Commentary

Storybook finish for Pierce

Undaunted by slow start, he keys win with 16 fourth-quarter points

Updated: December 23, 2009, 2:53 PM ET
By Chris Forsberg | ESPNBoston.com

BOSTON -- There's at least one person in Indiana who's particularly happy that Paul Pierce shrugged off a dismal shooting performance to lead the Celtics to a come-from-behind 103-94 triumph over the Pacers on Tuesday at the TD Garden.

That's Doc Rivers' son Jeremiah, who, for the first time in ages, surely heard a new motivational story when the elder Rivers phoned him Tuesday evening.

See, Jeremiah had a rough night, missing a pair of potential tying free throws with 37 seconds to play as Indiana University lost to Loyola 72-67 after nearly rallying from a 24-point deficit.

[+] EnlargePaul Pierce
Brian Babineau/NBAE/Getty ImagesPaul Pierce missed his first 10 shots but hit four of his last five.

Typically, Rivers would call his son and bring up the inspirational story of how Pierce overcame a 1-of-16 first-half shooting performance to score 48 points in a 105-98 overtime triumph over the Nets on Dec. 1, 2001.

On Tuesday, Pierce added a second chapter to that story. After missing his first 10 shots against the Pacers, Pierce rebounded to connect on four of his final five attempts to finish with 21 points (16 in the fourth quarter) and help the Celtics overcome a 15-point halftime deficit.

The moral, of course -- just keep shooting.

"I always use Paul and [the Nets] game," said Rivers. "I wasn't here when he had that game against New Jersey years ago, when he was 0-for-whatever and ended up with [48] points. I use that everywhere.

"Shooters believe they can shoot. They can be 0-for-20. That's the difference between average players and great players. The average player stops shooting and it turns into a bad game. Great players think that, after every miss, the next one has to go in. It's an unshakable confidence.

"One of my kids [Jeremiah] had a tough one today. I'll use this to talk about confidence in shooting."

One game after tying a franchise record by connecting on all six 3-pointers he attempted in a win over the Timberwolves, Pierce reverted to his recent struggles, missing from all over the court.

His first field goal didn't come until nearly three minutes into the fourth quarter, when he drove to the rim for a layup to put Boston on top 84-81 with 9:01 to play.

With the game tied at 86, he added a 19-foot step-back jumper to give Boston a lead it wouldn't relinquish. His 3-pointer with 3:33 to go had the Celtics on top 93-86 and essentially iced the game.

"Just staying with it, man," said Pierce. "I've been in this league long enough that I can shrug off shooting slumps, that really doesn't bother me. The shots I was getting were good shots. I was thinking it's just got to be a matter of time before they go in. The key is to just keep shooting shots that were good shots.

"I wasn't going to continue to force it, but I was getting great shots, man. I thought something was wrong with the rim, not with me."

That's the difference between average players and great players. Average players think it's them, great players think it's the rim.

Asked if his performance on Tuesday was unusual, Pierce laughed and shook his head.

"No, I had a special one before," said Pierce. "I was 1-for-16 in the first half and ended up with like 49 -- against New Jersey or something like that. [Tuesday] wasn't unusual."

Not unusual, but certainly memorable. It's the type of game Doc Rivers will tell his kids about.

Chris Forsberg is a roving reporter for ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter.

Chris Forsberg

Celtics reporter, ESPNBoston.com

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