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Celtics notebook

Pierce wasn’t late to help out

By Julian Benbow
Globe Staff / January 18, 2011

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Nearly 20 minutes of basketball had gone by last night, and Paul Pierce hadn’t taken a shot. Meanwhile, the Celtics and Magic were trading leads.

Pierce, a typically explosive scorer, was almost dormant.

“Some nights it goes like that,’’ he said.

But there’s something about the waning moments of games that wakes Pierce up. He dealt the Knicks a dagger last month, drilling the game-winner over Amare Stoudemire from the right elbow. Last night, he victimized Jason Richardson, getting to his sweet spot, drilling an 18-footer, getting the foul, and converting a 3-point play that helped the Celtics seal their 109-106 win.

“I’ve been in those situations a number of times,’’ Pierce said. “I really don’t get rattled. I try to keep cool and calm about myself especially in the last two minutes, when the crowd’s frantic and everybody’s going crazy. I just try to zone in at that point in the game and just keep my focus.’’

Pierce acknowledges that in his younger days, he would have been calling for shots.

“Even though I got all the shots,’’ Pierce said jokingly.

But last night, he needed just seven shots to score 14 points. With scoring options all around him, he was willing to wait his turn.

“At the end of the day, it’s all about winning,’’ Pierce said. “Whether I make the play or whether I do something else to help the team win, that’s all it is.’’

No reservations With Kevin Garnett back in the lineup, Glen Davis slipped back into his role as the first man off the bench, and he looked more than comfortable, scoring 15 points and grabbing four rebounds.

“I thought Baby back in his spot was great,’’ said Celtics coach Doc Rivers. “And he was in a difficult spot, because playing against Dwight Howard is never easy.’’

Howard went off for 33 points, and Davis did his best to contain him, forcing Howard to shoot over the top, throwing his body into him while trying to contest every attempt.

“Just make him a finesse player,’’ Davis said. “He’s a great player, you know, but he’s not the hardest to guard. I think it’s easy to guard him.’’

“I thought our bigs were phenomenal,’’ Rivers said. “You could see our bigs were frustrated because Dwight Howard was scoring, and I kept telling them, ‘I’m good with that. Just keep defending him. Every time he shoots, that means no three from them.’ ’’

A little off point The Celtics shot 60 percent from the floor and had 25 assists on 42 field goals, led by Rajon Rondo’s 13. But Rivers said the offense could have been better.

“Kevin was laughing because after the game the first thing I said is, ‘We can execute better offensively,’ ’’ Rivers said. “They all started laughing, because they knew the [shooting] percentage already. I didn’t know the percentage at that point, because I don’t look at those stats.’’

Once he saw the numbers, Rivers stood corrected.

“It was great,’’ he said. “The ball movement was good.’’

Patriots loss hit home With two offdays over the weekend, the Celtics went as a team to see the Patriots’ playoff game against the Jets Sunday.

The result, a 28-21 Patriots loss, was sobering. Seeing a playoff run cut short so quickly reminded them that it can happen.

“It’s like a big bubble that burst because the excitement was there,’’ said Ray Allen. “They still had a great season, and they still gave the fans a lot to appreciate, a lot to look forward to, and a lot of inspiration. So you’ve got to just tip your hat to them and say, ‘Job well done.’ ’’

Even though the Patriots were the better team on paper, all it takes is one game, said Allen.

“From watching the game, I didn’t think they had their best performance,’’ he said. “Clearly, I think they’re a better team than the Jets.’’

A second opinion Weighing the possibility of surgery to ease the swelling in his left knee, Jermaine O’Neal traveled to New York yesterday to get a second opinion. He may call one more doctor in Miami before deciding whether to have the surgery today.

After slipping on ice Sunday and missing practice with a strained right abductor muscle, Shaquille O’Neal was in the starting lineup last night and played 26 minutes.

Asked if there was a limit for the 38-year-old center, Rivers said, “There’s always a limit on Shaq.’’

Julian Benbow can be reached at jbenbow@globe.com.

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