Clippers’ Paul Pierce looks like his younger self in victory over the Jazz
Nearly a week before the calendar flipped to 2016, it felt like it was 2008 again for Paul Pierce.
There was a dunk in the first quarter, a flurry of three-pointers in the third quarter and another three-pointer in the final minute Saturday during the Clippers’ victory over the Utah Jazz, all of it somewhat startling for a player who had looked as though his better days were far, far behind him during the season’s first 30 games.
Or maybe not all that startling, as far as Pierce was concerned.
“There’s a lot of things I can still do,” the 38-year-old said defiantly after the game.
Pierce made six of 11 shots, including five of seven from three-point range, and finished with a season-high 20 points — five times his average of 4.0 points entering the game.
“I’m not the go-to scorer I was years back where they would give it to me in isolation,” Pierce said. “I do a good job really playing off our stars pretty much and that’s what I was able to do today.”
Josh Smith started the game against the Jazz at power forward, but Pierce finished it emphatically, his final three-pointer with 28 seconds left clinching the Clippers’ second consecutive victory.
Clippers Coach Doc Rivers said Pierce playing 27 minutes allowed him to get in a rhythm for perhaps the first time this season. Pierce is making a career-low 28.6% of his three-pointers even after his breakthrough.
“I think part of it is on me as much as it is on him and I’ve been saying that all year,” Rivers said. “But it has to help his confidence and help him get in better rhythm with our guys.”
Rivers said he liked the spacing Pierce provided with his three-point shooting and anticipated continuing to use smaller lineups with Griffin out. Pierce figures to be in a lot of them for at least the next two games because the Clippers’ opponents — the Washington Wizards and the Charlotte Hornets — prefer to go small as well.
Pierce will face the Wizards on Monday at the Verizon Center for the first time since he left them in free agency over the summer to sign a three-year, $10.5-million contract with the Clippers.
Waiting his turn
Branden Dawson admits it. He’s getting a little antsy to play in an NBA game.
The rookie forward has had two stints in the Development League but has not logged one minute in the NBA. He rejoined the Clippers this week and was activated after injuries sidelined Austin Rivers and Griffin.
Of course, actually getting in a game is another matter for a player who was drafted late in the second round, No. 56 overall, out of Michigan State after the Clippers paid the New Orleans Pelicans about $600,000 to acquire the pick.
“I know I’ve got to keep patiently waiting,” Dawson said. “I know my time is going to come and just keep doing the things I have to do.”
Playing time has been rare for the three draft picks Rivers has made since joining the Clippers in the summer of 2013. Reggie Bullock averaged 9.7 minutes in 68 games over 1 1/2 seasons before being traded to the Phoenix Suns and C.J. Wilcox has averaged only 4.6 minutes in 22 games since being selected in the first round of the 2014 draft.
Clippers shooting guard Jamal Crawford is 15 points from passing former Lakers star James Worthy (16,320) for No. 95 on the NBA’s all-time scoring list.
CLIPPERS AT WASHINGTON
When: 4 PST, Monday.
Where: Verizon Center.
On the air: TV: Prime; Radio: 980, 1220.
Records: Clippers 18-13; Wizards 14-14.
Record vs. Wizards (2014-15): 1-1.
Update: Washington has won five of eight games — including four in a row — since guard Bradley Beal sustained a right leg injury this month. Clippers guard Austin Rivers has said he hopes to return against the Wizards after sitting out the previous three games because of a sprained right ankle. Former Clipper Jared Dudley is leading the NBA in three-point field-goal percentage for the Wizards, shooting a career-best 48.8% from long range.
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