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Paul Pierce: ‘I think maybe I can play a little longer than anticipated’

12.19.12 at 10:53 pm ET
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Celtics captain Paul Pierce had heard the whispers all season.

He had lost a step or two, didn’t have the explosion at the basket and … was getting old.

So, his answer Wednesday was to go out and score a season-high 40 points, including 6-of-7 from 3-point range, as the Celtics outlasted the Cleveland Cavaliers 103-91 Wednesday night at TD Garden. Pierce, at 35 years of age, became the oldest Celtics player ever with a 40-point game in regulation.

Afterward, Pierce was reminded of that fact and reflected on his 14-year career.

“I think maybe I can play a little longer than anticipated,” Pierce said. “Who knows?”

Larry Bird scored 49 points in a game when he was 35 years, 99 days old but that game was in double-overtime.

“Oh wow. Another one for the records, I guess,” Pierce said. “I’ve been here long enough. Maybe I’ll go for 50 now.”

But to Pierce, who questioned the team’s identity just 24 hours earlier after a loss in Chicago, Wednesday night was much more about a badly-needed win than his 40 points.

“It’s a make or miss league. Who knew I was going to come in and shoot the ball the way I did, but the one thing I could control was how hard I was going to play today and the effort I was going to put out,” Pierce said.

The Celtics fed off Pierce all night, building a 20-point lead late in the third and staving off the young, hungry Cavs when they cut it to two points midway through the fourth.

“I think when you play like that it can be contagious,” he said. “Offensively, guys knocking down shots, and then other guys getting up in there and defending. Things can definitely be contagious. I know I think everybody definitely wanted to get off this slide that we’re on so it was a good win, it’s a start.

“I feel like the last few games I’ve been shooting the ball a lot better, three or four games now. So I feeling like I’m really coming along where I’m starting to get into a good groove offensively. The way my shot’s going, picking my spots. So even before tonight I felt good.”

Pierce worked his way into the zone so many NBA players work so hard to find.

“It’s hard to really explain it,” he said. “You feel good, you feel like everything do, everything you shoot is going to go in…You want the ball.

“It’s not something you really work on. You just instinctively know how the defense is playing you. How you can get the shot off when you need to. I’ve been a scorer for most of my life and you figure those things out. Sometimes it’s not straight up and down sometimes it’s a different level left or right. But that’s just something that’s evolved as a player over the years of being a natural born scorer.”

Pierce then got nostalgic about his career in Boston and his basketball life.

“I think I’ve always started off as a basketball player shooting the ball,” he said. “I started as a two guard before I moved to bigger positions. If you watch little kids, if you just watch them shooting at the park. The first thing they do is shoot long range shots. You see kids that can’t even get the ball to the rim they start way at the 3 point line and try to launch it. So I guess that’s really how it all started, just trying to shoot the ball at the rim as far as you can…Some players get the touch and others don’t.

“You know when I first got into the league, I always asked myself, if I wanted to be good, if I wanted to be great. Every time I stepped up and worked on my game. That’s the question I asked, how good did I want to be…working on my craft as hard as I could because I wanted to be one of the great players. And that’s the same hard work I feel I’ve put in over the years.”

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