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05/10/2010 - 13:47
Winning Matters, and Nothing Else
by Evelyn Lau

Team success is paramount to Paul Pierce.

And while he can contribute more offensively, No. 34 isn’t too worried about his own numbers -- especially after Boston's series-tying 97-87 Game 4 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers.

With the Eastern Conference semifinals locked at 2-2, Paul made it clear to the Boston Herald where his priorities were.

"At the end of the day, I always say it’s not about Paul Pierce," the C’s captain said. "I’m going to do the little things on any given night to help this team win. We had a number of guys play well and I just wanted to play within the system, play my part, play defense – do whatever I can to help this team win. You can’t have everybody go out there and score 25 points a night, so sometimes you have to take a backseat and go to the guys who are getting it tonight."

No. 34 had nine points, two rebounds, two assists, and one steal in 32 minutes of action Sunday.

While the nine points were below his season-average, Paul still found other ways to make his presence felt in the game, as described by ESPN.com:

"Pierce even sacrificed himself with 8:41 to go in the third quarter, picking up his fourth foul by wrapping up Shaquille O’Neal to prevent an easy dunk.

"That’s what we’re supposed to do, not give Shaq a wide-open dunk," said Pierce. "It doesn’t matter if I have four or five fouls, I’m going to do it for the team."

It's his team-first approach and sacrifice that others have noticed. C’s coach Doc Rivers noted it isn’t easy playing against LeBron James and that early foul trouble, caused by guarding James, could be plaguing the Captain:

"Part of the reason Paul is struggling is because he’s been in foul trouble in every game," said Celtics coach Doc Rivers. "And it’s tough to get a rhythm when you get it going and you get two fouls, then you have to sit back down and we’re playing the minutes game with you, trying to squeeze every minute with other people. And then you’re worried, you become tentative because you’re worried about charges, you’re worried about fouls. It’s just tough. But you take one for the team, and sometimes that may be guarding LeBron, is taking one for the team. And I think Paul’s doing a terrific job of that."

However, in the fourth quarter, vintage Paul Pierce made an appearance, as the Boston Globe described:

"Doc Rivers stuck with Pierce because he was working feverishly defending LeBron James. But Pierce suddenly thrust himself into the game with a throwback play, a streaking dunk down the baseline that stunned the sellout crowd.

After Anderson Varejao blocked Ray Allen’s layup attempt with the Celtics leading, 88-85, with 2:26 left, Rajon Rondo grabbed the ball, caught Pierce sprinting down the baseline, and flipped a bounce pass. Pierce rose quickly and jammed the ball with vigor, releasing his frustration on the rim."

The play can be seen at the 3:00 mark of the NBA.com highlight video here.

It was a dunk that brought Boston fans out of their seats:

"Pierce is not the dunker he used to be, so the play ignited the 18,624 that frantically feared a Cavaliers rally. Less than a minute later, Pierce was fouled on a layup by Varejao and sank both free throws to essentially seal the game at 94-85.

Pierce scored just 9 points, finishing 3 for 8 from the field with five fouls, but his dunk could go down as one of those timeless Celtic playoff memories that fans cherish. History isn’t lost on Pierce."

And despite the low point total so far in the series, the Truth has showed maturity with his mind set on getting another chance to win the NBA Championship, as ESPN.com reports:

"Pierce knows people are looking at his numbers and shaking their heads. He’s averaging a mere 11.8 points per game this series on just 32 percent shooting. But as long as Boston wins, he says he’s OK with it.

"I’m at the point in my career where, it doesn’t matter who gets the credit, it’s about winning games," said Pierce. "At the end of the day, when my legacy is put up in the air, they’ll say, ‘What did he do for his team?’ There’s a lot of individual things I’ve done, but it’s about winning games, winning championships. If it’s me getting nine points, a couple rebounds, taking a key charge and we won the game. That’s fine with me."

NEXT UP
Knotted at 2-2, the series goes back to Cleveland for Game 5 on Tuesday night. Tip-off is scheduled for 8 p.m. EST. The game will be televised nationally on TNT.

RELATED STORIES

Paul Pierce focuses on positives (Boston Herald, May 10, 2010)
http://www.bostonherald.com/sports/basketball/celtics/view.bg?articleid=...
Even at 2-2, Celtics-Cavs comes down to Paul Pierce vs. LeBron (USA Today, May 2010)
http://www.usatoday.com/sports/basketball/nba/2010-05-09-lebron-james-vs...
Showing drive from the backseat (Boston Globe, May 10, 2010)
http://www.boston.com/sports/basketball/celtics/articles/2010/05/10/show...
Postgame notes: Winning key for Pierce (ESPN.com, May 9, 2010)
http://sports.espn.go.com/boston/nba/recap?gameId=300509002