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BOSTON (CBS) – Entering Tuesday night’s Game 5 in Miami, Boston Celtics swingman Mickael Pietrus had hit just one shot.
At 1-for-9 in the series, Pietrus had more fouls (15) than shots made, rebounds, and steals – combined.
But he never lost confidence. He was told by teammates to stick with it. The Frenchman even received some words of wisdom on Monday from an NBA great who had a disappointing postseason for Boston last year.
“Yesterday I got a text from Shaq that said, ‘Just keep believing and keep playing,’ so that’s what I did,” Pietrus said following the Celtics 94-90 win in Miami.
Pietrus, Rivers Post Game 5:
The text must have inspired him, as Pietrus went out and shot 5-for-9, pouring in 13 points which included a pair of key three-pointers as the Celtics took a 3-2 series lead in the Eastern Conference Finals.
Had Paul Pierce not drained a three right in LeBron James’ face with under a minute left, Pietrus may have gotten “play of the game” honors for his broken-play three that put the Celtics up six with six minutes to go. After Dwyane Wade emphatically blocked Brandon Bass at the rim, the ball flew out to the free throw line. Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo was there, along with both James and Mario Chalmers, but Rondo able to tip it directly to a wide-open Pietrus, who calmly knocked down the triple.
“When Rondo took that rebound and kicked it out to me, I knew I had to take the shot and make it,” Pietrus said. “That’s what I did.”
Taking shots is never a problem for Pietrus, and his team knew he would eventually start to hit them. The Celtics experienced a few Pietrus daggers first-hand when he was still with the Orlando Magic in the 2009 Eastern Conference Finals.
“One thing you know about MP is he’s going to shoot it,” said Celtics coach Doc Rivers. “He’s been down this road before. He played with Orlando, made big shots, had big defensive stops, was very comfortable. The thing I loved, he didn’t hesitate on either (three-pointer). He actually slowed down a little bit to gather himself and took two big 3s for us.”
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While the offense just arrived for Pietrus, he had been contributing in other ways. His defense on LeBron James and Dwyane Wade has been very good (aside from biting on a few pump fakes), and he came up with two clutch offensive rebounds in overtime as the Celtics pulled out a victory in Game 4.
The Celtics have come alive, and the emergence of their bench has a lot to do with that. If Pietrus can keep his offensive game on par with his defense, the Celtics will be moving on to the Finals, and a pose a threat to either the Thunder or Spurs.