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Pinched nerve has plagued Paul Pierce for 2 months 02.14.13 at 12:55 am ET
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Paul Pierce confirmed what Celtics president Danny Ainge divulged to the viewing public while sitting down with broadcasters Mike Gorman and Tommy Heinsohn during the second quarter of Wednesday night’s 71-69 victory against the Bulls: The C’s captain has played with a pinched nerve in his neck since December.

“It’s getting better,” Pierce said in response to the injury inquiry. “It’s something that’s been bothering me probably for like the last two months. It’s getting better, though. The last couple weeks have been better than it has been.”

Pierce struggled mightily in January, shooting 39.9 percent from the field (28.9 3P%) for the month, but he’s emerged once again as the C’s leader in the two weeks since Rajon Rondo‘s season-ending ACL injury.

During the C’s 8-1 stretch in their last nine games, Pierce has still struggled with his shot (39.0 FG%) — including a 2-of-12 performance in the win over Chicago — although his 39.5 percent shooting from beyond the arc and a boatload of clutch shots have helped assuage any concerns about his health. At 35 years old, Pierce has averaged a ridiculous 16.1 points, 9.4 rebounds and 7.2 assists in 36.6 minutes a night since Rondo’s injury.

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Paul Pierce: ‘This is the type of win that can give us confidence to move forward’ 02.11.13 at 1:19 am ET
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Celtics captain Paul Pierce did it yet again on Sunday night with a triple-double scoring 27 points with 14 rebounds and 14 assists in 54 minutes of action as the Celtics outlasted the Denver Nuggets 118-114 in a triple overtime thriller at TD Garden.

“It was a good win, man. It was hard fought, we’re playing against one of the hottest in the league, on our home court,” Pierce said. “It’s definitely a satisfying win. When you come out and we looked bleak, especially in the overtimes, this was a great game to be a part of. It was a great win against a quality ball club, not to say the other teams weren’t quality teams we played, but you know, this is the type of win that can give us confidence to move forward.”

Pierce hit game-tying three with time running out on their six-game win streak at the end of double-overtime before Jason Terry and Kevin Garnett took over in triple-overtime. The three that rattled home with 5.2 seconds left in double-overtime, sending the Garden crowd into pandemonium.

“Well, the original play was Pierce coming off pick-and-roll, if he can get a three off, get it,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. “If not, Jet [Jason Terry]. Then it was broken and Paul just made a play. I mean, that’s what great players do. I would love to tell you I had something to do with it. I was sitting just like the fans playing, ‘Please, Lord, Paul make a shot.’ Once he got below 11 – originally we were going to go for a quick two – once he got under the 11-second mark I was yelling, ‘We have to take a three now.’”

Pierce said once the Celtics got the game into triple-overtime, it was time for Garnett to take over.

“That was part of the plan,” Pierce said. “We wanted to get him on the block, we wanted to get it to him on the spots where he can take the shot. That was a big part of the plan. We felt like he had the advantage, wasn’t going to it enough, but we just tried to keep going to him, keep wearing out the matchup, he made three quick baskets in that last overtime, Jason hits a big shot, and that’s what you gotta do. A lot of different guys stepped up for us tonight. Jeff Green in the first overtime was huge. Two huge shots at the end of regulation and one in overtime, so it’s got to be a team effort. Avery’s defense…I mean it was a combination of everybody and that’s what its gonna take for us to move forward.”

Garnett hit Boston’s first three shots of the third extra period before Terry’s three gave the Celtics the lead for good.

“Roles expand,” Pierce said. “I know what im capable of, but when you have a guy like Rondo, not as much is needed from you because you have another guy who can do so many things also. So I think with him out the roles gonna change. I’m gonna be more of a facilitator for this ball club, and you know it’s got to come from not only me, its gotta come from a number of guys. You see other guys being able to step up, we were scoring more. So it’s not only me, its everybody whose roles change, and has to do more with the injuries that we have.”

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Jason Terry: ‘My gut tells me to keep shooting’ 02.10.13 at 10:43 pm ET
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Jason Terry hit the go-ahead three-pointer with 1:33 remaining in triple overtime to leave the Celtics to a 118-114 win over the Denver Nuggets Sunday night at TD Garden. The Celtics won their seventh straight with a thrilling victory while ending Denver’s nine game winning streak.

After missing six straight threes, Terry wasn’t about to turn down another chance at coming through for his team. He took a pass from Paul Pierce and hit a triple with 1:33 left in triple-overtime to give the Celtics a lead they would not relinquish.

“Well shooters shoot, and the looks they were giving me were great ones,” Terry said. “I’ve got to admit, JaVale McGee is a huge target to shoot over, so a lot of those shots were over him and they were short but my instinct, my gut tells me to keep shooting. Paul Pierce did a hell of a job drawing defenders all night long and I just knew if I got a clean, clean look uncontested, I was going to knock it down.”

Pierce said after the game that Terry promised he would make his next 3-point attempt.

“No question. I told him and whoever else wanted to listen – that’s just my motto, that’s how I’ve been,” Terry said. “In a game like that it’s just so mentally draining – you have to stay into it. Defensively we continued to get stops but not only was Paul Pierce’s shot tremendous but I thought Kevin Garnett I mean, the man’s 50-years old. For him to make those shots that he made when we direly needed them was tremendous for us.”

As for his steal at the end of the third overtime on Andre Miller, a play Pierce called the “biggest” of the game, Terry said right place, right time.

“That was just individual defense,” Terry said. “Mano-a-mano. I know Andre, we came in at the same time together. Many battles. He wants to get right, he got right. I cut him off, he exposed the ball, I got the strip, and I was able to knock it out.”

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The cold truth: Paul Pierce leads Celtics to 7th straight in epic fashion at 9:15 pm ET
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Paul Pierce was doing it all Sunday night against the Nuggets, including battling for this rebound. (AP)

Paul Pierce was doing it all Sunday night against the Nuggets, including battling for this rebound. (AP)

The two hottest teams in the NBA rewarded hearty New England basketball fans with the game of the year in professional basketball. In a game with countless ebbs and flows, the Celtics outlasted the Nuggets, 118-114, in triple overtime Sunday night at TD Garden, earning their season-high seventh straight win in the process. The Celtics also ended Denver’s nine-game win streak, with Rajon Rondo in attendance.

In 54 spectacular minutes, Paul Pierce finished with a triple double, scoring 27 points, grabbing 14 rebounds and dishing 14 assists. But with a chance to tie the game, his second free throw rattled in and out with 32.5 seconds left in double overtime. Ty Lawson hit jumper to put Denver up three. Pierce came down and drained a 3-pointer with 5.2 seconds left to send the game into triple overtime.

After missing six straight 3-pointers, Jason Terry drilled a straightaway trey with 1:33 left in triple OT to put the Celtics up 116-113. Terry finished with 26 points off the bench. Sunday marked Boston’s ninth overtime game this season, matching a franchise record for a season (1950-51 and 1953-54). Kevin Garnett was big on the boards in 47 minutes, hauling in 18 rebounds to go with 20 points.

The Celtics were 3.6 seconds from their seventh straight win when the officials overturned a Nuggets turnover out of bounds under the Celtics basket. Given a second chance, Lawson hit the game-tying layup off the glass to send the game into overtime.

There were very few empty seats in TD Garden as Celtics fans braved the elements and lack of public transportation to get to the game just 24 hours after a state of emergency was lifted in the wake of the “Nemo” blizzard.

The Nuggets entered the game with an NBA-best nine-game winning streak, beating the Cavaliers Saturday night. The Nuggets (104.8) entered the game as the third-highest-scoring team in the NBA, with only the Thunder (106.6) and Rockets (106.0) scoring more per game.

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Kobe Bryant, the Celtics and the fountain of youth 02.08.13 at 1:54 am ET
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Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett stood shoulder-to-shoulder on the Garden parquet, laughing side-by-side as Gino danced his ridiculous dance on the Jumbotron. The former had submitted his finest performance against the Lakers since walking off the same floor with an NBA Finals MVP trophy. The latter had scored his 25,000th point in owning the league’s most dominant big. Together, they delivered a sixth straight Celtics win sans Rajon Rondo.

They are 35 and 36 years old, respectively. Combined, they’ve played nearly 90,000 minutes, which translates into more than a year of playing time on NBA basketball courts across the country. And they’re not done yet.

“It’s a generational thing,” said 34-year-old Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant after an embarrassing 106-95 loss to the Celtics. “In that generation, we all seem to hold on or have found the same fountain of youth somewhere.”

And not the kind of fountain of youth Alex Rodriquez reportedly found in Miami. “Not that one,” laughed Bryant. “Not that one.” More like a pacemaker that keeps a championship heart beating year after year. Like a 32-year-old Muhammad Ali biding his time against a 25-year-old George Foreman in the Rumble in the Jungle.

“It’s typical Celtics basketball,” said Bryant. “They all just put their hard hats on, and they go out, play hard and figure things out. Whenever their backs against the wall, that’s when you really see the best from them. … It’s just like last year, when they made their playoff run. That’s just what this team does. They kind of rope-a-dope you.”

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Fast Break: Paul Pierce, Celtics slay Kobe Bryant, Lakers to win 6th straight sans Rajon Rondo 02.07.13 at 10:29 pm ET
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Kevin Garnett scored his 25,000th career point, Paul Pierce outshined Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard showed up (but not really), Fab Melo scored his first NBA points and the Celtics won their sixth straight game without Rajon Rondo, 116-95 against the Lakers. All in all, not a bad night for the C’s.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

Exclusive membership: With a fadeaway jumper 3:52 into the second quarter, Kevin Garnett became the 16th player in NBA history to score 25,000 points. He joined Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Karl Malone, Michael Jordan, Wilt Chamberlain, Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O’Neal, Moses Malone, Elvin Hayes, Hakeem Olajuwon, Oscar Robertson, Dominique Wilkins, John Havlicek, Alex English, Reggie Miller and Jerry West. Garnett became the first player to amass 25,000 points, 10,000 rebounds, 5,000 assists, 1,500 blocks and 1,500 steals in his career. During the following timeout, after Doc Rivers drew up a play, the crowd saluted Garnett, who returned the favor.

Winter Green: For the sixth time in seven games, Jeff Green scored double-digit points. He entered the game averaging 13 points, four rebounds, three assists and two blocks in 26.3 minutes a night this month. That’s 17.8 points, 5.5 rebounds, 4.1 assists and 2.3 blocks per 36 minutes. That’s good. He’s also played better defensively, assuming some of the load on Carmelo Anthony, LeBron James and Kobe Bryant over the past eight games.

The sequence: The Celtics closed the third quarter on a 12-3 run that seemed more like an 83-1 run. The remarkable stretch featured the best of what these C’s have to offer: the Brandon Bass mid-range game (18-footer), Avery Bradley‘s defense (picked Bryant’s pocket), Jason Terry on the runway (a transition triple), Jeff Green‘s athleticism (a fast-break dunk followed by a block of Antawn Jamison) and both Paul Pierce‘s step-back jumper (from 19 feet) and his sense for the moment (a dagger of a 3). All that gave the Celtics a 95-69 lead after three, sent the Garden crowd into a frenzy and reminded just about everyone of Game 6 of the 2008 NBA finals.

WHAT WENT WRONG

Foul mood: In a span of 39 seconds — just two minutes into the game — the Celtics committed five fouls, including two by Kevin Garnett. Enter Jason Collins, who didn’t fare much better despite his reputation as the so-called Dwight stopper. Collins quickly racked up three personal fouls, giving way to Chris Wilcox. On the bright side, the Lakers missed 10-of-18 first-half free throws (Howard: 1-6 FT) and Garnett survived the first half with the two fouls.

Kobe being Kobe: It’s probably hard for Celtics fans to stop and appreciate Bryant’s offensive bag of tricks, but there’s something special about the fact that two natural born scorers like he and Pierce have played in L.A. and Boston for the entirety of their careers. Bryant’s best shot of the night — a ridiculous up-and-under — got waved off by a foul, but his jump shot along the baseline to close out the first half was classic Kobe. Keeping the Lakers within striking distance for most of the night, Bryant finished with 27 points on 9-of-15 shooting.

No Leandro: The Celtics scored 100 points, and somehow Leandro Barbosa wasn’t involved. He finished 0-for-4 from the floor in 16 minutes, but still managed to contribute four rebounds and three assists. This is nitpicking, for sure, but the Celtics ran the Lakers out of the Garden and won their sixth straight game without Rondo. There wasn’t much that went wrong.

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Paul Pierce, Celtics embarrass Kobe Bryant, Lakers at 10:28 pm ET
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Paul PIerce and the Celtics ran circles around the Lakers Thursday night. (AP)

Paul PIerce and the Celtics ran circles around the Lakers Thursday night. (AP)

Paul Pierce 12 of his 24 points in the third quarter while Kevin Garnett scored 15 points and made NBA history as the Celtics embarrassed the Lakers on national TV, 116-95, Thursday night at TD Garden. Jeff Green added 19 points off the bench for the Celtics, who matched their season-best six-game winning streak while improving to 26-23 on the season.

Kobe Bryant scored 27 in the loss and Dwight Howard had little impact on the game, scoring nine points and grabbing nine rebounds in 28 minutes in his return from three-game absence due to a right shoulder injury. He fouled out with 5:07 left in the game. It was his first game since being called out by Bryant on Wednesday. The Lakers lost for just the second time in eight games and fell to 23-27 on the season.

The Celtics overcame early foul trouble as Garnett picked up two fouls in the first two minutes and found an early spot on the bench. Jason Collins picked up three fouls in five minutes and the Lakers were in the bonus before the first three minutes were in the books as Boston was called for five fouls in the first 2:22 of the game.

The Celtics finished the first quarter with 10 personal fouls while the Lakers had only three.

But the Lakers could not take advantage, missing 7-of-12 free throws and shooting just 8-for-21 from the field. The Celtics took the lead for good on a Jeff Green three-foot hook shot with 4:03 left in the first quarter. Bryant had eight points in the opening 12 minutes but Pierce went even further, scoring 10, as the Celtics grabbed a 27-23 lead after one quarter.

With 8:08 left in the second quarter, Garnett hit an 11-foot turnaround over Earl Clark to reach the 25,000-point plateau. He made history as the only player in NBA history with 25,000 points, 10,000 rebounds, 5,000 assists and 1,500 blocks. Garnett had nine points in the second quarter as the Celtics began to pull away, outscoring Los Angeles, 31-21, to take a 58-44 halftime lead. The Celtics committed just two turnovers in the first half as they began to pull away.

In a throwback to Game 6 of the 2008 NBA finals, when the Celtics clinched their 17th title on the parquet, the Celtics blew out the listless and defenseless Lakers in the third quarter. Following a Steve Blake three that closed the gap to 81-66, the Celtics closed the quarter 14-3 spurt that featured a one-handed slam by Green and a 3-pointer from Pierce that sent the Garden into a frenzy. The Celtics led 95-69 heading into the fourth.

With chants of “Beat LA” ringing throughout the sellout crowd, the Celtics kept pouring it on, building their lead up to 32, 103-71, midway through the fourth.

Fab Melo checked into the game with just under five minutes left for Chris Wilcox and the Celtics up by 27. He scored his first NBA points on a layup with 1:22 remaining in the game.

The Celtics are off Friday and likely will not practice on Saturday either due to the blizzard forecast for Boston. The Celtics are next scheduled to play Sunday at 6 p.m. against the Nuggets at TD Garden. For more from the team of Mike Petraglia and Ben Rohrbach at the Garden, visit the Celtics team page at weei.com/celtics.

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