After going through a very difficult and tumultuous March, Paul Pierce  realizes the Celtics  now are left with the reality that they likely won’t catch Chicago and very possibly could wind up third in the Eastern Conference heading into the upcoming playoffs.
This is certainly not what the team envisioned when the C’s were leading the East with a 46-15 record after beating Milwaukee on March 6. Since then, they’ve been treading water, going 6-8 in their last 14 before beating the lowly Pistons Sunday night at home.
“I mean, there’s nothing I can do right now,” Pierce painfully admitted. “We don’t control our destiny right now. It’s pretty much hoping they fumble up or stumble up somewhere along the road and we win. It’s going to be what it’s going to be at the end of the day.”
That’s not exactly what the Celtics were hoping for, but they also weren’t counting on six different starting centers this season. Shaquille O’Neal  and his “brother” Jermaine have started there. So have Semih Erden, Glen Davis , Kendrick Perkins  and Nenad Krstic .
Through all that, the Celtics managed to stay atop the East. That is, until their 6-8 stretch that ended Sunday. They are now three back of the Bulls with six games to go, including a big one this Thursday at the United Center against Chicago. At this point, Pierce and the Celtics would do well to finish second and have home court against Miami should they meet in the second round.
They are also still looking up at the Heat in the standings, trailing LeBron James  and company by a half-game for second. And with Shaq going down last night with what appears to be nothing more than a right calf strain, Pierce conceded the C’s are now focused on simply trying to get their heads — and bodies — straight for another playoff run.
‘Every game is important,” Pierce said. “We’re trying to win out, trying to get ready for the playoffs. But the most important thing is getting healthy right now. I’m feeling pretty good, some of the other guys are feeling pretty good, some guys are banged up, so that’s important right now, as this next week goes by these guys staying healthy.’
Still, when Shaq hobbled off the court in front of the Celtics bench with 11:11 left in the second, Pierce couldn’t help but think, “Here we go again.”
‘It felt like pausing time you know, it felt like just having his presence out there was big tonight,” Pierce said. “Even just having him for a few minutes, definitely you know, definitely a plus other there. It’s tough.’
Pierce and the Celtics know they haven’t had consistency at the low post all season, and now is probably the time to think it will magically change.
‘I don’t know, when you get to that age, those ones tend to hurt a little bit longer,’ Pierce painfully acknowledged.
‘Shaq’s missed games before, he’s been injured before, he knows how to get through it mentally.
‘It’s tough he’s been out so long, he tried to do it today, without any chance to have any practices. I just hope he’s all right, I don’t really the know the extent of what’s going on, but you know he’s been out so long, resting, trying to get his injuries together and it’s very disappointing. He comes out, especially after being out so long, to come down with another injury.’
Pierce is just hoping the disappointment is short-lived and doesn’t find its way into the playoffs.