BOSTON (CBS) –  On Tuesday night, Paul Pierce questioned his team’s identity after the Celtics dropped their third straight and fell to 12-12 on the season.

The mood was a little different Wednesday night, with spirits much higher after Boston’s 103-91 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers. The win was just what the doctor ordered for the reeling Celtics, especially Pierce.

While he’s heard whispers that he’s lost a step or two, the Celtics captain went off for 40-points on 13-for-16 shooting. It was vintage Pierce, as he aggressively attacked the basket, hit his first six three-point attempts, and chipped in with eight rebounds.

“I just wanted to go out and play as hard as I could,” Pierce said after the game. “When you’ve been on the slide like that, you want to come home and do whatever you can to get a win. It’s a make-or-miss league. Who knew I was going to come in and shoot the ball the way I did? But the one thing I could control was how hard I was going to play today and the effort I was going to put out.”

Pierce On Big Night: 

At 35 years and 67 days, Pierce became the oldest Celtic to score 40 or more points in regulation. Larry Bird scored 49-points in an overtime contest at the age of 35 years and 99 days back in 1992.

That little tidbit surprised Pierce.

“Another one for the records. I’ve been here long enough,” he said with a chuckle. “Who knows, maybe I’ll go for 50 one day — again.”

Pierce scored 17 of his 40 points in the third quarter, when he was a perfect 7-for-7 from the field and 3-for-3 from long range. That run helped the Celtics build a 20-point lead, and as they squandered it in the fourth, Pierce added another eight points to seal the win.

The Celtics captain was in the zone all night, so much so that fans groaned when he missed his first three-point attempt in the fourth quarter.

“It’s hard to really explain it,” Pierce said. “You feel good; you feel like everything you do — everything you shoot — is going to go in. The rim looks a lot bigger than it really is. You want the ball.”

Pierce has been shooting the ball better over the last week, shooting 67-percent from the field over the last three games. While the Celtics dropped two of those last three, Pierce has felt his game forming into shape.

“I felt like the last few games I had been shooting the ball a lot better,” he said. “I feel it really coming along where I’m really starting to get in a good groove offensively; the way my shot is going, picking my spots. Even before tonight I felt pretty good.”

And after Wednesday night, he is feeling even better about his game. While no one knows how much longer Pierce will play, an offensive explosion — even if it was against a 5-22 Cavs team — can help silent the critics, and father time, for at least a few days.

“Maybe I can play a little longer than anticipated,” Pierce pondered. “Who knows?”

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