Celtics

Celtics-Lakers review: Pierce fuels Boston

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Celtics-Lakers review: Pierce fuels Boston

BOSTON Paul Pierce seemed to have a little more pep in his step Thursday night which isn't all that surprising when you consider it was the Boston Celtics facing the Los Angeles Lakers.
Pierce, the longest-tenured Celtic, embraces this heated rivalry more than any of his teammates.
And his play backs that up, as Pierce scored a team-high 24 points in Boston's 116-95 blowout win.
"I like these type of games," Pierce said. "You know, a game that has a playoff feel to it, you can feel the energy every time the Lakers come into the building."
But C's coach Doc Rivers believes there's even more to Pierce's knack for getting amped up in games against the Lakers.
"Well, he's from L.A.," Rivers said. "So he has the double whammy; he's with the Celtics playing the Lakers, and he's from LA. And he lives in LA in the off-season. So its' probably really important for him to play well and win, so he can walk the streets and talk, as Paul probably does."
While there's likely some -- OK, a lot -- of truth to that, there's no mistaking the respect Pierce has for the rivalry that exists between two of the more storied franchises in the NBA.
"It's never going to change," he said. "You walk down these hallways and when you come in here you see the whole rivalry, pictures, you see throughout the decades how it goes, regular season, playoffs, championships. It mean it's always going to have that extra little edge to this game."
And the C's certainly played with an edge on Thursday with an emphatic victory that snapped a three-game losing skid to the Lakers.
Here are some key factors outlined prior to tip-off, and how those keys played out during the game.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: Boston will try to make Kobe Bryant do what Kobe does best and that's score. When he's being a facilitator as well, the Lakers become an extremely difficult team to beat.
WHAT WE SAW: Bryant was in his element on Thursday, scoring a game-high 27 points on an efficient 9-for-15 shooting performance. However, most significant was the fact that he did not have a single assist -- the first time that has happened since a Jan. 1 home loss to Philadelphia.

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Brandon Bass vs. Earl Clark: Bass has become a more reliable rebounder as well as facilitator ... yes. "No Pass" Bass does in fact pass the rock every now and then. As for Clark, he'll have his hands full trying to do his job in addition to that of Pau Gasol who is out for at least a month with a foot injury.
WHAT WE SAW: This was a virtual wash statistically, although the edge in terms of impact had to go to Bass. He had eight points on 4-for-5 shooting along with four rebounds in 25 minutes of action.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Jason Terry was one of the few Celtics players that didn't put up impressive numbers at Toronto on Wednesday. The C's will need a lift from someone not named Kevin Garnett or Paul Pierce. This would be a good night for the Jet to take off and have a big game.
WHAT WE SAW: Terry had a solid game off the bench for Boston with 15 points on 5-for-6 shooting. The Celtics' second unit combined to score 46 points compared to just 40 for the Lakers.

STAT TO TRACK: The 3-point shot has been a part of both Boston's and the Los Angeles Lakers' success of late, but in a different way. In the last five games, Boston has limited opponents to 5.2 3s made per game, the fifth-best mark in the league during that span. The Lakers have connected on 8.2 3s in the last five games, which is the fifth-highest mark in the league during that span of time.
WHAT WE SAW: The Celtics didn't give the Lakers too many good looks from the perimeter, limiting them to just 5-for-23 shooting on 3s.

WATCH: Celtics vs. Heat

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WATCH: Celtics vs. Heat

Tune into NBC Sports Boston to watch the Celtics play the Heat in Miami. You can also click here to watch the Celtics livestream presented by Nissan on the NBC Sports App. Coverage begins at 7 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live Presented by ACE Ticket.

- Game preview: Will Celtics be drained by emotional comeback win Monday in Dallas?

- Channel Finder: Make sure you know where to watch

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Celtics-Heat preview: Will Celts be drained by emotional win in Dallas?

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Celtics-Heat preview: Will Celts be drained by emotional win in Dallas?

The Boston Celtics remain a team whose collective talents are far more valuable than their individual abilities.

But there are going to be nights when someone has to shoulder a larger burden of the team in order to win. More often than not, that “one” will likely be No. 11, Kyrie Irving. 

We saw in Dallas what can happen when Irving feels he has little choice but to put the team on his back and carry them to victory. 

The Celtics were desperate for a spark against the Mavericks and found it in Irving, who scored 47 points in leading the Celtics to a come-from-behind 110-102 overtime win. 

It remains to be seen if the Celtics will require a similar Herculean effort tonight when they take the Miami Heat with a chance to extend their winning streak to 17 straight. 

This team isn’t one to dwell on success in the past, even if the past was just 24 hours ago. But there’s no getting around how what happened on Monday night might impact what we see against the Heat. 

Boston expended a tremendous amount of energy in rallying from a double-digit deficit in the fourth quarter at Dallas, the kind of effort that may be difficult to replicate against a Miami team that you can count on to play hard from the opening tip to the final horn. 

Irving’s performance was one of the rare instances this season when Boston clearly could not have won without their top scorer having a big game. 

“When we needed it most, he made big shot after big shot,” said Al Horford. “He had such good rhythm, I was thinking, ‘just let him keep it going.’ He just kept being aggressive, taking really good shots. He recognized he needed to be extra aggressive, especially at the end and score the ball for us.”

Scoring could potentially be at a premium against Miami which allows 102.5 points per game which ranks ninth in the league in fewest points allowed. Also, the Heat will test Boston’s perimeter defenders. Miami comes into tonight’s game averaging 11.1 made 3-pointers per game which ranks ninth in the NBA. 

The Heat are led by Goran Dragic who is averaging team highs in scoring (18.3 points) and assists (4.7) this season. 

These two squared off earlier this season in Miami with the Celtics coming away with a 96-90 win as Kyrie Irving and Jayson Tatum led the way with 24 and 20 points, respectively. In that game, the Heat were without starting center Hassan Whiteside, who will be in the lineup tonight as the Heat try to bounce back after losing three of its last four games.

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