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Celtics Notebook

Pavlovic is a puzzle

Forward disappointing in opening appearance

By Gary Washburn
Globe Staff / December 27, 2011
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MIAMI - Celtics president Danny Ainge brought Sasha Pavlovic back this season because he believed the well-traveled veteran would play more aggressively and regain the form that made him a starter in the NBA Finals in 2007 with the Cavaliers.

That Pavlovic did not appear Sunday against the Knicks. As the starting small forward, replacing the injured Paul Pierce, Pavlovic did not attempt a shot while collecting four fouls - including a costly technical in the fourth quarter - and one rebound in 15 minutes. Pavlovic came to the Celtics last March, was tentative in his 17-game stint, and coach Doc Rivers left him out of the playoff rotation.

In better shape, more familiar with the system, and with a defined role, Pavlovic returned to Boston with the goal of becoming a key contributor off the bench. But he looked lost in the opener, then became frustrated in his one-on-one matchup with Carmelo Anthony, arguing a foul call and receiving a technical. Kevin Garnett immediately hugged Pavlovic to calm him down.

“I don’t think about what the referees are going to call, I’m just playing my game,’’ Pavlovic said. “It was tough for us. We can’t afford to get technicals in the fourth quarter. It’s tough to recover and I’m not going to do that again.’’

Despite his passiveness Sunday on offense, Pavlovic insists he is comfortable.

“I felt great out there,’’ he said. “I was just looking to play defense as hard as I can and whatever coach asks me to do offensively, I’m going to do it. If he needs me to be aggressive, I’ll do that.’’

Rivers said he started Pavlovic because he wanted to keep the reserve rotation intact. Marquis Daniels played a majority of the minutes at small forward and finished with 4 points, 6 rebounds, and 5 assists and he played most of the fourth quarter.

With swingman Mickael Pietrus expected to earn minutes as the reserve small forward and shooting guard, it’s uncertain whether Pavlovic will lose his spot in the rotation. But his opening-game performance resembled the Pavlovic of last season, appearing afraid to shoot or even dribble at times.

No repercussions for Garnett

Garnett escaped without a fine or suspension from the league for his postgame scrape with former teammate Bill Walker after New York’s 106-104 win Christmas Day. Walker approached Garnett, who had just missed the potential tying shot at the buzzer, with some words and Garnett used his left hand to shove Walker in the neck area.

Knicks players separated the two and injured guard Baron Davis held Garnett back and tried to calm the veteran. Garnett refused to discuss the altercation after the game.

Pierce’s status still up in air

The Celtics did not practice yesterday in Miami and it’s uncertain whether forward Pierce (heel bruise) will be available for tonight’s game. He said he made the trip with the purpose of playing, but the club may want to hold him out until the home opener Friday against Detroit . . . Pietrus is expected to join the club today in Miami but is unlikely to play. He is still recovering from July knee surgery and may need time to get into basketball shape, but Rivers said he would have no hesitation using players in games quickly because of the shortened season . . . Rivers barely used his rookies in the opener. JaJuan Johnson and Greg Stiemsma did not play and E’Twaun Moore was in for four seconds at shooting guard.

Gary Washburn can be reached at gwashburn@globe.com. You can follow him on Twitter at @gwashburn14

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