When Paul Pierce tumbled to the floor last night during the second quarter and subsequently limped off the court with team doctors, Boston’s fragility — hell, every team’s fragility (see: Chicago Bulls) — was highlighted in neon yellow and paraded in front of a TNT national audience. If Pierce had not been able to return… well, I don’t really want to discuss it in detail, but the Celtics would not have improved.
But Pierce did return, calmly sunk a couple more triples after halftime, ran into the tunnel after one of them to stir the crowd into insanity, and finished with an absurd 24 points on 10 of 13 shooting in fewer than 17 minutes.
The craziest part is that Doc Rivers didn’t know Pierce would even play. The Truth tripped and fell during shootaround and his status wasn’t known until right before the game.
“When I left shootaround, I probably thought he was not going to play,” Rivers said. “And Eddie (Lacerte) said, ‘Let’s see, let’s give it a try and see how he feels.’ I talked to him right before the game. I asked him, ‘What do you think?’ And he said, ‘Well, let me just try to warm it up and see how I feel.’”
Pierce warmed it up, alright — warmed it up to about 5,000 degrees Celsius. He wouldn’t entirely commit to playing in Game 5 and neither would Rivers — “With a couple of guys, actually three of them, we literally don’t know,” Rivers said — but one would think Pierce will be okay after coming back in the second half with the scorching palm of someone who throws flames with his bare hands, especially when he referred to Game 5 during his postgame press conference.
“I had to sit around the last half of shootaround, and tonight I just kind of reaggravated it when I came up off the screen with Josh Smith right there. It’s a little bit sore right now so Doc just wanted to take precautions tonight especially when we had such a big lead. I got some rest for the next game. … You don’t really want to sit down or let it get stiff. That’s why I want over and got on the bike there when I got out of the game. If it had stiffend up on me I probably wouldn’t have had a chance to come back.”
The crowd started an M-V-P chant for Pierce while he rode the stationary bike. The cheer started with Avery Bradley at the free throw line at the other end of the court, and someone sitting next to me at the game said, “M-V-P chants for Bradley? I know he improved quite a bit, but this is getting out of control.” The chants for Pierce were still out of control, but on Sunday night, with the Captain turning nets into a forest fire of flames, they almost made sense.
“Paul was in a zone today. Nothing else to that. He was in the zone. I have nothing else to say. Capital Z. He was in the zone,” Kevin Garnett explained. “He hurt his leg and was going off one leg for a minute, but as far as arc and height and how he got the ball up — it was perfect, man.”