Good shooters shoot no matter how much they're struggling, and
Pierce showed why on Saturday.
Pierce scored 46 of his career-high 48 points in the second half
and overtime to lead the Celtics past the New Jersey Nets 105-98.
"My role on this team is I'm one of the go-to guys," said
Pierce, who scored 13 of the Celtics' 15 overtime points. "I have to
stay aggressive. This team needs me to stay aggressive, mix it up,
drive to the basket.
"If they see me out there losing confidence, they lose
confidence," the fourth-year player added. "They need to see me
playing basketball, the way Paul Pierce plays basketball."
Pierce was unstoppable in the final 29 minutes, hitting 12 of 18
shots from the field, including 5-for-5 on 3-pointers. He also went
17 of 18 on free throws as Boston rallied from a 17-point deficit
after coach Jim O'Brien was ejected early in the third quarter.
"You feel like heads and shoulders above everybody," Pierce
said in describing his second half. "You feel like everybody else
is moving in slow motion and you're the fastest guy out there. No
matter what you do, you feel it's going to work."
Some of the shots Pierce made came with the hands of Nets
defenders in his face.
"He just caught fire in the second half and was making shots
that were incredible," Nets coach Byron Scott said.
"It was one of those performances," added Antoine Walker, who
added 25 points for the Celtics. "He just had confidence. He
believed he could make them and in the second half he did."
Only four other players in Celtics' history have scored 48 or
more points in a regular-season game -- Larry Bird, Kevin McHale
(56), Sam Jones (51) and Walker (49). Bird had 10 games in which he
scored 48 points or more, including a team-record 60.
"My teammates showed great confidence in me," said Pierce, who
pushed his average to 28.5 points. "They could have said: `He's
off, let's go to someone else.' They kept getting me the ball and I
took advantage of it."
O'Brien was ejected early in the third quarter for walking on to
the court to argue with referee Jess Kersey.
"I think that was a kind of spark plug," Pierce said, whose
previous high was 44, also against the Nets, last March.
The win was the third straight for Celtics, all on the road.
It's their first three-game road winning streak since 1995.
Jason Kidd had 20 points, a season-high 19 assists and nine
Pierce hit three straight jumpers at the start of overtime to
give Boston a 97-90 lead.
The Nets made a run and got within 101-98 on a 3-pointer by
Kerry Kittles, who had 17 points.
New Jersey had a chance to tie but Lucious Harris' 3-pointer
rattled out with about 25 seconds to go.
Eric Williams added two free throws with 23.4 seconds left and
Pierce sealed the game with two more points with 10.5 to go.
The Celtics, who complained about the officiating frequently,
had another call go against them in the closing seconds. Walker was
called for a shooting foul when Keith Van Horn pump-faked from
3-point range with Boston ahead 90-88 with 7.2 seconds left.
Van Horn missed the first shot but made the next two to tie it.
Pierce looked in disbelief after missing a shot at the buzzer.
"It felt good, but I did have that look," Pierce said. "I
thought it was going in. I thought that was game over."
Pierce made sure it was game over in overtime.
The Celtics had used a 10-2 run in the final two minutes of
regulation to almost steal the game. Pierce's 3-pointer with 51.3
seconds left gave Boston an 88-86 lead.
Van Horn tied the game with a rebound follow, and Kenny Anderson
banked in a drive for a 90-88 lead with 20.6 seconds left.
In their first meeting this season, the Nets opened a
double-digit lead and then held off Boston's comeback.
New Jersey had leads of 17 and 14 points in the minutes after
The Celtics got back in the game with a 13-0 run at the end of
third quarter. Pierce had six points and Walker five.
The loss was only the Nets' second in eight home games. ...
Boston is 4-3 on the road, the first time it is over .500 this late
in a season since 1995. ... New Jersey is now 0-3 when it allows
100 or more points. ... Only seven players scored for Boston.
Pierce, Walker and Anderson combined for 85 of the Celtics' 105
points. ... Van Horn added 17 points, and Martin 15 for New Jersey.