Paul Pierce hadn’t played a minute of basketball up until this weekend, but he looked to be in midseason form, helping the Los Angeles Clippers capture a pair of wins.
The Truth tallied a total of 11 points on 67 percent shooting, adding one assist over the two wins, a 121-115 victory at the Sacramento Kings on Friday and a 102-95 triumph versus the Chicago Bulls on Saturday.
With Wesley Johnson out with a heel injury, Paul was ready for the call, which left coach Doc Rivers pleased but not surprised.
“We anticipated that. What I loved about him is that he was ready,” Rivers said of Paul. “When you haven’t played the entire season and step in and the first time you touch the ball, he made a pass for an assist. The second time he touched the ball, he made a three. The third time, he had a dribble handoff that let Austin (Rivers) get to the basket. It was a seamless transition for him, and very few players can do that except for Paul, who has a great basketball IQ and a great feel.”
Paul Pierce checks into his first game of the season and promptly gets buckets https://t.co/6JM30AUyLW
— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) November 19, 2016
Fellow power forward Blake Griffin was also impressed with Paul.
“He’s just, obviously, a pro first and foremost. He stays ready,” Griffin said. “That’s such a Paul thing to do.”
Griffin and shooting guard J.J. Redick paced L.A. with 29 and 26 points, respectively, offsetting the game-high 38 points that center DeMarcus Cousins poured in for Sacramento. The Clips led by as many as 26 points in the first half before the Kings closed the gap to as little as 117-115 with two minutes remaining in regulation.
“(The Kings) went small, and it felt like they scored every time down,” Rivers said. ”It felt like we were in the North Carolina four-corner offense. It’s great to win, but we want to be better than that.’’
While the Clippers jumped on the Kings early on Friday, they found themselves in a hole against the Bulls on Saturday.
Chicago led by as many as 19 in the first half, but L.A. used halftime to regroup for the second. The Clippers gained ground in the third quarter before outscoring their visitors in the final frame, 30-18.
Paul struck early in the fourth to set the tone, spinning around for a short jumper to pull L.A. within one possession, 78-75. Maurice Speights scored the following seven points for the Clips, tipping in a layup, draining a triple and knocking down a pair of free throws to knot it at 82-all.
The lead swapped hands back and forth before Austin Rivers gave L.A. the lead for good with a driving layup at the 5:34 mark, 89-87. The Bulls kept competition within two possessions up until Redick iced the game, knocking down three free throws with 8.9 seconds left, 102-95.
The Clippers have won nine of their past 10 games for an NBA-best 12-2 record. They’ll look to stay hot when they welcome the Toronto Raptors to the Staples Center on Monday, Nov. 21. Tipoff is set for 7:30 p.m. PT.
The Raptors (8-5) have dropped three of their past four games. Their losses in that span have come at Cleveland (Nov. 15), versus Golden State (Nov. 16) and at Sacramento (Nov. 20), with their lone win coming in overtime at the Denver Nuggets on Nov. 18.
The Raptors have been dominant even in their setbacks, as their five losses on the season have come by an average of 4.2 points.