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Hold The Phone: Paul Pierce, Boston Celtics Make Strong Statement

Hold the phone, Danny Ainge. Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and the injury-ridden Boston Celtics have made a very strong statement this past week: they may be getting older, but the will to win (and a good amount of talent, too) is still there.

We're all working against the clock in one way or another. Sitting in the office, studying at school, or even trying to stay healthy. Whichever way we choose, we all try to extend our lives and make the most of our time on this Earth.

But one thing always rings true -- father time always wins in the end. We can only push off the inevitable for so long.

Everybody gets old. In basketball, this notion is sped up considerably. Old in basketball is still pretty young for most people. Yet the premise is still the same - you can't beat father team. That is, unless you happen to be the Boston Celtics.

Consensus was that this was it for the Celtics. After being competitive every year since 2007, when Celtics general manager Danny Ainge made the trades that brought Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen to two to join forces with Paul Pierce, this was finally the year they would run out of gas. And for a while, it looked like they might be right.

Boston started the season with three straight losses, one of which was an embarrassing shortcoming against the New Orleans Hornets, a team that had just dumped its best player in Chris Paul and was expected to be a laughing stock.

Times would improve, though. The Celtics returned home and rattled off four straight victories, two of which came against the Washington Wizards while the other two came against the Detroit Pistons and the New Jersey Nets.

But once more, the tough times returned. Offensively, the Celtics couldn't do anything right, and there once-dominant defense was extremely porous. Boston dropped five games in a row, two against the Indiana Pacers, which in turn sent fans, media members and even some team executives into deep thought.

Was it finally time to blow it up? Was this as far as the Big Three would take the Celtics?

It certainly seemed so. Boston ranked near the bottom in the league in offense and team rebounding, while managing to hang around the top 10 in team assists and points allowed. Naturally, that wasn't good enough to pass in Boston.

Danny Ainge had a definite dilemma to deal with. Dare he trade the very three men, now safely secured in the lore of the 17-time champions, who brought the Celtics back to prominence? Loyalty can only carry a franchise so far.

Ainge addressed that dilemma head on, admitting that, if he could find a trade that would help the team transition to the next era, he would absolutely consider trading any one of the Big Three.

For lifelong Celtics fans, it was an uneasy though. With Ainge's comments came rumors that made stomachs turn in Boston. Rumors of teams inquiring about Paul Pierce, a lifelong Celtic and team captain who is one of the greatest scorers to ever play for the team, began to swirl. One such rumor was trading Pierce ... to the Los Angeles Lakers.

The five-game losing streak would come to an end, temporarily putting off the Big Three trade rumors. But they would still linger over the C's, who suffered a bad loss to a lacking Phoenix Suns team. And again, the rumors weren't gone.

Sure, the Celtics weren't the worst team in the league. After all, they did have six wins despite their nine losses. Still, of those six victories, none came against a team with a winning record. It's as if they hadn't beaten anyone at all.

Alas, a new week brought a fresh start and a chance to prove themselves once more. It started out with an encouragin win over the Washington Wizards, 100-94, powered by a vintage game from Pierce (34 points, 10 assists, eight boards).

Boston then played a home-and-home series with the Orlando Magic, a team still considered to be a contender in the Eastern Conference, starting on Monday.

What transpired would give a new definition to the word shocking, and that's an understatement.

In the first game at TD Garden, Pierce and the Celtics ran away with the most improbable of victories. They didn't just beat the powerful Magic, they demolished them. Pierce had 19 points, as did former Magic forward Brandon Bass, as the Celtics won by 31 points, 87-56, to build a new winning streak.

The Magic made only 16 field goals -- the lowest in a game for any team in the shot clock era -- and the 56 points they scored was a franchise low. In every sense of the word, it was sheet dominance by Pierce and the green team.

Shocking? Just a tad bit. The win feature defensive dominance by the home team, a trait that had defined their run with the Big Three. But one game doesn't prove anything. It was a good start, but the Celtics had to follow it up.

And boy, did they ever.

Heading into Thursday's rematch in Orlando, all odds pointed to a Magic victory. They were favored by nearly ten points, and after all, they had just been humiliated by a bunch of guys with canes and walkers. It wouldn't happen again.

At the start of the game, the Celtics didn't do anything to change those expectations. Orlando used a 15-2 run in the first quarter and ended the period with a 32-16 advantage. In the next quarter, they built their lead up to 27 points.

Well, it was a fun resurgence while it lasted, right? But it's over now, and here come the rumors again.

Now hold on a minute, what do we have here? It appears the Celtics had a little life left after all - they got the lead down to 15 points in the third quarter. Huh, nice. They aren't going to win, but hey, at least they didn't give up.

Whoa, now look at this ... the Celtics trail by nine points, 75-64, after three quarter.

And then, it was an eight-point Magic lead. Then six points. Then four points. No way. Just, no way. They aren't really going to do this are they? Not possible, not with this group of old guys.

Before you knew it, tie ball game. Kevin Garnett's deep jumper knotted the score at 76 all. Soon ater, E'Twaun Moore hit a three with nearly 7:30 to go in the game. Boston was up by three points, 79-76. It didn't stop there, either.

The Celtics kept on trucking, led by Pierce who at one point scored seven straight in the quarter for Boston. In the blink of an eye, the lead was now up to five points. Then six points. And finally, eight points -- the final score, 91-83.

They did it, they really did it. Now what was that murmur about blowing it up in Boston?

Not to mention, the Celtics did all of this in the past week without two of their top players -- Rajon Rondo and Ray Allen. On Monday, the team was down five players total and two starters. Thursday night, the Celtics were without three starters in Rondo, Allen and Jermaine O'Neal. Pierce and Garnett carried the brunt of the load this week, no doubt.

Through all of this, the Celtics sent a message: we don't quit, we still have heart and we can still play the game with the best of them. That message certainly resonates with fans and the media, and you can bet it resonates with Ainge.

If anything, the valiant effort from the Celtics this week bought them some time. Again, three quality wins doesn't make a season, but it's a signal that Ainge should put the phone down for a while and see if the Celtics have found something special.

So for now, hold the phone, Danny. Pierce and the boys aren't done. Father time is still on hold.

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