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Celtics notebook

Not really the right touch at end

By Julian Benbow
Globe Staff / March 24, 2011

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For what it was worth, Paul Pierce did touch the ball on the Celtics’ last possession last night, but coach Doc Rivers wished his top scorer would have had the chance to get a shot off on the possession that decided the game.

With 4.2 seconds left in Boston’s 90-87 loss to the Grizzlies at TD Garden, Pierce took a deep 3-pointer with Shane Battier hounding him, trying to send the game into overtime, only to see the heave fall short.

Earlier in the final minute, the Celtics were trailing, 88-87, and Pierce was trailing Rajon Rondo on the break. Rivers assumed Rondo would hand off to Pierce and let the professional scorer do his job. But Pierce never touched the ball. Instead, Rondo missed a floater.

Rivers had no problem with the shot, but he said he would have liked to see Pierce get a chance in that situation.

“I think, as a whole, our team, we have to get back to understanding Paul’s pretty good and he has to get more touches in games,’’ Rivers said.

Pierce has been in a mild slump of late and went the entire first half without a field goal, taking just three shots. But he heated up in the second, scoring 18 of his 22 points, missing just one of his seven shots, and going 2 for 3 from long distance.

“I think we go back and fourth on movement and we want that, but we’ve also got to get Paul involved more,’’ Rivers said. “That’s on me, I’ve got to get Paul involved more.’’

Pierce downplayed the idea that he needs more touches, though.

“Probably a little bit more,’’ he said. “But I play within the framework of the offense. I’m not going to make that an issue. We’ve been winning the way we play all year long the past three, four years.’’

Passing one up If there was a sign of the Celtics’ pass-happiness beside their 20 turnovers, it came in the third quarter when Kevin Garnett passed up an alley-oop, changing his mind in midair and firing a pass to Ray Allen in the corner instead.

The Celtics had just hit back-to-back threes to go ahead, 65-60, and Allen’s shot would have put a stranglehold on momentum. Instead, Allen missed and the Celtics were back in a seesaw battle.

Rivers said the Celtics had been struggling with ball movement and Garnett was making a conscious effort to correct it.

“I understand, honestly, what Kevin’s trying to do,’’ Rivers said. “Kevin feels it like I see it that we’ve been caught a lot early [taking] one-pass shots. So Kevin gets it in his head that he’s going to force ball movement, which is a good thing.’’

Defending decision Back in November, there was all kinds of room for second-guessing when Tony Allen left Boston for Memphis. What lured Allen from the team he had spent his entire career with was a chance to grab a bigger share of the spotlight, to be a bigger fish in a smaller pond.

But he struggled early on, and Memphis coach Lionel Hollins would sit him for entire games.

He was trying to find his role with a new team after leaving a situation where he clearly had carved out a niche.

But there was nothing he was going through in Memphis that he hadn’t gone through in Boston. He had sat on the bench and fought for minutes before.

He simply stayed prepared, telling himself, “If you stay ready, you don’t have to get ready.’’

Now, he has cracked the starting lineup, and he is making a subtle push to make an All-Defensive team.

“I’m in a good situation,’’ Allen said before the game, in which he had 8 points, 7 rebounds, and 1 steal. “It’s hard to even think back.’’

The Celtics could just as easily ask themselves, “What if?’’

When Allen walked, they lost a defensive stopper and a backup for Pierce and Ray Allen. When Marquis Daniels, their only backup at the wing, went down with a bruised spinal cord in February, they were forced to make a series of trades, reshaping their roster.

“I did think he was coming back,’’ said Rivers. “I was surprised that he didn’t. Obviously, the negotiations got in the way.

“He was really emotional about it. You know Tony. And it’s tough, because we have obviously a pretty good relationship.’’

Returning to TD Garden for the first time, everything seemed backward to Allen. He was in the cinder-block surroundings of the visitors’ locker room.

Allen was so jittery before the game, he said, “Zach Randolph just asked me if I drank a bowl of sugar or something.’’

Volunteer duty for Frank? The name of Celtics assistant coach Lawrence Frank has come up as a candidate for the head coaching job at the University of Tennessee . . . Shaquille O’Neal missed his 22d straight game with an inflamed right Achilles’, but today he will be sworn in as a member of the Worcester County Reserve Deputy Sheriff Association. Rivers still expects both Shaquille and Jermaine O’Neal to return before the playoffs. Shaquille made the last road trip, participating in a shootaround Friday in Houston . . . Daniels will have surgery a week from today for his bruised spinal cord, according to agent Mark Bartelstein. “The hope is that it will relieve the episodes that he’s having, going numb when he gets hit,’’ Bartelstein said.

Julian Benbow can be reached at jbenbow@globe.com.

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