Bruins

Pierce leads the way over Wizards

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Pierce leads the way over Wizards

WASHINGTON This was the Paul Pierce we had been waiting to see all season.

It doesn't matter if it was against the Washington Wizards, one of the worst teams -- scratch that, the worst team -- in the NBA.

Seeing the Truth do what does best -- dominate games -- was a refreshing sight.

And with one starter down (Rajon Rondo) and another one by halftime (Ray Allen), Pierce could not have picked a better time to go into full takeover-mode for the Celtics (6-9) as the C's held on for a 100-94 win.

Pierce finished with a season-high 34 points along with a team-high 10 assists. Washington's John Wall led the way with 27 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists.

"It feels good to get the win," Pierce said. "We have been struggling as a team as of late and we have to try and round up these wins and play some more consistent basketball."

Pierce added, "I just want to come in with the mindset to be more aggressive. That's when I am a better player. Having Rondo out, I over-think the game at times but I just need to focus on what's going to get me better. My legs are getting stronger and hopefully I can start developing a rhythm."

Washington (2-14) led 84-83 with 6:06 to play following a 3-point play by Nick Young. The C's responded with a rare fourth quarter run of its own, as Pierce capped off a 10-2 run with a lay-up to put the C's up 93-86 with just over three minutes to play.

With Rondo (right wrist) out and Ray Allen (left ankle) out by halftime, the C's had little choice but to ride the back of Pierce.

Winning was certainly a motivating factor for Pierce.

But according to Kevin Garnett, some of the Washington players may have fired him up a bit as well.

"They started talking a little garbage to him, a little trash," Garnett said. "We call that, 'hitting the button.' Truth (Paul Pierce) hit the button tonight. It was good to see him have a game like this. He came out very strong tonight, and we needed it."

But with Rondo and Allen out, the Wizards had to know that more of the scoring load would fall on Pierce.

It didn't matter, though, as they threw a slew of defenders on him who all struggled.

"It's tough with a player like that," said Washington's John Wall, who spent some time guarding Pierce as well. "He does a good job of picking teams apart and that's what he did to us. He's a great player and he's going to the Hall of Fame. We just tried to guard him straight up and make him take tough shots."

Added Wizards guard Nick Young, "You saw what Paul was doing out there. It's tough to stop a guy like that when he has it going."

The C's will need more of that from Pierce, as the Celtics try to build off of Sunday's success against a talented Orlando Magic team on Monday.

"That's going to be a big game for us," Pierce said. "We have to show that we can beat some of the better teams around the NBA. It's going to be on our home court. Orlando is playing good basketball. It's going to be a good challenge for us, especially on a back-to-back. We'll see."

Bruins closing in on Nash with many details to iron out

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Bruins closing in on Nash with many details to iron out

TORONTO – It sounds like the Boston Bruins are on the verge of a fairly substantial trade if they can iron out some of the details both big and small.

According to multiple reports and sources, Bruins general manager Don Sweeney is closing in on a trade for New York Rangers winger Rick Nash ahead of Monday afternoon’s trade deadline. The 33-year-old Nash has 18 goals and 28 points in 60 games this season for the Blueshirts, and really has been in decline over the last couple of years in New York since scoring 42 goals and 69 points back in the 2014-15 season.

Still, Nash has quite the resume as the first overall pick in the 2002 NHL Draft and a guy that’s scored over 400 goals and nearly 800 points in his 14-year NHL career while starring for the Columbus Blue Jackets and Rangers during that time. The 6-foot-4, 220-pounder would bring the size, heaviness and experience factor that the Bruins have been looking to add to their wing ahead of the stretch run and playoffs, and certainly could be energized down the stretch while potentially playing a second line role with a center like David Krejci.

Don Sweeney indicated prior to the reports surfacing that the Bruins could be more invested into the rental market this season, given their strong campaign, than they originally thought they’d be when the season started.

“We’d like to think that the group can continue on along the path that they’re on, but if you can add to it and help it…the rental market depends on what you’re going to give up, and what that impact of that player is necessarily going to be and how they’re going to fit into the group,” said Sweeney. “The chemistry piece is an important piece in and around the trade deadline, so that’s something we have to be cognizant of.”

There are, however, a couple of issues for the Bruins and Rangers to work out before it’s a done deal. One is the massive cap hit for Nash that would still be well over $3 million even if the Rangers agree to eat half of his remaining contract, and that would leave the Bruins to need to clear some space with a corresponding deal elsewhere. There’s also the matter of ponying up assets in exchange for Nash, who it’s believed would cost the Bruins a first round pick and a solid prospect that is not yet on the NHL roster.

That means the Bruins would able to avoid potentially dealing Brandon Carlo, Jake DeBrusk or Danton Heinen from their NHL roster, which it wasn’t expected they would need to move in a rental deal for Nash. But it does mean the Bruins likely would be parting with a blue chip prospect still in the development stage, whether it’s Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson, Jakub Zboril, Zach Senyshyn or even a college hockey prospect like Trent Frederic.

That’s a big price to pay from Boston’s future to be sure, but it would be done based on Nash being an impact player this season for a Bruins team that looks like they might have a pretty good postseason run in them.

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Marcus Smart makes the Celtics great again

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Marcus Smart makes the Celtics great again

Two games in and the return of Marcus Smart has had the effect many predicted it would for Boston.

There may be other Celtics who score more points, tally more assists and snare a few more rebounds.

But the impact of Smart’s play on what truly matters – winning – is undeniable.

His play was one of the keys to Boston’s 121-112 win at New York on Saturday night.

Smart came off the bench to score 11 points to go with five assists and three steals.

In his two games back, Smart is averaging 11.5 points, 5.5 assists, 2.5 rebounds and 1.5 steals while shooting 64.3 percent from the field.

Yes, it’s a small sample size for sure.

More than anything, it serves as a reminder of how one of Smart’s greatest assets as a player is his ability to contribute in a multitude of ways.

“He just adds a lot of versatility to our offense and our defense,” Boston’s Kyrie Irving told NBC Sports Boston following Saturday’s game. “He has a high awareness on both ends. He’s able to create opportunities for all of us at both ends of the floor and we appreciate that.”

Certainly Smart is credited for being a good defender, and his play-making skills have improved dramatically in the last year or so.

But arguably Smart’s biggest contribution is that his play allows others around him, to focus on whatever it is that they do well, knowing that Smart has the ability to do both his job as well as provide help when needed.

Boston’s defense struggled mightily before the break with teams scoring seemingly whenever they wanted to.

But in the last two games, Boston has looked more like the defensive unit that has been among the NBA’s best most of this season.

In the last two games, Boston’s defensive rating has been 104.5 which ranks 11th in the NBA during that span.

Several factors have played a role in Boston’s improved defense the last two games; among them being the return of Smart who missed 11 games after punching a picture frame last month that left him with 20 stitches.

“It’s the appreciation of Marcus Smart right there,” Irving said. “Implement him and him just putting his stamp and identity on our team as well. It just makes a lot of other guy’s job, easier. Because he covers up a lot of our mistakes as well as playing with unbelievable awareness at both ends of the floor. He understands spacing, he understands how the little things matter.”

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