|James took lessons learned from battles with Pierce||04.04.10 at 11:58 pm ET|
The matchup between Paul Pierce and LeBron James is one of the most competitive battles in the NBA. But before James was dominating the scoreboard, he was trying to learn from his veteran counterpart.
“When I first came into the league, he was a seasoned vet and I was a rookie just trying to learn the curve and things like that,” James said prior to the Celtics 117-113 win over the Cavaliers. “Over the years, he’s still been an All-Star, he’s still been competitive. I’m just trying to develop my game to be one of the best three’s (small forwards) in the league, to be on Paul Pierce’s level and all these other guys’ level.”
On Sunday, James outscored Pierce, 42-16 (20 of his points came in the fourth quarter alone). It’s a far cry from their first regular-season matchup seven years ago. On Nov. 13, 2003, James ‘ as a rookie ‘ scored 10 points in a 91-82 loss to the Celtics. In that one, Pierce, who was entering his sixth season, led the C’s with 19 points.
‘You learn, the game itself teaches you game after game after game,” James said. ‘But you learn when you go against the best, you see why they are considered the best at that time or still now because of the work they put into it. They never took a night off.’
James is averaging 29.9 points this season (30.6 in his last five contests) and has scored more than 20 points in all but one game since the All-Star Break. He wrapped up his regular season matchup with the Celtics averaging 36.5 points in four games.
‘I’ve been able to be recognized as one of the best three’s that we have in this league,” James added, “So it’s always fun to go against the best guys in the league, and Paul continues to be that since I was a rookie.’
|Pierce on C’s turmoil: We ‘talk things out’||at 12:18 am ET|
WALTHAM — Paul Pierce made a admission on Saturday following practice.
The Celtics had some words amongst each other about what was happening on their home court in three straight losses – or more to the point, what wasn’t. And that turmoil was evident several times on Friday as Rajon Rondo had animated discussions with Shelden Williams and Pierce during the fourth quarter as the Celtics were trying to get their defensive house in order.
The team’s ability to defend the simple pick-and-roll was exposed as an apparent weakness on Friday as Aaron Brooks, Kyle Lowry and Luis Scola went to town late in the fourth quarter as the Rockets battled back to force overtime and then erased a five-point hole in OT to score the last 10 points of overtime in the 119-114 Rockets win.
“I think we’re breaking down in just one area,” Pierce said. “And it needs to get better. We have to be better on the pick and roll.”
In other words, when the opposing player passes the ball, a fundamental rule in basketball defense 101 is that the passer becomes the most dangerous potential scorer on the court.
“I think we trust each other,” Pierce said. “It’s just about going out there and doing it and trusting the coaching staff. The good thing about us after a game like [Friday] or the game before, we sit in the locker room and we talk about it. We were in the training room, talking about what we need to do better and what we need to do as a team. That’s a positive sign, how during a tough stretch like this, we stick together and talk things out.”
And that talk continued from Friday night post-game to Saturday pre-film study as Pierce said the team had an animated and frank discussion of the mistakes being made, with everyone in green taking some responsibility.
He didn’t want to get into it after Friday’s loss, but Celtics coach Doc Rivers gave several examples on Saturday of the problems that led to his team’s meltdown.
There was the lack of respect given to 3-point sharpshooter Chase Budinger, after several reminders from the coaching staff to get in his face and stick with him on defense. They failed.
There was the shot taken by Nate Robinson at the end of the second quarter, leading to a three-point swing that gave Houston a four-point lead instead of one. And there was Pierce dribbling out the clock before halftime without getting off a shot.
All of that said, Saturday was a time to look forward to preparing for the Cleveland Cavaliers, a team that beat them by 20 on the same court on Feb. 26. Looking back on Friday’s loss on film was not what Doc ordered on Saturday.
|Pierce, Garnett press conference||04.01.10 at 12:15 am ET|
|Coach Belichick, it’s Doc on the line||03.31.10 at 6:59 pm ET|
Pierce suffered a ‘stinger’ to his right shoulder on Sunday night and again on Tuesday in practice but was cleared by the team’s training and medical staff while Perkins has missed the last two games with left knee tendinitis.
“It’s good but it’s scary,” Rivers said. “Obviously, you don’t know why you get stingers. Maybe I should call Coach [Bill] Belichick because it’s a football injury more. We don’t have a whole bunch of stingers in our league that I know of. Obviously, it does concern you because I always think if something like that happens, there’s got to be a reason why but it’s just coincidence, let’s hope.”
|Pierce gets ‘stung’ again on right shoulder||03.30.10 at 3:54 pm ET|
WALTHAM — For the second time in three days, Paul Pierce injured his right shoulder. This time, the injury happened midway through Celtics practice when he ran into a back screen and fell to the ground. Rivers said trainer Ed Lacerte said if it’s just a stinger, Pierce should be fine to play.
“He actually got hurt again,” Rivers said. “It’s a stinger. It was the same exact reaction. It looked worse today. Eddie said if it’s a stinger, he’ll be fine but you get concerned because it’s a game and a practice, exact same thing.”
‘That’s something you play a guy five minutes and that can happen, Rivers added. ‘There’s nothing you can do about that. The good news is it’s not a shoulder separation or anything and probably the worst case is he misses a game or two, at worse. That’s not all bad and obviously, you’d like to have him and it’s not a lower body injury.’
Meanwhile, Kendrick Perkins, who has missed the last two games with left knee tendinitis, is expected to return to the starting lineup on Wednesday night against Kevin Durant and Oklahoma City at TD Garden.
|Pierce and Garnett press conference, 3/24||03.24.10 at 11:23 pm ET|
|Halftime: Celtics vs. Nuggets||at 8:19 pm ET|
The exclamation point on the outstanding play was a spectacular Tony Allen dunk on a beautiful feed from Rajon Rondo with 1:23 left and a layup with 0.1 seconds remaining in the half. Allen had 10 points off the Celtics bench.
This game was played at a breakneck tempo right out of the gate, with both teams executing their offenses at a high level.
The Celtics came out and appeared ready to make a statement against a Nuggets team that is expected to be the chief competition out West to the defending champion Lakers this spring. The Celtics made 13-of-21 shots from the floor and outscored Denver 20-8 in the paint to take a 30-27 lead after one.
Paul Pierce again showed he is ready to assume leadership of the team heading into the home stretch as he poured in a game-leading 16 points. That offset an equally impressive first half from Carmelo Anthony, who had 14.
The Celtics bench again saw a significant amount of playing time, bridging the first and second quarters effectively, and even building the lead up to nine points late in the second quarter. The down side to that was foul trouble.
In addition to the three first half fouls that sent Pierce to the bench early prematurely, Marquis Daniels also picked up three and Glen Davis two as 16 fouls were called on the Green in the opening 24 minutes.
But again the ball distribution was outstanding as the Celtics racked up 19 assists, led by seven from Rondo.
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