Pierce persevered through the pain
He had solid game with MCL sprain
Paul Pierce’s perseverance paid off for the Celtics in their 83-80 win over the Hawks Thursday night in Game 6 of their playoff series.
Pierce, playing despite sprained medial collateral ligament in his left knee, had 18 points and 7 assists, and also made a key defensive stop on Joe Johnson in the final seconds.
Pierce had been delivering spectacular performances, including a 36-point output to lead the Celtics to an 87-80 win in Game 2. But the injury appeared to affect him as he collapsed during a Sunday morning shootaround, then played only 16 minutes in the Celtics’ 101-79 victory in Game 4.
Pierce scored 9 points in the opening quarter of Game 5, but scored only 7 more points as the Celtics lost, 87-86.
“A little tired and sore,’’ Pierce said of his condition after the game. “I played a lot of minutes [40 minutes and 12 seconds], had to guard one of the toughest one-on-one players in the league all night. That’s the nature of this beast.
“You’ve got to be ready to bounce back Saturday [against Philadelphia]. One day of play, one day of rest. You know, this is it. We might never have this opportunity again.
“This could be our last chance together, so we’re going to give it one last run and then see what happens.’’
Before the game, coach Doc Rivers noted Pierce “said he had a little more life, just energy-wise, but the knee feels the same. You sprain anything, especially the knee, the possibility it can get worse is absolutely there.’’
“He’s not going to get to the line as much, we know that,’’ Rivers said beforehand. “So, we have to try to create other ways, get Kevin [Garnett] to the post more. They’re trapping [Garnett], so it’s tough for him to get to the line, as well. That clearly takes something away from us. We just have to find different ways to score.’’
As it turned out, Pierce went to the line almost as much as the entire Hawks team. Pierce sank 7 of 8; the Hawks went 9 for 10.
Ryan Hollins, who provided a clutch rebound leading to Garnett’s go-ahead field goal in the final minute, has moved ahead of Greg Stiemsma on the Celtics’ backup center depth chart.
Hollins played 18 minutes, including extensive stretches in the fourth quarter.
“I’ve got to say again, Ryan Hollins was sensational,’’ Rivers said. “That rebound was the biggest rebound of the game. He’s just relentless and it’s great to see.’’
Bring on the 76ers
The Celtics have home-court advantage in the second round against the 76ers, who eliminated the Bulls, 79-78, Thursday. The Celtics host Games 1 and 2, and both games are on TNT. The rest of the schedule is to be determined . . . Rajon Rondo (14 points, 8 assists) had his consecutive double-digit assist streak stopped at 28 games.
Frank Dell’Apa can be reached at email@example.com.