Celtics-Clippers preview: The last goodbye for Paul Pierce

Celtics-Clippers preview: The last goodbye for Paul Pierce

BOSTON – As Paul Pierce was finishing up a barrage of interviews with the media on Northeastern University’s campusSaturday afternoon, unsolicited, he began talking about Boston’s Isaiah Thomas.

“He’s breaking records right now,” Pierce said. “That’s fun to watch.”

The same has been said about Pierce who spent his first 15 NBA seasons with the Celtics and ranks among the franchise’s all-time leaders in several categories.

But now just hours away from when Pierce plays his final game at the TD Garden – now with the Los Angeles Clippers, Pierce announced earlier that he is retiring after this season – there is a sense of closure to his time with the Celtics.

But as the story of Pierce is coming up on its denouement, the Book of Isaiah (Thomas) is just getting started.

Indeed, Boston’s 5-foot-9 scoring machine has made admirers out of many, Pierce included.

“He’s starting to come into his own,” Pierce said. “He’s figured it out. He’s at the point in his career where he’s figured it out.”

Thomas comes into today’s game as the NBA’s No. 2 scorer, averaging 29.9 points per game. And his league-leading 10.5 points per game in the fourth quarter is the highest fourth quarter scoring average in more than 20 years.

Pierce’s comments on Saturday was not the first time he has heeped a bit of praise on Thomas whose play and the Celtics’ recent run of success has catapulted him into the conversation for the league MVP award.

Earlier, Pierce discussed how Thomas is playing “championship-caliber” basketball.

“That means everything,” Thomas said. “And from a first ballot hall of famer, a Celtics legend to say that about me that means a lot. Like I always say, I don’t care what anybody says but my peers and the people who did it before me. For a guy like that, that is crazy. I’m going to try and find his jersey so I can get it signed.”

Pierce said in watching Thomas play, the game “looks easy for him.”

Despite the time difference, Pierce said he tries to watch the Celtics play as much as he can.

“I keep up with them, whenever they are on TV,” Pierce said. “The game looks easy for him. He’s easily the best point guard in the Eastern Conference.”

Thomas was recently named to his second straight all-star team, in addition to being the Eastern Conference player of the month for January after averaging 32.9 points and 6.9 assists per game.

He became only the fourth Celtic ever to win the award, and first since – you guessed it – Pierce (March, 2012) to do.

Isaiah Thomas isn't ruling out return to Celtics

File Photo

Isaiah Thomas isn't ruling out return to Celtics

Isaiah Thomas back in green? Maybe there's a chance after all.

The former Celtics guard, now with the Lakers, started a Q&A session on Twitter and was asked whether he'd consider returning to Boston this offseason. This was his answer...

That's not a no.

Thomas has had a rough go of it since leaving the Celtics. His brief tenure in Cleveland didn't go according to plan, and things haven't gotten a whole lot better out in L.A. The 29-year-old is averaging 15.3 points per game just a year after averaging 28.9 with Boston.

Let the speculation begin.


Horford not making any excuses after C's rough outing vs Pelicans

Horford not making any excuses after C's rough outing vs Pelicans

Al Horford understands that there’s plenty of blame pie to go around following Boston’s 108-89 loss to New Orleans. 

Considering how Pelicans stud Anthony Davis dominated the game on so many levels Sunday night, Horford was quick to acknowledge his role in the loss. 

“[Davis] was able to get behind our defense a lot,” Horford told reporters after the loss. “Some mistakes on my end; gotta give him credit. He dominated tonight. I’ll definitely take the blame for that.”

Davis finished with a double-double of 34 points and 11 rebounds, a total that would have been higher if not for the game being so lopsided which allowed Davis to head to the bench early in the fourth. 

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And Horford’s struggles defensively were just as problematic on offense as the five-time All-Star tallied just six points on 3-for-11 shooting to go with four rebounds and three assists. 

Boston has been a team whose collective sums have fueled their success. 

But Horford understands he has to be a high impact performer, a job that’s even more vital when key starters like Kyrie Irving (left knee soreness) and Jaylen Brown (concussion) are out as well as top reserves Marcus Smart (right thumb) and Daniel Theis (torn meniscus). 

And by Horford’s own admission, he just didn’t bring it on Sunday at a level to give him and the Celtics a legit shot at winning the game.

“Defensively we had too many breakdowns,” Horford said. “And the game got away from us in the second half. So there’s no excuses. I didn’t give us a chance, either; missing a lot of looks offensively. I just need to be better.”

And he’ll have to be if Boston (47-23) is to get back on track with a win on Tuesday against a talented Oklahoma City squad led by Russell Westbrook, Paul George and Carmelo Anthony. 

At full strength, the Thunder would be a significant challenge for the Celtics. 

But having a roster with a number of key players out with injuries, it becomes even more imperative for Boston’s top players to elevate their play. 

And as you scan this Celtics roster and examine those who are healthy enough to play, it’s clear that Horford more than any other Boston player, has to find a way to become more impactful.

Certainly, more points and rebounds would help. 

But as we’ve seen time and time again with Horford, often his greatest contributions to winning games don’t necessarily show up in the final box score. 

That being said, a six-point, four-rebound game doesn’t cut it. 

Horford has to be better, something he knows better than anyone. 

“I’ll definitely look at the film and see how I can be better individually,” Horford said. “The good thing about the NBA, is we have a chance to play on Tuesday. Hopefully we’ll learn from this game and be ready to go Tuesday at home.”