His Celtics in desperate need of a victory after a winless three-game road trip, Celtics captain Paul Pierce scored a season-high 40 points for the first time since 2010 to will the C’s over the Cavaliers, 103-91.
With help from veteran teammates Rajon Rondo (20 points, 8 assists), Jason Terry (15 points) and Kevin Garnett (12 points), Pierce also contributed eight rebounds and five assists to push the Celtics above .500 (13-12).
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Raging Rondo: Add another strange stat line to Rondo’s resume. He finished the first quarter with 12 points, four rebounds and zero assists. More importantly, he attacked the basket, attempting all five of his field goals in the paint and making four of them. Rondo also set the tone early against Kyrie Irving on the other end, holding his Cavaliers counterpart to four points and no assists in the opening quarter as the C’s took a 27-25 lead.
Captain on course: Slowly, inevitably, Pierce is righting his ship. After shooting a respectable 13-of-23 (4-8 3P) in his last two games, Pierce started a perfect 6-for-6 from beyond the arc against Cleveland. He finished 13-of-16 from the field and 8-of-8 from the free throw line. Pierce’s 10 first-quarter points staked the Celtics to an early lead, and his 17 third-quarter points kept the Cavaliers at bay. All in all, Pierce’s best night of the season.
JET grounded no more: A night after attempting just two shots against the Bulls, Terry returned to the starting lineup, scored 15 points on 6-of-9 shooting and drilled a trio of treys, including a dagger with 2:48 remaining.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Serving of Irving: Of course, Rondo couldn’t keep Irving quiet the entire night. The Cavs star nearly matched Pierce’s offensive outburst in the third quarter, scoring 15 points on 6-of-9 shooting, including 2-of-3 from long distance. He scored nine of Cleveland’s final 11 points in the frame, slicing a 20-point Celtics lead in half.
No rest for the weary: As the Celtics built their seemingly insurmountable second-half lead, coach Doc Rivers rested both Pierce and Garnett in the third quarter, hoping to limit their minutes during their fourth game in six nights. Only the bench (combined 15 points on 6-16 FG) couldn’t hold the fort, allowing the Cavaliers to cut the lead to two with nine minutes remaining and placing the burden on the starters’ tired legs.
The Collins Experiment: Rivers replaced Brandon Bass in the starting lineup with Jason Collins, a move that elicited a collective “Huh?” from the crowd during pregame announcements. If the Celtics haven’t pressed the panic button, they certainly have their hand on it. Collins finished with more fouls than combined points and rebounds as Cavaliers center Tyler Zeller scored a season-high 20 points.
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