen years and one unforgettable title ensure him of immortality.

Celtics legends Larry Bird and John Havlicek often headline discussions of the franchise’s best pure scorer, but was there a more dynamic offensive force than Pierce? He could score at a high rate in every way imaginable.

Pierce could take his defender to the rim, score from the mid-range, hit 3’s, and make shots with victory on the line, as his dozen-plus game-winners prove. The 10-time All-Star was an offensive assassin. And his career numbers back it up. 

Not only does he lead the Celtics in most 3-pointers and free-throws made but in both statistical categories, he’s top-10 in NBA history. Only three NBA players have drained more 3-pointers than Pierce (2,137) and he’s eighth in free-throws made (6,916).

He enters Sunday’s game as the 16th leading scorer in league history with 26,361 career points, fittingly, right behind Celtics legend Havlicek (26,395), who is 15th on the list. 

Pierce is not only the best pure scorer in Celtics history, he’s also one of the most gifted offensive talents in league history. Despite being overshadowed by great scorers throughout his prime, starting with Allen Iverson and Kobe Bryant in the early 2000s and ending with LeBron James today, Pierce eventually earned his place in their company. Unlike Bird and Havlicek, Pierce didn’t win right away. He entered the league in 1998 at the start of the post-Michael Jordan era and suffered through dizzying ups and downs before help arrived in the form of Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen, who helped Pierce win the franchise’s 17th title in 2008.

Pierce led the Celtics to the 2002 Eastern Conference Finals by outplaying Iverson and dropping 48 points on the 76ers in the decisive Game 5. He then produced the highlight of that postseason by carrying the Celtics all the way back from a 26-point deficit against the Nets with the greatest fourth-quarter comeback in playoff history.

It took six years for the Celtics to make another deep playoff run, but it proved worth the wait.

After averaging a career-high 26.8 points and shooting 47 percent from the floor in 2005-06, Pierce and the Celtics struggled through a miserable 24-win 2006-07. But everything changed when Danny Ainge acquired Allen and Garnett that summer, giving Pierce the help he needed to prove his name belonged alongside guys like Bryant and James. 

Pierce led the Celtics past the Cavaliers that postseason by surpassing James in a classic Game 7 duel. Pierce finished with 41 points and eventually pushed the C’s to the Finals, where he wrote another chapter in the Celtics-Lakers rivalry. He then cemented his place in Celtics history by beating Bryant, being named Finals MVP, and finally leading the Celtics to banner No. 17.

At that moment, he might’ve been the best basketball player in the world. The summer after winning it all, he was asked if he’d name Bryant the best player in the league.

“I don’t think Kobe is the best player,” Pierce replied confidently. “I’m the best player.”

Pierce’s confidence made him great, but so did the chip he carried on his shoulder after dropping to 10th in the ’98 draft, behind forgettable players like Michael Olowokandi, Tractor Traylor, and Larry Hughes. In fact, it fueled him.

It’s amazing to consider what Pierce didn’t accomplish in his career. He never made first-team All-NBA, he never started an All-Star Game, and he never finished higher than seventh in the MVP voting. But his achievements far outstrip those snubs.

He honed an offensive game that defeated the two greatest players of his generation in the same postseason. His textbook footwork and fade-away step back, combined with a clutch jumper, left him in rarefied air.

There’s only two Celtics who compare as scorers, and even accepting that Havlicek and Bird played in different eras, Pierce’s game still stands out for its diversity. Havlicek played before 3-pointers, and even when Bird was considered the best long-range shooter in the league, the 3 wasn’t the weapon that it is today.

Pierce may not be the best player in Celtics history, but the fact that he’s even in the conversation for best all-around scorer speaks volumes. His Celtics tenure hit some rocky patches — like when he regrettably left the floor in 2005 after being eliminated by the Pacers with gauze wrapped around his head — but he remained committed to returning the Green to glory, a promise he eventually delivered.

He was an unforgettable talent, which is why Sunday’s farewell will be a memorable one.

Blog Author: 
Josue Pavon