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Pierce and Celtics just a win away

Email|Print|Single Page| Text size + By Marc J. Spears
Globe Staff / June 15, 2008

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. - About the only thing missing in Paul Pierce's LA Story is an opportunity to win an NBA championship in the old Great Western Forum.

Pierce and the Celtics are one win away from the franchise's first title since 1986, and can take the crown tonight in Game 5 of the NBA Finals at Staples Center in Los Angeles.

And for the kid who grew up watching the Lakers play at the Forum in nearby Inglewood, a title-clinching victory tonight would seem like something scripted in Hollywood.

"To win it would be special," said Pierce before practice at the Lakers' training facility yesterday. "To win it at home would be unreal. This is where I started playing basketball. This is where I picked up the sport. I got into this game by watching the Celtics and the Lakers, and to win it on this court . . .

"I wish it was in the Forum, but unfortunately it's not.

"But just to win it in your hometown is something that people will always remember years and years and years down the road. If we were playing someone else in the Finals, people may forget. But being that it's at home makes it more special, because it's something we're going to talk about for as long as I'm alive."

Pierce is averaging 19 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 5 assists in the first four games of the series. He is shooting 46.7 percent from 3-point range and nailing 80.8 percent of his free throws. But with the challenge of beating the Lakers such a difficult one, the ex-Inglewood High star says he has not spent as much time with family and friends as he usually would.

"I've treated this week pretty much how I've spent the whole playoffs," Pierce said. "I went home one time to see my mother and that was probably for like 30 minutes. And I said, 'I want to treat this like I wasn't at home. I want to treat this like I'm in Cleveland.'

"I'm going to do the same routine. I'm going to stay in the same hotel, take my naps. Eat my room service and pretty much keep everything the same. I didn't want to get too comfortable being at home and soaking up the environment.

"I'm not here to relax. I have to remember I have a job at hand while I'm at home and that's to win a championship. I told my family members, 'Hey, we're going to have all summer to talk about it.' Let me focus right now, try to win a championship, and then we'd have the rest of our moments throughout the summer."

The biggest concern about Pierce in LA has been how his right knee is holding up.

Pierce strained the knee during Game 1 in Boston. The nine-year veteran has not had an MRI or X-ray, but he is expected to once the season is over. Since suffering the injury, he has been playing with a brace on the knee.

Sports Illustrated's website yesterday reported, "The feeling among some in the Celtics' camp is that Pierce has at least partially torn his meniscus and that he may need surgery after the Finals." When asked about the report, Pierce gave a look of surprise before saying he has not been told he needs surgery.

"Wow, you get the news faster than I do," said Pierce. "It's still the same. I guess I have a sprain. I kind of aggravated it in [Game 3]. I really don't know how bad it is and I won't know until we end this thing.

"It hasn't gotten too much worse than it already is. But it hasn't gotten any better either. But no one has said anything about surgery. I haven't got an MRI or X-ray. So we'll see after the season."

Pierce appeared extremely mobile at the beginning of practice and did not wear a knee brace. He took part in several stretching exercises without problem. He also jogged without a limp during the first half-hour of practice that was open to the media.

Coach Doc Rivers said if Pierce had a career-threatening injury he wouldn't be playing, whether it was the Finals or not.

"He's able to play," Rivers said. "The way I've worked is, once they tell me they can play, they're 100 percent. And that's the only way I look at it.

"My only standard is if you could get injured, I'm not going to play you. If you're hurting yourself or your career, I just won't play you. I don't care what the game is and I've always done that."

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