Pierce downplays knee ailment

AP Photo/John Bazemore

The Hawks made it difficult for Paul Pierce to operate in Game 5.ATLANTA -- Celtics captain Paul Pierce tried to downplay how much his ailing left knee affected his play during Tuesday's 87-86 loss to the Hawks in Game 5 of an Eastern Conference first-round series at Philips Arena, but couldn't help but admit he was a step slow.

Pierce labored at times, connecting on 7 of 17 shots overall, while posting 16 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists, and 3 steals over 36 minutes of play. Pierce also committed 3 turnovers and airballed a late-game jumper with a chance to put Boston out front in the final seconds.

"I don’t really think it bothered me too much," said Pierce. "I didn’t really try to think about it. I probably was a little step slower, I didn't have my usual lift that I usually do. But I don’t think it really affected me, too much. I mean, I’m not a high-riser anyway."

Pierce connected on 4 of 6 shots for 9 points in the first quarter, but went cold soon after checking out following an eight-minute stint. Returning for 11 minutes in the second quarter, Pierce missed all four shots he took while going scoreless in the the frame. Pierce made just 1 of 3 shots in the third quarter for 2 points over nine minutes.

The Celtics made their run to get back into the game with Pierce off the floor and seemed to give it back when he checked in with seven minutes to go in the fourth quarter. Even still, Pierce chipped in 5 points on 2 of 4 shooting in the final frame, hitting two big buckets over the final 3:16, including a 26-foot 3-pointer with 50.6 seconds to go for the game's final points.

"There's nights like Sunday when Paul makes all of his shots, and then there's nights like tonight when he and I had low field goal percentages," shrugged point guard Rajon Rondo, who admitted shots just didn't fall for the duo on this night. "We'll take those shots any day."