Stars, studs and duds: Pierce creates one more lasting memory for Celtics

Stars, studs and duds: Pierce creates one more lasting memory for Celtics

BOSTON – There are always distractions NBA teams have to deal with, regardless of the time of season or the occasion.
But Sunday was different.
While Celtics Nation certainly wanted to see Brad Stevens and his crew continue on their winning ways, they also wanted Paul Pierce – playing at the TD Garden for the last time – to go out in style.
They got the best of both worlds as the Celtics held on for a 107-102 win while Pierce, now with the Los Angeles Clippers, drained a long 3-pointer for his final shot at the TD Garden.
“It’s a tough situation,” said Pierce who started the game but only played the first five minutes before returning with less than 20 seconds to play. “Been sitting for like the last two hours, then had to come in there and get a shot. But I’m glad I ended it that way.”
Said Boston’s Al Horford: “We couldn’t have scripted it any better for him. He got the three to end the game and we got the win.”
During the first time-out of the game, the Celtics played a video tribute to Pierce that moved him to tears. Head coach Doc Rivers didn’t watch because he knew if he did, he too would have been more emotional than he already was during the game.
“I couldn’t,” Rivers said. “I just thought … this is game-time, I’m a coach. But Paul was so emotional and the players were getting emotional. I just … I want to win every game. I wanted to win tonight. But the experience tonight will help us; it almost has to. If it doesn’t, then you don’t like basketball; it’s not in your heart. This experience and what it’s like to be a champion and how you’re treated, will help us in the long run.”
It will certainly benefit the Celtics (33-18), winners of a season-high seven in a row with a four-game road trip on the horizon.
But the story of the day was Pierce whose final game at the TD Garden after having played 15 seasons for the Celtics, had a fitting ending.
“I truly appreciate my time here,” Pierce said. “I truly appreciate tonight. Fans really showered me with a lot of love. It was just … you really don’t know what you, what you meant to a team while you’re playing, and you really don’t get a chance to really reflect on it while you’re playing. It hit me a lot tonight, but I’m sure it’s probably going to hit me a lot more when I’m done playing, but this is something I truly felt tonight. The appreciation of what I’ve been able to give this city and what they’ve been able to give me. Not only on the court but off the court, too.”
Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from Sunday’s game.
Paul Pierce

He gave Celtics Nation one more lasting memory with a 3-pointer late in the game, his final shot at the TD Garden which will someday include number 34 raised high atop the rafters for eternity.
Isaiah Thomas

You know you’re doing some pretty amazing things with the ball when you can score 28 points and it seems like an “off night.” But that is the standard that Thomas, who also had a game-high eight assists, is measured against these days.

Blake Griffin

It wasn’t a monster night scoring the ball for Griffin, but there was no mistaking his presence was felt most of the game. He finished with 23 points, eight rebounds and four assists.
Al Horford

He spent most of the game tussling with Los Angeles’ DeAndre Jordan, so it wasn’t a surprise to see his rebounding numbers spike some. But Sunday’s work around the rim was impressive as he finished with a double-double of 13 points and 15 rebounds with six assists, two steals and two blocked shots.

Jamal Crawford

He has embraced the role of coming off the bench and yet still delivers the way a starter would. Crawford used his wicked crossover dribble to get free often, finishing with 23 points to go with five assists and three steals.

J.J. Redick

He was better in the second half, but not by much. The Clippers’ potent long-range shooter was off the mark most of the night. He had six points for the game, but missed seven of his nine shot attempts which included him missing all three of his 3-point attempts.

Ainge: 'Setback' wrong word to use about Hayward

Ainge: 'Setback' wrong word to use about Hayward

When is a setback not a setback?

When Danny Ainge says, "You know what? Sometimes I talk too much," Ainge told the Boston Herald over the weekend. "'Setback' wasn't the right word, so let me rephrase that because it's not exactly true to say it - or say it that way.

The Celtics president of basketball operations, in his weekly radio interview with Toucher and Rich on 98.5 The Sports Hub and simulcast on NBC Sports Boston, used that word when he was describing how Gordon Hayward is coming along in his recovery. 

"He had like one setback for a couple of weeks, maybe a month and a half ago," Ainge said on the radio last week. "We were progressing a little bit too fast, we thought."

Ainge clarified that to the Herald's Steve Bulpett. 

"What happened is he went on the AlterG [anti-gravity treadmill] the first day and he felt some soreness," he said. "It was the first day he tried the AlterG, a long time ago. He just wasn't ready for it at that point. That's all it was."

Celtics coach Brad Stevens has been adamant that Hayward, recovering from his gruesome leg and ankle injury in the season opener, will not play for the Celtics this season. On Sunday, Stevens, via MassLive.com's Jay King, characterized Stevens' soreness as a "small" issue. 



Chest pains and lack of sleep lead to medical leave for Cavs coach Lue

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Chest pains and lack of sleep lead to medical leave for Cavs coach Lue

CLEVELAND - Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue is taking a leave of absence from the team to address health issues that have included chest pains and loss of sleep.

Lue said Monday in a statement that tests have offered no conclusion about what the issue is and offered no timetable for his return. The coach said he feels he needs to step away "and focus on trying to establish a stronger and healthier foundation" from which to coach the rest of the season.

Here's a portion of Lue's statement:

I have had chest pains and other troubling symptoms, compounded by a loss of sleep, throughout the year. Despite a battery of tests, there have been no conclusions as to what the exact issue is.

"While I have tried to work through it, the last thing I want is for it to affect the team. I am going to use this time to focus on a prescribed routine and medication, which has previously been difficult to start in the midst of a season," Lue said. "My goal is to come out of it a stronger and healthier version of myself so I can continue to lead this team to the championship we are all working towards."

A stress-filled season for the Cavs has taken a toll on the Lue, 40, a former Celtics assistant under Doc Rivers who led them to the 2016 NBA championship after taking over for David Blatt midway through that season. They are j40-29, third in the Eastern Conference, behind the second-place Celtics and East-leading Toronto Raptors, and have endured roster shake-ups, injuries and other distractions as they try to return to the NBA Finals.

David Aldridge of TNT reports that the plan is for Lue to return in a week. The NBA playoffs begin April 14. 

"We all want great players, we all want the best teams, but with that comes a lot of pressure as well. And what Ty Lue has had to go through this year with that team, with the trades and the injuries and the pressure, it's unrelenting," Denver coach Michael Malone said. "So I hope that he gets healthy and is able to get back in time for the playoffs and help that team win as many games as possible."

Lue spent the second half of Cleveland's victory in Chicago on Saturday in the locker room because of an illness, the second time this season he left a game because he wasn't feeling well. The former NBA guard also sat one out against Chicago at home in December.

Associate head coach Larry Drew coached the second half of Saturday's game, the finale of a six-game, 11-day road trip. Cleveland is back home to host Milwaukee on Monday.

"We know how difficult these circumstances are for Coach Lue and we support him totally in this focused approach to addressing his health issues," general manager Koby Altman said.

Charlotte coach Steve Clifford also left his team to address his health this season. He took six weeks off. Medical tests revealed that the 56-year-old Clifford did not have any internal problems, but the doctor's diagnosis was the coach was suffering from severe sleep deprivation.

AP Basketball Writer Tim Reynolds contributed to this report.

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