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Celtics notebook

Rivers, Pierce calmly go forth

Rajon Rondo sat out his seventh straight game because of an injured right wrist. Rajon Rondo sat out his seventh straight game because of an injured right wrist. (Amy Sancetta/Associated Press)
By Gary Washburn
Globe Staff / February 1, 2012
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CLEVELAND - Celtics coach Doc Rivers said before last night’s game that Paul Pierce’s comments about being held out of the fourth quarter of Sunday’s loss to the Cavaliers until 3:42 remained were no big deal.

During similar circumstances last night at Quicken Loans Arena, Pierce played 9:28 of the fourth quarter and sank two late free throws to help clinch the 93-90 win, staving off another furious Cleveland rally.

After the Cavaliers scored the final 12 points for an 88-87 win at TD Garden Sunday, Pierce told reporters, “Maybe I should play a little bit more. I don’t know.’’

He added, “No, it’s not [Rivers’s] job to explain that. The coaches make their decisions. But at the time we had a pretty good lead, so I can understand. I can understand.’’

Before last night’s game, Rivers said, “We were up 11, 12, and he had probably still played 33, 34 minutes. If Paul was 25 [years old], he would have been in. But he knows what I’m going to do and he likes it most of the time but when you lose no one likes it. So I don’t think it’s a big deal.

“It’s not something I need to have a conversation [with him] about. I’ll let you guys do all that. I can give you this, we haven’t said one word about it. It’s so silly. He was frustrated after the game. He said a word. It probably won’t be the last one.’’

Rivers was more disturbed about his team’s reaction to the Cavaliers’ frantic push.

“We should have played harder, played with more of a sense of urgency the whole game,’’ he said. “I think our guys, when they watched the film, they were disappointed in their defensive urgency throughout the game, and then moreso down the stretch. They kind of let up and thought they could squeeze out the game and all of a sudden Cleveland got excited and we couldn’t turn them off.

“I thought there was a lot of frustration after the game, which was a good sign.’’

O’Neal sharp

Jermaine O’Neal returned from a three-game absence because of a bruised left knee and scored 12 points in 23 minutes, including two dunks, as the Celtics tried to capitalize on the aggressiveness of Cleveland’s Anderson Varejao.

“He’s all over the place,’’ Boston’s Kevin Garnett said of Varejao. “I watched the game previous and saw that [Chris] Wilcox and [Brandon]Bass had early slips [to the basket] and we never found them. Tonight was just making a conscious effort of getting JO involved, a confidence builder. Any time you come back from a layoff you want to get some easy baskets.’’

O’Neal has been battling various ailments all season but has taken advantage of his limited offensive chances.

“Kevin looked for me quite a bit tonight,’’ he said. “Ray [Allen] and Kevin did a great job of getting guys involved and sacrificing some of their shots to find the open guy. I just try to do some things, I need to get back in and rebound the ball better.’’

Varejao was aggressive enough to grab 20 rebounds and score 20 points, however.

Rondo out again

Rivers said Rajon Rondo is close to coming back, but the point guard missed his seventh consecutive game with a sprained right wrist. Rondo had a splint on during shootaround and was icing the wrist pregame.

Rivers said Rondo’s return could be tonight against the Raptors, but that it more than likely will be Friday against the Knicks. Avery Bradley made his seventh straight start last night.

Guard Keyon Dooling (right hip pointer) didn’t make the trip and could miss an extended period.

Allen helps out

Allen’s eight assists tied for his most as a Celtic. He had that many on two previous occasions, most recently Nov. 26, 2010 . . . Cavaliers guard Daniel Gibson was released from Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, where he was treated for a neck infection. Gibson stayed behind after the team played the Celtics Sunday, spending two nights at the hospital. He is being treated with antibiotics. With Anthony Parker out with back spasms, rookie Mychel Thompson, son of former NBA player Mychal Thompson, got his first NBA start. Thompson responded with 8 points and 4 assists in 31 minutes . . . Former Celtic Luke Harangody was sent to the Cavaliers’ NBDL affiliate in Erie. He played in five games this season . . . Sasha Pavlovic was booed in his return to Cleveland. He had 4 points in a brief six-minute stint. Pavlovic enjoyed his most NBA success as a Cavalier, helping the club reach the NBA Finals in 2007.

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

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