Almost two weeks ago, Kevin Garnett  unveiled the team’s new slogan , exchanging the “Ubuntu” of the 2008 title run for some good ol’ fashioned “Grit and Balls” in the 2012 NBA Playoffs . Others may imitate — like old friend Tony Allen  and the Grizzlies ‘ “Grit and Grind” motto — but Pierce knows the truth.
“We definitely didn’t play our best ball,” said Pierce after the C’s 92-91 win over the 76ers in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals. “It was definitely a slow start, but this is a grind team. I’m hearing rumblings down in Memphis that they’re trying to take our motto. I think they know where they got that from. We figure out ways to win. This team has tons of experience. We’ve got the veteran savvy to find ways, and we just keep doing it.”
On Saturday night, they did it on the backs of Garnett (29 points, 11 rebounds, 3 blocks) and Rajon Rondo  (13 points, 17 assists, 12 rebounds), who scored 15 of the C’s 25 points in the fourth quarter.
“We’re gonna ride Kevin all the way until his wheels fall off,” said Pierce. “And he’s bringing it every night. He understands the sense of urgency with this ballclub, and he’s giving everything he’s got out there for us. He’s looking magnificent. He’s looking like the ‘04 MVP, definitely.”
Pierce, on the other hand, hasn’t looked quite the same after spraining his left MCL during a shootaround last week and re-aggravating it during Game 4 of the Hawks series that same day. He’s played 116 minutes in three games since then, shooting a combined 15-of-39 from the field (38.5%), including 3-of-11 against the Sixers.
‘I felt good,” Pierce assured the media. “They really do a good job at collapsing on me. I’m not worried. I think as the series goes along I’m a smart enough player that I’ll figure out what they’re trying to do.”
Pierce demonstrated his basketball acumen in getting to the free throw line for eight attempts (all makes), manufacturing 14 points, six assists and six rebounds over 40 minutes. For all the talk about Rondo’s brilliance down the stretch — and he was brilliant — Pierce had the same number of assists (4) in the fourth quarter on Saturday night.
After simply being outworked in the first half of Game 1 by Andre Iguadola, who should be game for a series-long battle at the small forward position, Pierce figured out a way to nearly match his fellow All-Star’s production (19 points, 6 rebounds, 6 assists), even while playing at less than 100 percent.
‘They’re doing a good job getting the ball out of my hands, but that’s leaving other guys open,” he said. “I thought Brandon Bass  got some really good looks tonight, I thought Kevin got great looks, Rajon got great looks, so it doesn’t matter if I don’t score the ball. We’ve got a number of guys that can step up, and eventually I’ll figure it out.’
He may not think his knee is going to get any better  by the end of the season, but Pierce believes both he and the Celtics can improve over the course of this series. And Garnett knows they better, starting in Game 2.
‘I really feel like we have better basketball in us,’ said Garnett after his second straight sublime performance, ‘and I’m sure as the series goes on we have no other choice but to get better.’