On and off

After Paul Pierce struggled in his first game back after resting a sprained right thumb, Celtics coach Doc Rivers didn't seem concerned. He simply noted that Pierce would be better next game.

Rivers didn't lie. After a very un-Pierce-like 2-of-6 shooting performance for nine points in Tuesday's win over Detroit, Pierce rebounded Wednesday against Charlotte by erupting for 27 points on 9-of-13 shooting, his best offensive outing in more than a month.

"We need to use these games to get Paul going," admitted Rivers.

That's why no one seemed overly concerned after Friday's effort in which Pierce again labored, missing all but one of the nine shots he took over 32 minutes and finishing with seven points in a 96-86 triumph over the Philadelphia 76ers.

Rivers liked Pierce's aggressiveness. Pierce liked his shot selection. Both seem confident that those shots will drop when the postseason rolls around.

If the Celtics can weather an off night from Pierce and still emerge with a win, then there's little reason for concern.

"It's not about me," said Pierce. "We're not a team centered around one player scoring all the points. Guys step up every day... I try to do other things, like defending [Andre] Iguodala, one of the better players, slow him down and try to keep him limited. I can help in that area."

As for his struggles? Pierce actually liked his offensive effort Friday.

"I loved every shot I took [Friday]," he said. "I look at a layup I missed, I look at a jump hook right in front of the rim. I look at wide-open 3's and a shot on the baseline. I loved every look I got. I know those shots are going to fall for me. I feel great out there."

And if Pierce is feeling great, the Celtics are feeling great. In a season dotted with fluke injuries for Pierce, Boston is a pedestrian 5-5 in the games he's missed, but 34-16 when the captain is in the starting lineup.

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