WALTHAM - Though Paul Pierce is a self-proclaimed "text message guy," as of yesterday afternoon he hadn't found the time to read the countless congratulatory messages he had on his cellphone after his memorable playoff performance Sunday.
Though Cleveland's LeBron James had a game-high 45 points, Pierce responded with 41 to push the Celtics to a 97-92 victory in Game 7 of their second-round playoff series against the Cavaliers. Pierce's performance has been hailed by some as one of the greatest in Celtics playoff history, but he had little time to enjoy it, since he is now focused on Detroit, the opponent in the Eastern Conference finals.
"It hasn't really sunken in," Pierce said after yesterday's practice. "You don't realize it until you hear what other people are saying about it, until you get the people's reaction.
"To me, it was two heavyweights going at it and we got a win. It was a great game to watch from a fan's point of view, from the standpoint of two guys scoring a lot of buckets.
"It hasn't sunk in because we have goals we want to achieve. It was great to get that win. But the focus is on Detroit."
In 14 postseason games, Pierce is averaging 18.7 points, shooting 42.4 percent from the field, including 37.7 percent on 3-pointers. Against Detroit in three regular-season games, though, he averaged 15 points on 36.6 percent shooting, hitting only 4 of 14 3-pointers while being guarded primarily by defensive specialist Tayshaun Prince.
But not having to guard the likes of James, Pierce said, could give him more energy on the offensive end.
"Tayshaun is definitely one of the premier defenders in all of basketball, based on what he's done his whole career," Pierce said. "It's going to get harder against Detroit, knowing what they do defensively.
"I probably can expect less double-teams. Maybe it can work to my advantage."
Said Detroit coach Flip Saunders, "[Orlando forward Hedo] Turkoglu probably helped us prepare for Paul Pierce. They run a lot of pick-and-roll, that's how he gets open. It's one of those things where we have to do it as a team, not as an individual."
The last time the Celtics played in the Eastern Conference finals was five years ago. And considering that he was a member of that team, Pierce appreciates that he is not on his usual vacation now.
"We've noticed that when we've been waking up, the sun is outside," Pierce said. "It's very rare that you're still playing in the Eastern Conference [playoffs] and it's 70 degrees.
"You know we've gone far in the playoffs. You wake up and guys say, 'We're still playing,' and you get excited about that.
"When you wake up and you lose and it's cold outside, it's an even harder loss."