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BLAZERS 105, CELTICS 84

Celtics blown out; Pierce blows off steam

PORTLAND, Ore. -- Paul Pierce punctuated his answers to postgame questions with short bursts of laughter, even though there was nothing funny about the Celtics' 105-84 loss to the Trail Blazers last night. It was the kind of laughter that comes when you don't know what to say. It was the kind of laughter that comes when you want to say some things you shouldn't.

When asked about Portland's opening 22-0 run, Pierce said, "Well, when you don't have no continuity and you don't have no organization and you go out there like it's a pickup game, that's what's going to happen. [There were] 12 individuals.

"You'd like to believe you'd get back into the game. But we don't have no continuity on defense. Guys don't know what they're doing. We're just not playing smart. You just don't give yourself a chance. We went away from all the things we learned in training camp, regardless of the coaching change and everything. We went away from everything that we learned, every concept that we've done. We're just throwing it out the window.

"Things changed. Personnel's changed. Coaching's changed. New concepts. It's hard to do when you've got a young team, eight or nine different players, and you try to change things in midseason. It's difficult. I mean, you guys are watching the same thing I see."

For any of the 19,011 in attendance at the Rose Garden, it was easy to see the game was over for the Celtics almost as soon as it started. The Trail Blazers' opening run put the Celtics so far behind they were never competitive. Boston did not score until Walter McCarty hit a 3-pointer with 5 minutes 49 seconds left in the first quarter.

The Celtics had missed 11 straight shots, many of them layups that met the outstretched arms of Theo Ratliff, who had six blocked shots. There were also a few failed dunk attempts with Ratliff serving as a major distraction. During the Trail Blazers' run, Ratliff recorded four blocks. Add three Boston turnovers and the visitors found themselves saddled with a 32-16 deficit at the end of the quarter.

The Trail Blazers had little difficulty hitting from all areas of the floor. Zach Randolph could not be stopped, scoring 15 of his 27 points in the quarter. He accounted for 10 points during Portland's opening run.

Pierce was asked if anything other than time to build continuity could help Boston. Again, Pierce laughed.

"We could bring Shaquille O'Neal in, maybe," said Pierce.

During the second quarter, the Trail Blazers played just hard enough in spurts to keep a healthy advantage. After Boston cut its deficit to 13 points, Portland quickly put together an 11-2 run and reestablished a 22-point edge (51-29). The Trail Blazers entered halftime comfortably ahead, 54-36. The Celtics' frustration was obvious, particularly in the body language of Pierce. As the captain left the court at the break, he kept glancing up at the scoreboard and shaking his head.

The Trail Blazers spent the third stretching their halftime lead into a 33-point advantage at the end of the quarter (87-54). Portland closed the third with a 10-2 run. The only questions in the fourth quarter were whether the Celtics would eclipse a pair of this season's dubious distinctions: fewest points in a game (68) and largest margin of defeat (23). The Celtics did not surpass either mark, though they trailed by 39 midway through the fourth.

The Celtics have dropped 11 of 12 games, including five in a row. Boston is desperately searching for something that will end the slide. But last night, there was no indication the Celtics were ready to play winning basketball. The Trail Blazers shot 52.1 percent from the field. Paul Pierce (3 for 13 for 11 points), Ricky Davis (4 for 11 for 12 points), and Mark Blount (1 for 8 for 4 points) struggled as Boston shot 35 percent.

When asked his level of frustration, Pierce said, "You know what, I really don't want to say some stuff I wouldn't want to say right now. Truthfully."

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