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Pierce tries to block out woes

By Gary Washburn
Globe Staff / January 21, 2012
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It was fool’s gold, a 20-6 run to begin the third quarter that gave the Celtics a 3-point lead late in the period. In the old days, the Celtics would have dismissed a lesser opponent such as the Phoenix Suns with that run and coasted to victory.

The new Celtics, however, responded by going scoreless for 6 minutes and 3 seconds. And by the time Avery Bradley canned a 21-foot jumper with 8:14 left in the fourth, the Celtics were down 7 and on their way to another demoralizing loss, one which might expedite team president Danny Ainge’s plan to rebuild the team dramatically.

The players gave him no reason to do anything else last night, including Paul Pierce, the team’s most marketable of the Big Three. He finished with 12 points on 5-for-14 shooting and reached the free throw line twice. Pierce is shooting 30.5 percent from the field in his past seven games, obviously a shell of himself because of the bothersome right heel injury and an abbreviated training camp.

When Ainge told the Globe Wednesday he would have no hesitation breaking up the Big Three with fruitful trades that would foster the transformation to a new era, Pierce’s name was immediately associated with potential trades. With two years remaining on his contract and having turned 34 in October, Pierce may be the central figure in a rebuilding project.

“You can’t pay attention to that, that’s part of the business,’’ Pierce said. “You’ve just got to continue to do your job as a professional each and every day. What makes me want to play well is our record. That’s more than anything.

“I don’t read the papers. I really don’t buy into everything that’s been said. I’m just more concerned about this group and what’s going on in this locker room.’’

Pierce has not been without his rocky moments in Boston, and was almost traded to Portland on draft night five years ago.

“I understand,’’ he said. “What the Celtics have done for me throughout my career, I’m more than happy. They’ve kept me this long and I’ve been able to play in a lot of good situations and you’ve got to understand the business. It’s been a while since I’ve been down that road. But I don’t think about it, actually.’’

In a testament to how weak the Eastern Conference is after the top four teams, the Celtics are just one-half game out of the eighth and final playoff spot. There remains plenty of opportunity to recover.

“Just to keep grinding, just to keep going, not to get discouraged,’’ Pierce said. “Keep the guys confident, keep their heads up, and tell them eventually we’ll turn this thing around.’’

The Celtics have lost six of seven and looked lethargic against a Phoenix team that was 5-9 and had just snapped a five-game losing streak Wednesday.

When asked if he was disappointed, Pierce said, “Why wouldn’t I be? We’re four or five games under .500. We’d like to be a lot better, but it is what it is. We just got to keep going back to the drawing board and getting back to work. Keep preparing.

“This is a group that’s not going to lose any confidence, that’s not going to put our heads down. This is a good opportunity for us to show what we’re made of through the adversity.

“You do see the signs of some good things out there. It’s about putting it out there for four quarters. I’m still confident in this group.’’

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