Pierce finished with a steady line: 17 points on 6-of-11 shooting to go along with eight rebounds and eight assists. In that regard, it was another complete game for Pierce, in which he produced in the majority of the key areas his team needed him to. But just as he downplayed any positives Boston could derive from Monday's defeat, Pierce seemed more caught up in what didn't go his way: his team-high seven turnovers, along with a minus-9 in plus-minus. Add in missing the potential game-winning jumper on Boston's final possession, and it's easy to see why Pierce wasn't trying to lean on silver linings.
"There's always positives from every game, but you've got to look at negative things when you play against the best team in the NBA right now," Pierce said. "It's always going to come down to the little things and those things really add up at the end of the game when you have a two-point loss."
Pierce, much like Boston as a whole, will seek the balance of not being satisfied with the outcome, but not overreacting to it either. The Celtics have shown on more than one occasion this season that they can hang with the Heat, and should a playoff series between the clubs occur, Boston shouldn't lack confidence.
"We feel like we match up with them, top to bottom," Pierce said. "But, like I said, no moral victories. Even though it was a close game, we beat them here (in January), the playoffs is a different game."
Pierce deserves credit for adapting his performance as the game progressed. He embraced the role of supplemental scorer, choosing his spots as he watched Jeff Green erupt for a career-high 43 points. And after the Heat rallied in the fourth quarter and assumed a 101-100 lead with 2:40 to play, Pierce made the crucial pass when he fed Avery Bradley for a left corner 3-pointer with 1:49 to play that put the C's back out front, 103-101.
But this ended up being a night when Pierce needed 20 points, not 17. After LeBron James buried a jumper with 10 seconds left to put Miami ahead by two, Pierce came off a Jason Terry screen and rose up for the potential winning 3-pointer along the right wing. But the shot was short, and Miami escaped with its 23rd straight victory.
In the spirit of not overreacting, Pierce laid it out in simple terms when asked about the final shot.
"It felt good coming out of the hands, but sometimes they fall, sometimes they don't," he said.
Asked who the final play was designed for, coach Doc Rivers said, "Whoever was open. (Terry) set a great pick. ... I think he had a good look at it, especially for Paul."
But Pierce wasn't accepting a quality look as a moral victory. He and his team will press on to the next game -- or grind on, to use the Celtics' preferred term -- and try to avoid the moral-victory talk altogether by securing their next win.