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Paul Pierce: Celtics can beat any team in the East

01.05.13 at 1:09 am ET

When the Grizzlies briefly knocked the Celtics out of the Eastern Conference playoff picture, handing them a fourth straight loss and their eighth in the last 10, many buried the C’s. Just like they did the 2010 and 2012 versions. Even some of members of the team questioned their contender status. But this isn’t Paul Pierce‘s first rodeo.

“I was telling the guys before the game, you know, I told them to look at the East,” said the Celtics captain, who totaled 13 points, six rebounds and five assists in his team’s dismantling of the Pacers that lifted them back into the eighth spot in the conference. “There’s not one team out there that we feel like we can’t beat.

“You’ve got a couple of elite teams out there — San Antonio, Oklahoma City — and I was telling them how well we played against Oklahoma City. There’s no reason that we can’t play well against everybody like that. If you look at the elite teams, and we’re able to compete with them, then why can’t we compete with the other teams are coming here, like the Milwaukees, like the [Pacers], like the Grizzlies. I just want to keep the confidence going in the locker room and help them understand that when we want to, we can be this type of team.”

Notice that Pierce didn’t mention the Heat among those elite teams. Or anybody in the East, for that matter. And notice that his newfound confidence comes on the heels of defensively dynamo Avery Bradley‘s return, a productive practice and the first game of the season featuring the starting lineup (Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Brandon Bass, Rajon Rondo and Bradley) that breathed life into another Celtics team pundits left for dead.

“That’s the starting lineup that we had together when we made the second-half run last year, so hopefully this is something we can build on,” added Pierce. “It’s great having Avery out there, just putting so much pressure on the ball. I really think that makes a big difference for us when he picks up the ball. Teams really can’t get into their offense as good as they would like to. It really has a great effect on it. As the games go along, he’s going to get better, our defense is going to get better. We just have to be more consistent with it.”

Amazing what one win, one returning player and one comfortable starting lineup can do for a team’s confidence.

Read More: Avery Bradley, Boston Celtics, NBA, Paul Pierce
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