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Archive for Thursday, December 6, 2001

Pierce on fire for Boston Celtics

Player of Week honors latest to be bestowed upon former Kansas forward

December 6, 2001

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— It's not often the Celtics celebrate a Player of the Week award. So honoree Paul Pierce and teammate Antoine Walker did not let the moment pass Tuesday without having a little fun.

Walker took a TV microphone, jabbed it in Pierce's face, and said in his best reporter voice, "I heard you were named Player of the Week. How do you feel?"

After first jokingly denying that he had won the award, Pierce rolled his eyes at the "reporter" and said, "Get this out of my face, man. Get this dude out of here, man."

Walker gladly left the reporting to the professionals and the spotlight to Pierce.

The news that the NBA had selected Pierce as Eastern Conference Player of the Week only added to the good spirits at the Celts' practice. A four-game winning streak and a hold on second place in the Atlantic Division, plus league recognition, would put any team in a good mood.

Pierce had huge performances in three of the team's four wins: 33 points, including a game-winning, buzzer-beating layup against Miami; 26 points and 12 rebounds against Orlando; and a career-high 48 points against New Jersey.

Pierce averaged 29.0 points, 8.9 rebounds, 1.5 assists, and 2.0 steals to earn his second weekly honor.

"It's always good to get individual awards, but that's just the benefits from what we do as a team," said Pierce, one of five Celtics to be so honored (along with Nate Archibald, Larry Bird, Reggie Lewis, and Robert Parish).

"The more we play better as a team, then I guess the awards will come."

Recognition may be a product of winning, but one way or the other, the league could not ignore what Pierce accomplished last Saturday in New Jersey.

After going 1 for 16 in the first half, Pierce knocked down shots from every place on the floor and made 17 of 18 free throws in the second half and overtime. He had 13 points in the OT alone to seal the win over the Atlantic Division leaders.

"To tell you the truth, I feel like I'm in the zone every game, no matter if I'm making shots or missing shots," said Pierce. "I feel like every shot I take is going to go in.

"I'm a type of player who's not going to get too discouraged in my play in the offensive end because there are other phases of the game you can be playing well in. I thought I was playing pretty well other than my shooting. But that's all part of the game. After a while, when you start making a lot of shots, it's like you don't even see a defender on you."

Pierce's game in New Jersey left teammates, coaches, and seasoned observers amazed. Comparisons to Bird and Michael Jordan were made.

It was the type of performance that can catapult a player into the NBA elite, though Pierce said it will take more team success for him to truly arrive.

Still, he ranks as the second-leading scorer in the NBA at 27.1 points per game, trailing only Allen Iverson (27.8).

"It was an extraordinary performance," said Celtics coach Jim O'Brien, "and we needed every shot, clearly, because it went into overtime. Paul bailed us out.

"When you can put that many points on the board in that short a period of time, you don't see that very often. He can really put some points on the board."

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