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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Paul Pierce is the most clutch player in the NBA, really

When interviewed in Spain this past summer, Paul Pierce declared that he was the best player in the NBA. Sure we all had a nice laugh but Pierce might have been onto something. I'm not dumb enough to say that he's the top player (LeBron and Kobe say hello) but I will submit that Pierce is the most clutch player in the league at this moment.

Who was the 2008 NBA Finals MVP? Pierce. Who stepped up when his team needed him most (being pushed to seven games in the first two rounds)? Pierce. Who's team crumbled while he did little to sway the momentum of the series? Kobe.

This is a long-winded way of saying that last night, Pierce's aforementioned clutchness was on full display as the Celtics came back from down 16 points, to defeat Toronto, 94-87 at the Garden.

The Celtics (7-1) have now won five games in a row, including a win in Detroit Sunday night against Allen Iverson and the Pistons.

In 45 minutes of action, Pierce scored 22 of his game-high 36 points (9 rebounds, 4 assists) in the fourth quarter as Boston shook off a slow start by finally hitting shots to go with their top notch team defense.

Kevin Garnett had 21 points and 10 rebounds while Ray Allen added 19 points.

Toronto (4-3) dominated the first two quarters as the C's couldn't put the ball in the hoop. The Raptors led 23-18 after the first quarter and 48-36 at the half.

Jermaine O'Neal looked like the early millennium O'Neal that dominated the C's when he was a Pacer. He had 23 points, 11 rebounds and five assists. Mostly since they reside in Canada, the Raptors completely fly under the radar but they're a very solid team.

Anthony Parker had 15 points and Jason Kapono scored 14 off the bench. Jose Calderon dished out 10 assists.

The C's started to wake up in the second half as they outscored Toronto, 23-17 in the third. A sold out crowd at the Garden came alive in the fourth quarter (the game felt like a playoff contest) as Pierce exploded and carried the C's to the win.

Eddie House (7 points) and Ray Allen made key 3-pointers late in the fourth when the Celts finally grabbed the lead.

Getting to the line and converting was one of the differences in the game. Boston shot 24 of 27 from the line while Toronto was 13 of 18. The Raptors had eight more assists (25-17) but also five more turnovers (16-11).

In a great week of games, the unbeaten (5-0) Atlanta Hawks come to the Garden tomorrow night to renew the rivalry which began in the first round of last season's playoffs.

Josh Smith twisted his ankle last week so he won't be playing. It would be great to see the Celts bring the Hawks back to earth.

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