- Chris Forsberg, ESPN Staff Writer
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DALLAS -- Considering how poorly the Celtics played while stumbling into the All-Star break, some wondered if Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett -- both clearly still recovering from injuries that sidelined them since the new year began -- should even make the trip to Dallas after being voted to participate in the All-Star festivities.
It seemed the pair might be better served to simply shut it down for those four days and hope the rest translated to better play when the Celtics open the second half of the season and a four-game road trip Tuesday night in Sacramento.
This weekend, it turns out, might have been just what the doctor ordered.
Pierce and Garnett, along with first-time All-Star Rajon Rondo, have rarely been spotted without a smile in Dallas. Despite a frenetic schedule of practices, appearances, photo shoots and media responsibilities, the trio has embraced it all and reveled in the simple camaraderie built spending the NBA's marquee weekend together.
The three players have seemingly been joined at the hip. Shooting together on the court during practice, or sitting next to one another at media availability. Even when Pierce competed in the 3-point Contest on Saturday night, Rondo and Garnett were front (row) and center to support him.
"All this -- with the fans, my friends and family, and my teammates -- you can't ask for anything more," Garnett said, smiling widely as he soaked in the raucous atmosphere after the Eastern Conference All-Stars practiced before a packed house at the Jam Session Center Court at the Dallas Convention Center on Saturday morning.
Boston's trio of All-Stars looked anything but worthy of this trip to Dallas after the Celtics endured a 93-85 loss to the New Orleans Hornets on Wednesday, highlighted by yet another third-quarter meltdown.
The Celtics stars combined for dismal 8-of-27 shooting (29.6 percent) for 29 points and a combined minus-40 in plus/minus.
Garnett (2-for-9, seven points) struggled at both ends of the court, particularly on defense, where he simply hasn't regained his form since suffering a hyperextended right knee in late December. Pierce was just as bad, looking a step slow with a left mid-foot sprain, and he committed a team-high eight turnovers on offense.
Rondo, meanwhile, produced one of his worst games of the season, finishing with seven points, four assists and a team-worst minus-18.
The Celtics dropped 13 of their last 22 games before the break, slipping to fourth in the Eastern Conference standings and watching their lead over the Toronto Raptors in the Atlantic Division dwindle to four games.
So rest seemed like the best prescription for what ailed the Green. A mental health week appeared better than enduring a weekend best known for the extracurricular activities and after-hours parties.
Yet as their teammates retreated to warmer locations -- including Ray Allen to the Bahamas and coach Doc Rivers to Orlando -- Boston's trio of stars arrived in snow-speckled Dallas ready to run the gauntlet of activity.
And a funny thing happened: They enjoyed every second of it.
Barring an injury or freak accident during Sunday's All-Star Game at Cowboys Stadium, the weekend will have been an overwhelming success for Boston's stars, particularly Pierce after winning the 3-point contest.
Not since he clutched the Larry O'Brien trophy have we seen Paul Pierce as excited as he was after prevailing in the annual trifecta competition. It's probably a top-five career moment for the 32-year-old Pierce, who has accomplished just about everything else in his time.
The victory alone might help rejuvenate both Pierce and his teammates in the second half.
"I think it could definitely help brush off that first half," said Pierce. "We were disappointed -- real disappointed -- with the way we played and finished off that first half of the season. But we always look at the season in three parts: You have the first half, the second half, and the playoffs.
"So this is a chance to refresh ourselves. We have a big road trip coming up, where we can get back on track, get some healthy bodies, and hopefully get on the road to the playoffs."
Chris Forsberg is the Celtics reporter for ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter.
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