"I just try to give the game what it needs. Today, I thought it needed my scoring," Pierce said after his 36 points, eight rebounds and six assists helped Boston extend its winning streak to 11 games with a 109-101 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves. "You go off and say 'Hey, I've still got it.' Even at 31."
Pumping in the points is nothing new for Pierce, who has scored 35 or more 62 times during a career in which he was often the lone scoring option for a woeful Celtics team. But he's hit that mark just five times in the last two seasons, when he's teamed up with Garnett and Ray Allen to form a New Big Three that led Boston to its 17th NBA title last season.
"He had to, without KG in the game," Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. "He can almost sense when we need a bucket or when he needs to take over games. Clearly, you have to have the ability to do that. I think a lot of guys think that; very few can do it. And Paul does a great job."
Al Jefferson, the centerpiece of the trade that brought Garnett to Boston, scored 34 points for the Timberwolves, who lost their third in a row since winning 10 of 12. It's the 19th time he has scored at least 30 points in his career, the sixth since Dec. 20 and the first time he has done it in back-to-back games.
"It was to our advantage to have one less long guy playing in the paint and blocking shots," Jefferson said. "To come in here and do what I did today against a team like that -- even with KG out, it's still a great defensive team -- it means a lot."
Randy Foye had 21 points and nine assists, and Jefferson also had 11 rebounds -- the 26th double-double of the season for a player who was a surprise exclusion from this month's All-Star Game in Phoenix.
"He's coming along great. If you're not better at 24 than you were at 21, then you've got issues," Minnesota coach Kevin McHale said. "I told Al that he's going to make many All-Star Games, and he's going to take the place of some 17-year old when he doesn't deserve it."
Garnett, who had played every other game except for one in which he was suspended, had a high fever, and Rivers said the All-Star forward will probably miss Tuesday night's game against the Philadelphia 76ers as well.
"He's sick. He's really bad. His fever's really high," Rivers said. "He's probably not playing Tuesday. For him to be out of any game, especially today, he's got to be pretty sick."
Allen scored 22, and Glen "Big Baby" Davis had 12 points, six rebounds and three steals while playing in place of Garnett.
"Kevin isn't here, and the initial thing is to say, 'Hey, I get his minutes and I've got to do the things Kevin does,'" Pierce said. "But [Davis] stayed within himself and did the little thing; he boxed out and played great defense and rebounded."
Boston led by as many as 21 in the third quarter, 71-50, before Minnesota scored 15 of the next 17 points. The Timberwolves got within five points in the fourth quarter, 94-89, with 5:20 left, but Allen hit a jumper and Pierce made a pair of free throws to make it a nine-point game.
McHale, the Celtics Hall of Famer who helped the Celtics win the 2008 title by trading Garnett to Boston, received a standing ovation before the game. ... It was the Celtics' first home game since parting ways with their mascot, Lucky. ... Brian Scalabrine is "still having the symptoms" from last week's concussions, Rivers said. ... Pierce and Jefferson each had 14 points in the third quarter. ... Kevin Love had 10 rebounds for Minnesota.