Paul Pierce: Thumb affecting shooting

Updated: February 22, 2010, 1:01 PM ET
By Brian MacPherson | Special to ESPNBoston.com

DENVER -- The thumb Paul Pierce sprained trying to fight through a screen against the Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday has made it almost impossible for him to shoot the way he wants to shoot.

Pierce finished Sunday's game against the Denver Nuggets with a season-low five points on 2-of-10 shooting. Even more alarming might be the fact that he hit just one of his four free throws.

"There's some pain when I catch the ball, and it's really affecting my shot," he said. "That's the reason I'm not as aggressive."

There was no designated "Paul Pierce can't shoot the ball" game plan ahead of time for the Celtics on Sunday. No one, not even Pierce, started off the game thinking the Celtics' leading scorer would be a virtual nonfactor at the offensive end.

"I didn't know," point guard Rajon Rondo said, a sentiment Ray Allen echoed.

"You go by feel," Pierce said. "I tried to play off instincts, and my instincts are to shoot the ball. But it's not the same shot."

The timing almost is perfect: Just as post presence Kevin Garnett seemed to be getting his legs back under him, scoring in double figures in his third straight game and running the floor well, Pierce is banged up again.

"Kevin looks great," Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. "He's getting better. My concern right now is Paul."

Pierce likely will sit down with his coach on Monday or Tuesday to have a frank discussion about whether it makes sense to have him in the lineup on Tuesday against the New York Knicks or on Thursday against the Cleveland Cavaliers.

"You can see it on free throws," Rivers said. "The thumb, the knee and the foot, it may have caught up to him right now. We may have to look at getting him some rest. On the surface, that's the way it looks like it's going."

Pierce missed five games after getting his knee scoped right before Christmas, and he sprained his foot -- early reports suggested it was broken -- going after a loose ball three weeks ago. Even he can't keep all his maladies straight.

"The knee is actually doing good," he said. "My foot is actually doing good. The only problem I have is my foot -- I mean, my thumb."

Against Denver on Sunday, Pierce hit a jumper in the opening minute of the opening quarter but missed his next eight shots. It wasn't until Rondo threw him a pass on a fast break in the final minutes of the fourth quarter that he scored his second basket of the game.

"We just have to move the ball around," Allen said. "We have to find the best option, try and figure out what it is or who it is that might have something going."

"He's still a guy that we go to," Rondo said. "We're still going to continue to look for Paul. He just struggled tonight. It's going to happen."

This wasn't an ordinary bad game, though, and Pierce knew it.

"Even on my free throws, I feel weird," he said. "But I feel like I can help us in other ways."

He even did that in his 31 minutes of playing time on Sunday. He finished with four blocked shots, three rebounds, two assists and two steals. Marquis Daniels (15 points against Denver on Sunday) and Tony Allen (seven points against Portland on Friday) can pick up a little bit of the slack at the offensive end while Pierce waits for his thumb to heal.

"As long as Paul's active on defense, it doesn't really [matter]," Garnett said. "We've got guys like 'Quis and, obviously, there's the lineup with TA coming in. Offensively, Paul's our guy. He hits the big shots for us. He draws all the attention. He makes plays. We need him to be healthy. But everybody's banged up right now, and, hopefully, we'll get through this."

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