So when it came time for the winning shot, of course Pierce would take it.
That's what the New York Knicks seemed to think, anyway.
Instead, Pierce swung it to a wide-open Kevin Garnett, whose jumper beat the overtime buzzer to give Boston a 107-105 victory Sunday.
"I knew they were going to sort of follow Paul and he's going to draw a lot of attention," Garnett said, "and I just had to make the shot."
Garnett hadn't made many, going 4 of 15 in what he said was an average to below-average performance. Yet Pierce suggested the final play to coach Doc Rivers and it worked perfectly.
"He's that type of player," Pierce said. "You're talking about a Hall of Fame player. He's missed millions of shots. He's going to keep playing, going to keep taking shots when he gets an opportunity. He really stepped up big for our team when we needed it."
Pierce scored a season-high 33 points, and had all of Boston's points in overtime until the final play. Two Knicks followed him, leaving Garnett alone at the top of the key for his 19-footer.
"I am expecting Pierce to try and make a move and pull up," said David Lee, one of the defenders who followed Pierce. "Good play by them and it's just unfortunate to lose a game like this."
Reserve Al Harrington scored 30 points and Lee had 22 points and 15 rebounds for the Knicks, who had won their previous two games. They apparently were supposed to use their foul to give on the final play, a disappointing end to an otherwise strong performance.
"We wanted to give the foul if Paul Pierce was going to the hole but that never happened," Harrington said. "It's frustrating, but we played extremely hard."
The Celtics opened a big lead and blew all of it in a seesaw third quarter, then rallied to force overtime and improve to 17-4 against the Knicks since the 2004-05 season.
The Celtics, whom Rivers said had been playing "awful" recently, needed a big afternoon from Pierce while his remaining All-Star teammates struggled. Allen was 3 of 13 for his 13 points and Garnett scored 10.
Both made big shots late in regulation, though, and Kendrick Perkins chipped in with 16 points and 13 rebounds.
"We played better today. Not the way we'd like to, of course, but better," Pierce said. "We're going to build on that. We're still a work in progess."
Nate Robinson rebounded from his poor decision Saturday to shoot at the wrong basket with a strong game Sunday, scoring 19 points off the bench. The Knicks fell to 3-10 in the opener of consecutive games against the last two NBA champions; they start a three-game trip Tuesday against the Los Angeles Lakers.
"It makes it tough, because we're on the road right now in the West," Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni said. "That's not fun. There are a lot of games, just as long as we keep playing and keep playing hard."
Pierce's free throws capped an 11-0 run out of halftime and made it 67-53. The Knicks had more passes into the seats (2) than baskets (1) in the first four minutes of the third quarter, then suddenly turned it around as quickly as they'd fallen apart.
Harrington made three 3-pointers in a 20-6 surge that tied it at 75, Robinson made a 3 to snap a 77-all tie, and Harrington's follow shot made it 82-77 heading to the fourth.
New York led for nearly the entire period before Allen's 3-pointer gave Boston a 96-94 advantage with 2:47 left. Lee tied it again with 1:19 to play, but Garnett knocked down a jumper 12 seconds later.
The Knicks got the ball back following a couple of questionable calls and no-calls and tied it on Harrington's free throws with 4.7 seconds remaining. Rondo missed a 3-pointer as time expired.
Eddy Curry had six points in his first home game since March 2008. He received a decent ovation when he checked in with 3:32 left in the first quarter, then departed after shoving Rondo down and getting whistled for a flagrant foul with 5:21 remaining in the fourth.
- Actors Will Ferrell, Mark Wahlberg, Brooke Shields and Rosie Perez were seated courtside, with Ferrell and Wahlberg dressed as passionate Knicks fans. Those two play cops in next summer's The Other Guys and were filming a scene Sunday.
- The Knicks presented Yankees manager Joe Girardi with the November "City Spirit" Award, given to someone who's made a "significant difference in the lives of others" during the second quarter. Driving home the night of the World Series clincher, Girardi stopped to aid a motorist who had been injured in an accident.