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03/23/2010 - 17:00
A Bump in the Road
by Evelyn Lau

After a stellar week in which their captain was named the NBA Eastern Conference Player of the Week, Paul Pierce and the Boston Celtics hit Utah on Monday night looking to make it five in a row.

But Boston had its four-game winning streak snapped as it fell 110-97 to the Jazz. Paul scored 11 points, secured six rebounds, handed out three assists, and picked off a steal in 30 minutes of action.

The Truth gave credit to the Jazz’s offensive ability to cut short a halftime deficit, but also saw a missed opportunity for the Celtics in the loss, as he told ESPN.com:

"I think we kind of shot ourselves in the foot," said Celtics captain Paul Pierce. "We went up by, like, 10 and then we didn’t get good shots and turned the ball over. We had a chance to go up 15 or 16 points [at halftime] and they carried that over in the second half, the momentum that they built at the end of the second quarter. They had us on our heels all night.

"We were a step slow the entire night."

PAINS AND GAINS
While The Captain’s play seems to be back on track, he recently admitted that he was in more pain during the month of February than he wanted others to know.

The pain affected the way he played basketball, as the Boston Globe explained:

"Pierce was more troubled by his right knee than he let on. He revealed he had the knee drained immediately after the All-Star Game Feb. 14 and that led to a four-game stretch in which he was 14 for 43 from the field. Finally, coach Doc Rivers watched Pierce struggle to get a shot off during a nationally televised loss at Denver and sat him for three games.

While the play of Kevin Garnett has improved dramatically from earlier this season because his surgically repaired right knee is nearing total stability, Pierce has dealt with a series of injuries, from his knee to his wrist to his ankle. And he has endured ups and downs on the court because those injuries have affected his speed and ability to get open.

The difference in his game now is glaring. Saturday night against the Mavericks, Pierce came off screens crisply, he released the ball with confidence, and when he drained the decisive 3-pointer with 1:44 left, he strolled back to the bench convinced he was prepared to reassume his role as catalyst."

Paul also told The Boston Herald that he was feeling more like himself:

"For the most part I’m healthy now," Pierce said. "I played a lot of games I shouldn’t have played in and I’m really starting to come around as far as my foot, knee and my hand. When you play less than 100 percent it’s tough, especially at the age I am now."

No. 34 said he is beginning to realize that he can't do all the things he did when he was first coming into the league.

"I could bounce back when I was younger. But I learned a lot about myself this year with these injuries and I probably need to take more time off when I have these types of injuries."

The true test, of course, will come with the next injury. But in the meantime, The Captain has returned to his early-season form.

"Things are pretty good out there, man, my rhythm, the way I’m moving," he said. "I’m getting off the floor, getting up and down the floor, I’m feeling great. This is a crucial time of year, trying to get some momentum and battling for playoff position. This is when you really want to start playing your best basketball."

NEXT UP
Paul and the C’s return home to host the Denver Nuggets on Wednesday. The game can be seen nationally on ESPN. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m. EST.

RELATED STORIES
Celtics’ slipup doesn’t bother Rivers (ESPN.com, March 23, 2010)
http://sports.espn.go.com/boston/nba/columns/story?columnist=forsberg_ch...
Pierce’s a feeling good story (Boston Globe, March 23, 2010)
http://www.boston.com/sports/basketball/celtics/articles/2010/03/23/celt...
Truth sets ‘stubborn’ Paul Pierce free (Boston Herald, March 23, 2010)
http://bostonherald.com/sports/basketball/celtics/view/20100323truth_set...