As one of several scoring options on the Boston Celtics, Paul Pierce likes to take his shots in the flow of the offense.
Sometimes that produces a plethora of shots, sometimes it produces just a few. In the fourth quarter on Monday night, it gave Paul just one shot.
That was all he needed.
Paul celebrates his game clinching shot against Orlando (Getty Images).
With 38.7 seconds remaining in the game, No. 34 found his spot at the elbow and got Jason Richardson up in the air to contest his shot and commit a foul. Despite the contact, Paul buried the mid-range jumper to give the Celtics a 106-104 lead. He added the free throw for the old-fashioned three-point play and the Orlando Magic couldn't respond in Boston's 109-106 victory.
"I've been in those situations a number of times,'' The Truth said after the game. "I really don't get rattled. I try to keep cool and calm about myself especially in the last two minutes, when the crowd's frantic and everybody's going crazy. I just try to zone in at that point in the game and just keep my focus.''
The game-winner is a shot that Paul has trademarked. The wing he took it from is known as his sweet spot. The step back he takes to gain space after drawing the foul may as well be patented "Paul Pierce, all rights reserved." And the shot that follows is smooth as silk.
"It was just a play we worked on," Paul told the Boston Globe. "I've run it a number of times. We got the switch with Jason Richardson and coach just said to be aggressive. I think he trusts me with the responsibility to be responsible with the ball and to take the shot or trying to find somebody. I was just able to get the space and I saw some day light and got a good look."
To watch the shot, click here.
No. 34 finished the game with 14 points on just seven shots (5-of-7) from the field. He tied for fifth on the team in shots taken Monday night, behind reserves Nate Robinson and Glen Davis, but Paul has no problem waiting his turn:
"Some nights it goes like that,'' he told the Globe. "We got other guys really stepping up. Putting Kevin back out there really got it going. Ray with the way he's shooting the ball. It's a pleasure to be able to sit back and take a load off and not have to worry about scoring night in and night out, taking 20 shots when I got these guys.
"I just take advantage of the opportunities that's given to me. I don't complain about shots like I used to back in the day when I was younger, even though I got all the shots.''
Instead of putting too much energy into his offense on Monday, Paul channeled it elsewhere, as the Boston Globe's Gary Washburn wrote:
"Pierce realized Garnett and Davis were generating offense in the paint and Ray Allen was nearly a cinch from the 3-point area. So Pierce waited his turn, finally converting a 3-point play when he pump-faked Orlando's Jason Richardson at the right elbow, then drained an 18-footer for a 107-104 lead with 38.7 seconds left.
Garnett, Davis, and Allen combined for 34 shots, so Pierce shifted his focus to defending Hedo Turkoglu, who finished 4 for 11 from the field and looked uncomfortable offensively most of the night."
According to a Boston Globe report prior to the game, stopping Turkoglu was a priority for the Celtics. For Paul, it was simply a matter of embracing his role:
"At the end of the day, it's all about winning,'' he said. "Whether I make the play or whether I do something else to help the team win, that's all it is.''
The Truth added five rebounds, four assists, two blocks and a steal in the win, Boston's 31st of the season and third in a row.
WELCOME BACK KEVIN
No. 34 finished off the win for the Celtics, but the good vibes were flowing for Boston even before tip-off when Kevin Garnett was cleared to play for the first time since December 29th.
Garnett said it was The Captain who gave him the final seal of approval to take the floor on Monday.
"I got a couple days of practice in, and I asked Paul right away, who's probably the most truthful, the most blunt, and I've known him since I was 13 or 14 and I value his word," Garnett said. "I asked him and he told me I looked very good, and I told him I felt strong. You know I've been doing a lot of things to get back here and get strong, and I'm glad I was able to come out here and help my team out."
Garnett finished his return game with 19 points, eight rebounds and followed Paul's big shot with a steal to help the Celtics seal the deal. But The Truth said the contributions of his friend and teammate went beyond what showed up in the stats.
"We look like a totally different team out there just with Kevin on the court," Paul told reporters after the game. "You can't replace what Kevin gives to a ball club. He doesn't always show up with his numbers, but his presence and his feel for the game and everything he does for this team goes far beyond the numbers, and you see it tonight.
"We look like a team who is ready, who is energized, who is locked in, and, you know, that's the culture he's brought here since Day 1. He raises everybody's level of play when he's on the court."
Paul, KG and the Celtics are back in action on Wednesday night as they host the Detroit Pistons.
Boston has split two games with the Pistons this season, both in Detroit. In their last meeting, The Truth erupted for 33 points, but Boston couldn't make it stand up in a 104-92 loss on December 29th. They'll be seeking a little vengeance on Wednesday.
Tip-off from TD Garden is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. EST and the game can be seen on CSN.