Paul Pierce

Paul Pierce says he’s fine with coming off the bench for Nets

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Paul Pierce returned to the Nets lineup on Tuesday after missing the last four games with a broken bone in his hand.

But he wasn’t in his usual spot in the team’s starting lineup.

Facing his former Boston Celtics, Pierce came off the bench for just the fourth time in his storied career. And his head coach, Jason Kidd, liked what he saw.

From Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News:

“I liked him being a leader with that second group,” Kidd said. “Will it stay that way? I don’t know. We will look at the video tomorrow as a team and coaches. I will talk to Paul and see what his comfort level is, but I would like to get him back, give him more minutes and get him used to that glove.”

It was just the fourth time in his 16-year career — almost exclusively with the Celtics — that Pierce came off the bench. Alan Anderson started in his place, scoring 15 points in 35 minutes.

“It’s all about winning,” Pierce said. “If that’s what’s best for the team, then so be it.”

Pierce was 0-for-3 from the field, perhaps limited by the brace he wore to protect his injured shooting hand. But he grabbed seven rebounds and finished with three assists and a steal in just over 22 minutes of action, impacting the game in other ways.

Coaches around the league will tell you that starting lineups mean little, and that the players who are on the floor finishing the game are far more important to a given team’s success. Pierce played 7:56 in the final frame, which may be part of the reason (along with the ultimate, winning result) he’s fine with starting the game watching from the bench.

Dwight Howard commits ridiculously sloppy inbound violation (video)

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An embarrassing lack of focus by the Rockets? I can hardly believe it.

Late in a game against a team Houston is battling for playoff position, Dwight Howard was just careless, stepping on the baseline as he inbounded the ball. It’s a needless goof, and he’ll get plenty of deserved criticism for it.

But don’t overlook Patrick Beverley‘s frustration foul on Damian Lillard before the ensuing inbound. That was nearly as foolish and even more costly.

The sequence sparked a 7-0 run for the Trail Blazers, who seized control of the game en route to a 116-103 win.

DeAndre Jordan dunks on Marcus Smart before Smart knows what’s happening (video)

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Marcus Smart went to tag DeAndre Jordan on the pick-and-roll, and Jordan took off from so far from the basket, he was dunking on Smart before the Celtics guard could do a thing.

Chris Paul finds brilliant counter to hack-a-DeAndre Jordan (video)

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I originally favored allowing Hack-a-Shaq as the NBA currently does. I found the strategy fascinated – why and when teams would use it and how their opponents would counter.

But it just became too common. Far too many games featured a parade of trips to the line, a boring stretch that made games too long. I thought the intrigue had run its course.

Then, Chris Paul pulled this move last night.

The Clippers guard saw Jonas Jerebko charging toward DeAndre Jordan to commit an intentional foul, so Paul stepped in front of an unsuspecting Jerebko and took the foul himself. That’s sent a good free-throw shooter to the line instead of the dismal Jordan.

Just an awesome heady play by Paul.