Paul Pierce wasn’t preoccupied with “what-ifs” heading into an elimination game Sunday afternoon at TD Garden. What if the Celtics lost? Could this be the last game in a Celtics uniform for the captain who is signed through next season.
“To be honest, I was calm,” Pierce said. “I had a certain calmness about the game today,” Pierce said after scoring a team-high 29 points in a 97-90 overtime win against the Knicks that kept the season alive and sent the series back to New York for Game 5 Wednesday night.
Pierce played nine seconds shy of 50 minutes on this day that his Celtics career might have ended. He didn’t want it to end like this, on his home court, blowing a 20-point third-quarter lead and missing a trademark iso shot that would’ve won the game in regulation.
“Yeah you know every game is tough in the playoffs,” Pierce said. “We had a sizable lead, but we understood that they could make a run. They’re a good team. But you know, we gotta limit their runs. We gotta be better, especially in the third quarter. That’s been our Achilles heel in this series, and so hopefully we can look to improve upon that in Game 5.”
Pride is a word that gets thrown around a lot but the Celtics showed a lot of it in the fourth quarter when the Knicks had already gotten back into the game and could sense the kill. But Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Jason Terry rallied the troops.
“Yeah, there was a lot of pride,” Pierce said. “Us, as [leaders] of the team, we’ve got to instill it in these guys. You saw with the attitude before the game, we knew we were gonna come out with the force we did today, and it carried over into the game. And this crowd. You gotta give a hand to this crowd. They really gave us a boost. Everytime I look up there, you feel it, you see it, you hear it; there’s just so much pride when you look around, the banners, the crowd and everything going on with the Boston Celtics history.”
Still, Pierce knows full well that a repeat of the third quarter at all in Game 5 will mean the sudden and definitive end to the season.
“I think [fouls] really got them back into the game,” Piece said. “We fouled, sent them to the free throw line…you know we tried to put multiple guys on [Carmelo Anthony], different guys on [Raymond Felton], but when we play aggressive D like that, I thought we defended well for most of the night, into the third quarter. We just have to limit our fouls. For one, when we send them to the free throw line, it stops the clock and gives them points without the clock moving, and gives them a chance to get back into the game. So we gottta do a better job at limiting our fouls.
“We established our defense and we made shots today. I thought it really gave us confidence when we got out to the fast start because our offense has really been struggling. We’ve been getting good looks but we haven’t been knocking them down. I thought early, we really knocked down shots and gave us confidence, the defense was really good for the most part tonight, so hopefully this is something we can build on.”
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