What did it take to escape with a win over the not-so-hot Miami Heat Tuesday night?
For Paul Pierce, a few Advils, and, well, heat.
Experiencing back spasms towards the end of the third quarter after
taking a charge being called for a blocking foul on LeBron James, Pierce went to the locker room to be looked at.
It was uncertain if the captain would return, but it was clear he was needed as James scored nine points to close out the third quarter and bring the Heat within six.
"I thought he was out, honestly, even when he came back," coach Doc Rivers said. "I asked him if he wanted to go back in when he walked on, and he really didn't answer. So I actually thought he was out."
With just under 11 minutes to play in the game, Pierce made his annual dramatic re-entrance into the game.
"Had the chance to go to the back, took a few Advils and put some heat on it and it loosened up a little bit and it was pretty good for the rest of the game," Pierce said, after scoring 11 of his 19 points in the fourth quarter. "But it's going to be a little bit sore tonight and tomorrow."
Twice in the fourth quarter, Pierce turned a six-point game into a nine-point game, hitting two clutch three-pointers. He was then fouled taking a three, and proceeded to hit all three free throws bringing the Celtics lead to 11 points with 4:50 to play.
"Over-rated" the Garden crowd yelled. Not so fast.
Down 13 points, the Heat went on a 10-0 run and trailed by only three points with 1:09 to play.
Cue Pierce's clutch shooting, right?
Not this time. Pierce had the ball, but it would have been a tough shot with a hand in his face. As Ray Allen made his way to the corner, Pierce found him at the right moment.
"I was on the baseline ... once I drove to the hole, D-Wade kind of jumped high and I went to the basket," Allen said. "Paul was wide open. LeBron recovered quick but D-Wade didn't follow me out. So I got back out to that spot. Offensively when we move the ball and we keep our bodies moving it's tough to guard us."
"That's what we work on every day, making that extra pass, not trying to play hero ball," Pierce said. "I saw him collapse on me, and you've got one of the greatest shooters in NBA history wide open in the corner - it's a no brainer."
After tonight's 5-for-9 performance from 3-point land (7-for-13 overall for 20 points), Ray Allen has 2,449 career 3-pointers. That puts him only 111 behind Reggie Miller (2560) for first all-time.
Not bad, huh?
"It's an honor to be able to step on the court with him night in and night out," Pierce continued about Allen. "You've got a guy that can take that kind of pressure off you, it's an amazing feeling. I don't know if you guys realize it, but Ray, he's hit so many game winners for us and so many clutch shots for us. We have confidence to get him the ball in these situations."
We realize it, Paul.
The Heat realized something tonight too. The East is far from theirs.