Pierce predicts team will bounce back
Paul Pierce was not planning on returning to his Los Angeles roots until after the playoffs ended, but he will have to revise his plans, provided the Celtics win at least one of the next two games at TD Garden.
After the Celtics’ Game 2 victory in Los Angeles, Pierce talked about wrapping up the NBA Finals in Boston. But, after a 91-84 loss to the Lakers last night, the Celtics desperately need to win the next two.
“I’m disappointed, I’m disappointed in the loss,’’ Pierce said. “That’s what happens — it happens. That’s what happens, we lost the game, we’ve got to go back to LA.’’
Pierce’s response to being accused of overconfidence: “I’m not going to win a game in LA and say we’re coming back. I mean, no, that means I’m saying we’re going to lose at home. I mean, I’m confident in my ballclub, so if I do say that type of stuff it’s all in good spirit. I want to win, just like they want to win. We’ve got to go back to LA, just got to do it the hard way, not a problem.’’
Pierce, who finished with 15 points, struggled for the second straight game, this time hindered by foul problems — he committed his fifth personal 39 seconds into the final quarter.
“We’ve got to do a better job of not fouling. Every game it seems like one of our key players is in foul trouble. Maybe it’s the excitement of the championships, maybe it’s understanding the refs are calling it tight, knowing when they are calling it tight and when they are going to let you play a little bit. But we’ve got to do a better job of understanding that. No excuses, the games are being called differently, but the players are good enough to adjust. We’ve got to play better basketball with our main players out there. I’m not really thinking about that now, I just want to go out and help my team win, regardless of if we all play well or not, we know we can win the series.’’
Pierce had two fouls in the opening quarter, but seemed to be getting in the flow in the second half.
“Second half, more so than the first,’’ Pierce said of fouls hampering his play. “Because, you know, I knocked down a shot, trying to get a little rhythm, and then back on the bench because of fouls. I just got to stop putting my hands where they don’t belong right now. It’s frustrating because you feel like you play hard, and you get called for calls. But I’ve got to better job as a starter going out there and being a little bit more solid than I have been, and that means not fouling so I can be out there to help my team.’’
Pierce was limited to 10 points through three quarters. In the final quarter, he converted a 3-pointer off the dribble to cut the deficit to 78-76 with 4:10 remaining. But the Celtics could not claim the lead, and they trailed by 7 when Pierce drove with 40 seconds left, making it 87-82 as he failed to complete a chance for a 3-point play.
“With me, I thought I missed shots in the first half with some good looks,’’ Pierce said. “I’ll take those looks all night long, the ones I got. It wasn’t about my shots, it’s about going out there as a team trying to win the game. We broke down on little things. That’s the difference between winning and losing in the championship and playoffs, the difference in one or two plays. And I just thought we broke down on little plays down the stretch, giving [Derek] Fisher some open looks on the elbow, that really cost us at the end.
“I feel confident with my ballclub, we came in there and talked about it for a few minutes before coaches came in there, about what we need to do, so we’re a team that’s going to stick together, not get down, point fingers at one another, so we’ll bounce back for Game 4. Because you do one thing in one game doesn’t mean it’s going to happen the next, whether you win or lose or how you play, that’s the way the game goes.’’
Despite the loss, the Celtics captain remained positive.
“I feel great, I know we still haven’t played our best basketball and we’re capable of winning these games,’’ he said. “Even the game we won, we didn’t feel like we played well. Our best basketball is going to come and I know it’s going to come before it’s too late. Hopefully, it’s next game. I thought we had great looks. The shots don’t always fall just because you shoot them. Ray [Allen] had a lot of good looks he normally makes, same type of looks. I think it’s about making the extra passes, getting a good look to a great look. Both teams know each other’s plays, know what you’re going to do, so it’s time to step up.’’
Frank Dell’Apa can be reached at email@example.com.