|Paul Pierce meet David Ortiz||05.10.10 at 4:32 pm ET|
After scoring just nine points in 31 minutes on Sunday in the 97-87 Celtics win over Cleveland that evened the series, 2-2, everyone wants to know if Paul Pierce is physically fine.
And if he is, as he told reporters following Monday’s practice, why then is he having such trouble getting his offensive game going?
‘I’m not a rookie, you guys. I’m not a rookie,” Pierce said with a painful smile very similar to the one a certain Red Sox slugger sported after getting grilled about his woes just TWO games into the season.
“It is my 12th year. I’ve been in every situation, regardless. Whether it’s foul trouble, not playing, things not going so well for you, I know how to get through those times, mentally. It doesn’t affect me like it used to when I was a younger player where I had two or three fouls and not really playing the kind of basketball I want to. But the key is to keep focused and doing what you can to help the team win.’
And about your physical condition Paul?
‘There’s nothing wrong me,” Pierce said. “The key for me is being focused and giving my team what they need to win. So there’s nothing wrong with me.’
‘No, Paul’s fine, Paul’s fine,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers added. “Obviously, we want more out of him but we’re getting a lot out of him. I think unfortunately for Paul, he’s an offensive player and that’s what everyone sees in him and he has a defensive part in this series so they’re going to look at his offensive numbers so that’s the bad part of being Paul Pierce, really.’
Specifically, it was the early foul trouble in Games 3 and 4 at the Garden that Pierce pointed to as the main culprit in robbing him of offensive rhythm.
“If you’re a scorer, you’re a scorer for life,” Rivers said. “It’s like you’re in a gang, a scoring gang. I think scorers still think, ‘OK,’ and then once they get into it they realize, ‘Wow, this is tough.’ We just keep telling him to be aggressive. The one thing I did tell him was I thought I did think we got the right matchups for him he wasn’t looking to score. When we do get those situations, we need him to morph back into Paul.”
‘We don’t want to sacrifice the entire offense or the team just to get Paul involved,” added Rajon Rondo. “Paul is just an unselfish player so he’s not complaining about shots or that he’s only scoring 11 or 12 points. As long as we’re winning, he knows it’s a team sport. He’s very unselfish. It’s about sacrifices. Yesterday, I think Ray [Allen] got 21 shots up and myself. Maybe Paul gets 22 shots and maybe Ray and I only shoots four. It varies each game. If a guy has it going, you keep going to him.’
Pierce said he will not let games of 13, 14, 11 and nine points take him out of his focus of doing what it takes to help the team win the series, namely defend and help on LeBron James.
‘All that other stuff goes out the window, being frustrated,” Pierce said. “You really have to concentrate on the game when you’re not in the game so that when you go back in the game, you can finish it.
‘I’m digging myself a ditch as far as my fouls but I think they’re good fouls I’m getting, some bad ones but that’s the way the game goes. It’s nothing I’m really worried about. I know I can do a better job and control. No matter how I’m doing offensively, as long as we win, that’s all that matters to me.’
And winning Game 5 in Cleveland Tuesday is Job No. 1.
‘We definitely have a sense of urgency going into Game 5,” Pierce said. “We have to treat it like a Game 7, trying to gather some momentum, like we’ve been trying to do. We know it’s going to be a tough place to play back in Cleveland, trying to get two wins. It’s going to be very difficult. I think we’re going to put our hard hats on and clean up some of things we didn’t do right last night and in Game 3, and hopefully, try to steal another win.’
|Doc: We don’t care who guards Rondo||at 4:17 pm ET|
That’s fine with the Celtics who have been waiting for this to happen since the series started.
“We don’t care who guards Rondo,” Doc Rivers said Monday. “We’re going to still run out stuff. It’s not like we’re going to stop running our offense. We anticipated it. I’ve only talked about it for three games. We know it’s going to come at some point in this series. When it does we have to find a way of using Rondo and making sure he’s still the facilitator.”
Rivers felt that one of the keys in Rondo’s huge Game 4 performance was that he made things happen off ball movement. This was a key difference from Game 3 when most of the Celtics offense came off one-on-one isolation plays (or rather breakdowns).
Rondo, who sees more gimmick defenses and adjustments than any of the other Celtics combined, isn’t worried about it either.
“It’s happened before,” Rondo said. “LeBron is going to be LeBron. He’s a great help-defender so he’s definitely going to be helping. He’s a good defender. They did that a couple of years ago when Kobe [Bryant] was checking me in the Finals. So, I’m used to bigger guys giving me the shot and challenging me late because of their wingspan.”
Brown has resisted employing the LeBron option to this point and a good reason for doing so is that James has taken Paul Pierce out of the series to this point. If he does take Rondo, that would put Anthony Parker on Pierce, and while Parker is a good, veteran defender, he’s no nearly as physically imposing as James.
“That’s probably one of the reasons they haven’t,” Rivers said. “But they’re going to at some point. It may not be all game. It may be in the fourth quarter. It may be in the second half, out of timeouts. And will be ready for it.”
|Pierce: There’s nothing wrong with me||at 3:05 pm ET|
Pierce has dealt with a myriad of injuries this season, but given the caveat that every player is a little banged up at this point in the season, he stated flatly Monday after the Celtics went through a brief practice that he was fine.
“There’s nothing wrong with me,” Pierce said. “For me, it’s just being ready, being focused, giving my team whatever it needs to win. There’s nothing wrong with me.”
There are other mitigating factors that have contributed to his sub-par numbers (16-for-50, 4-for-18 from 3-point range). For one, he has found himself in early foul trouble and for another, he is guarding LeBron James at the other end of the floor.
“I’m digging myself a ditch as far as with my fouls,” Pierce said. “I think they’re good fouls that I’m giving, some bad ones, but that’s the way the game goes.”
“Paul’s fine,” Doc Rivers said when asked about his health. “Obviously we want more out of him, but we’re getting a lot out of him. I think, unfortunately for Paul, he’s an offensive players and that’s what everyone sees in him. He has a defensive role in this series and so they’re going to look at his offensive numbers. That’s the bad part of being Paul Pierce, really. If it was Tony Allen, people would be happy. He’s doing a great job defensively, but it’s Paul, so they want more. And we’re going to get more out of Paul. I believe that.”
Pierce was asked if he felt like he at least one vintage Paul Pierce game in him for the last three games of the series.
“I hope so, but that’s not something I’m pressing,” he said. “I’m trying to help my team win. Whether it’s scoring or defense, it’s about winning.”
Pierce is also a veteran, and he’s drawing on past experiences to get him through this stretch.
“I’m not a rookie,” Pierce said. “It is my 12th year. I’ve been in every situation. I know I can get through those times mentally. It doesn’t affect me like it used to when I was a younger player, where I had two or three fouls and not really playing the type of basketball I wanted to play. The key is to just stay focused and doing what you can do to help the team. All that other stuff goes out the window.”
|Turnaround Tony||05.09.10 at 9:29 pm ET|
While everyone will rightfully point to Rajon Rondo’s historic triple-double performance in Game 4 on Sunday against Cleveland as the spark the Celtics needed, it was Tony Allen’s all-around court presence that might have made the biggest difference at the biggest moments of the game.
Allen ‘ as is his style ‘ came in full speed off the bench, running interference on LeBron James and flying down the court with the greatest of ease, taking passes from Rondo and dunking the ball to energize the Celtics and the TD Garden crowd in a crucial 97-87 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers.
With the game tied at 70 late in the third quarter, Allen was smart enough to follow Rondo in transition. As Rondo drew James to the basket, that left Allen wide open. With a half-circle behind-his-back pass, Rondo fed Allen for a dunk and the Garden exploded.
‘Ya, that’s what you call an energy play from Rondo,” Allen said. “I mean he had energy all night. I don’t know what his stat-line was like but I know it was big and we fed off of his energy all night.”
Early in the fourth quarter, Allen had the chance to return the favor when he drew James to the basket, only to find a trailing Rondo behind him for another easy basket.
“It’s just one of those things where I got out in transition and we figured if we could get out quick, we could get some easy baskets,” Allen said.
Then there was just the simple matter of winning a game the Celtics absolutely needed, especially after the worst home-court playoff loss in Celtics history on Friday.
‘Nobody wants to apart of history from a losing effort, losing by 30 in your home court,” Allen said. “Everybody was looking at film yesterday and was down on themselves. I think today they came out and just wanted to turn that negative energy that we had last game into something big today. I think that we did a good job of that.
‘We all do a great job of listening to [defensive coach] Tom Thibodeau, Doc [Rivers] do a good job of drawing up plays, but most importantly we hang our hats on defense. I think that’s why we were big today.’
From the moment the season began, Doc Rivers told the Allen off the bench that his playing time will be dictated by two things – his defense and his energy.
Both have been in high gear at the best time of year for the Celtics so far.
‘Most definitely, I think once I get a few chip in baskets, they give me a little energy but for the most part I am a defender first on that court,” Allen said. “I need to do that in order for me to stay out there.’
With Paul Pierce saddled with five fouls and Ray Allen using all six of his, it was up to Allen off the bench to assume responsibility for helping to hold LeBron in check. And with just 22 points in 43 minutes, Allen and the Celtics accomplished their goal.
‘My plan for that was to listen to [defensive coach] Tom Thibodeau and call out those sets before hand and him looking at that formation, and I was just ready to roll. He did a good job just telling me the formation.
‘Basically all I have to say is that our whole concept is feeding off of our defense. Our team concept is slow to the ball and get it out to the shooters. I was just trying to be active on our team defense and I took advantage of that today and I was fortunate enough to convert that in the fourth quarter,’ Allen said.
If the Celtics can get more of that in the next week from Tony Allen, they might just need him later in May, too.
|Ray-Ray: Our predicament is ‘not too bad’||at 4:56 pm ET|
Ray Allen has always been extraordinary when it came to putting things in proper perspective – especially when the spotlight is brightest.
Everyone watching the Celtics on Friday night couldn’t believe they got blown out of their own building and were trailing by as many as 35, suffering their worst-ever home court playoff loss.
But Allen, before Game 4 Sunday, played it cool, just like he was taking a potential game-winning three-point shot.
“You go into Game 3, it’s almost Game 1 for both teams because you haven’t playing four days so you can’t take anything from the first two games and think there’s going to be too many similarities,” Allen said, attempting to explain the overwhelmingly poor performance.
“You’re almost starting fresh, everybody has a couple of days off, sitting around watching games and just relaxing. It’s like your first game of the playoffs so to speak.”
Allen certainly looked like he was taking his own words to heart in the first half of Game 4 Sunday when he got out in transition with Rajon Rondo and spotted up for open look after open look, drilling a couple of key 3-pointers. He even got into it with LeBron James, late in the second quarter, showing an emotional spark rarely seen.
Maybe it was the fact the Celtics found themselves in a virtual must-win situation, down 2-1, with Game 5 Tuesday in Cleveland. Or maybe he was just trying to provide an emotional jump-start to his teammates.
But Allen believes in not making the game any bigger than life. He sees a 2-1 deficit entirely manageable if the Celtics play their game, get to the basket and attack.
“Really hard to put a finger on it,” Allen said. “You have to deal with the predicament we’re in, which is really not too bad.”
Doc Rivers had a slightly different but still similar take on the dire need to win Game 4 at home and what happened in Game 3.
“If we had lost by three or lost by 40 or won by three or 40, it has to be the each mindset to begin each game,” the Celtics coach said. “I thought they came in to Game 3 with the right one and I didn’t think we did. And I think in Games 1 and 2, you can say we did. I don’t know if they didn’t but I know we did.
“I really don’t care about their mindset really, honestly. There’s going to be a game in this series where both teams are going to play great and we’re going to have to find a way of winning that game.”
|Doc Rivers press conference||05.07.10 at 11:10 pm ET|
|Cavs don’t rest on off day||05.04.10 at 9:47 pm ET|
The team elected to watch film in Cleveland Tuesday, even though they had a scheduled off day. Cavs coach Mike Brown ripped his team’s effort after Game 2 in which the Celtics evened the series with a decisive 104-86 victory.
“We have to decide if we are going to take the fight to them and take these games,” Brown said. “Ain’t a [expletive] thing is going to be given to us at all in this series. Plain and simple, they kicked our behind. This series is one to one. We are going to see what we’re made of in Game 3.’
The bigger story, however, is that LeBron James is scheduled to have another MRI on right elbow before Friday’s Game 3. He had one last week before the Cavs closed out the Bulls in their first-round series that revealed a bone bruise and a sprained elbow. James admitted that he started Game 1 tentatively and he faced questions after Game 2 when he attempted 15 shots (he also had 15 free throws).
Also, Anderson Varejao was examined by the team’s physician after back spasms took him out of Game 2. He is listed as day to day.Varejao was one of the few Cavs big men who played well in Game 2 and he was doing his best to try to rile up the Celtics.
[Go here to listen to Kevin Garnett’s post-game interview with WEEI in which he talked about Varejao’s play, as well as calling our Rasheed Wallace after Game 1]
This is a potentially huge problem for the Cavs who are getting minimal production out of Shaquille O’Neal and are also looking at big matchup problem with Antawn Jamison guarding Garnett. The Celtics believe they can exploit this matchup throughout the series and they have made a concerted effort to isolate Garnett on the left block against Jamison.
Rivers wants Garnett to look for his own offense more, which runs counter to his nature.
“He’s got to stay on that,” Rivers said between games. “He fights his own self because people don’t get that. They criticize him for being unselfish which is the craziest thing on earth, but that is who he is.”
Garnett has been aggressive. He tied a season-high with 20 shot attempts in Game 1 and shook off a slow first-half in Game 2 in which he went 2-for-9, by making his first three shots in the third quarter when the Celtics dominated play.
“Kevin was playing way too fast in the first half but he was still a concern on the post,” Rivers said after Game 2. “They’re trapping. They’re worried about him right now.”
Varejao is the key to the Cavs multiple frontcourt lineups because he can play both the four and five spots and is a much better defender than J.J. Hickson. Without him in the lineup, the Cavs have to either play small with James and either Jamison or Hickson up front, or go big with either O’Neal or Zydrunas Ilgauskus, which makes them much slower.
For their part, the Celtics took the day off and are scheduled to resume practice Wednesday.
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