|Paul Pierce speaks for starters: ‘No excuse to way we started out’||03.10.11 at 12:50 am ET|
It would seem after his bench was outscored, 26-12, in a 108-103 loss to the Clippers Wednesday night at TD Garden, Doc Rivers would have laid blame for the defeat at the hands of his reserves.
But Rivers also realizes that the Celtics dressed just five players Wednesday who were with the team before the Feb. 24 trade deadline, and one of those five was Avery Bradley.
It’s a lot to ask any second unit to make up a 15-to-20 deficit in a game, let alone one that was making its debut. So, the way Rivers saw it, this loss really was at the feet of his “Big 4″ – namely Rajon Rondo, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen.
“I was concerned because in the first quarter, our four starters put us in a hole and then you needed to sub, and you knew nothing good was going to happen,” Rivers said, as his team fell behind by as much as 15 in the first quarter and 23 early in the third.
“It actually [wasn't bad]. They held their ground,” Rivers said of his reserves, led by Carlos Arroyo and new starting center Nenad Krstic. “The problem was it was a 20-point ground [deficit] they were holding and that’s very difficult.
“We sub anyway. We sit guys down regardless of score. Obviously, we were down 20 and we’re subbing. It’s not something you want to do but you have to.”
Pierce couldn’t argue.
“It’s tough when you get out to bad starts and a lot of that has to do with the starters. How we come out at the beginning of the games, we’ve got to come out with a better focus,” Pierce said. “Once you get a team confidence like the Clippers then they feed off that for the rest of the game and were able to get the win.”
Pierce did point to the defensive struggles of the second unit but only as far as they had to pick up the pieces from the starters not playing defense, either.
“I think some of it is the second unit, but a lot of that was at the start of the game with the first five so no excuses on that point,” Pierce said. “They came out and shot 70 percent and a lot of that was against the guys that know what we are doing night in and night out.
“You give some leeway to the newer guys, but there is no excuse to the way we started out giving them the big lead and then having to fight all the way to get back into the game.”
The reserves did a very respectable job on Blake Griffin, who had just 12 points in 37 minutes. Down 23, the Celtics slowly started to chip away, outscoring the Clippers, 24-16 in the third to cut the lead to 10.
Then the starters finally did their thing. Allen drilled a 3-pointer from the right wing on a bullet pass from Rondo with 7:36 left to draw the Celtics within six, 86-80. Garnett’s jumper with just under six minutes left capped a 15-2 run to draw the Celtics within three.
But Mo Williams drained three free throws with 5:23 left to restore the lead to six. Jeff Green drilled a trey with 47.4 seconds left to get within four, 104-100. Allen’s three with 10.5 seconds left turned out to be too little, too late.
The Celtics will try to regroup and start a new winning streak on Friday against the upstart 76ers in Philadelphia. The Sixers are making a late-season push to finish in the middle of the playoff pack in the Eastern Conference and are one of the hottest teams in the NBA since the All-Star break.
Friday would be a great time for a new start for the “Big 4.”