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Celtics notebook

Pierce doesn’t use the injury excuse

By Frank Dell’Apa
Globe Staff / May 9, 2012
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ATLANTA - Celtics captain Paul Pierce refused to blame a knee injury for an off-night in the Celtics’ 87-86 loss to the Hawks Tuesday night.

“I don’t think it really bothered me too much,’’ Pierce said. “I didn’t really try to think about it. Probably was a step slow, didn’t have my usual lift like I usually have but I think it didn’t really affect me too much.’’

Pierce scored 16 points, including a 3-pointer to cut the deficit to 1 point with 51 seconds remaining, but he also missed two shots in the final minute.

“We definitely squandered away an opportunity,’’ Pierce said. “Tip your caps to the Hawks. They really played with a purpose. It’s a make-or-miss league; we had our opportunities down the stretch.’’

“You know, they played with a lot of energy, a lot of pride, they had their backs up against the wall and they won a close one.’’

After Pierce fell during a Sunday morning walk-through drill, he was considered doubtful for Game 4. He then produced 24 points in 17 minutes.

“We originally didn’t, watching shootaround, think Paul would play,’’ coach Doc Rivers said of Pierce’s availability for Game 4. “Then, he does what he does. We talked about him before - he’s such a gamer. But we had already kind of tweaked the lineup preparing for him not to play.’’

Pierce scored 9 points in the opening quarter Tuesday night but then went scoreless over a 20:28 period spanning the halves. He tipped in his own miss to cut the Celtics’ deficit to 52-48 with 7:35 left in the third quarter. After that, Pierce would convert only twice more from the field, cutting into the lane to pull the Celtics within 83-80, then making a 3-pointer in the final minute.

Rondo stays on roll

Rajon Rondo (13 points, 12 assists) had his 28th successive double-digit assist game covering the regular season and playoffs.

“Just tremendous, took over the game,’’ Pierce said of Rondo. “It looked like the game just could have really got out of hand, and we fought back.

“But that’s what this team does. We get down, it’s about pride in ourselves, it’s hard for us to go away. We find ways, we were in a position we could have won, we got some layups, got some steals, found guys in fast breaks, just tremendous effort.

“But now they’ve got confidence and we have to go home and get the job done.’’

Hollins contributes

Ryan Hollins converted two alley-oop dunks on feeds from Rondo. “He was big,’’ Pierce said of Hollins. “Everybody has to be ready. Some days you get the call, some days you don’t. He’s an active body, helped lead us on that comeback. There’s going to be opportunities for a number of guys throughout the course of the playoffs, so it’s important guys stay ready.’’ Hollins finished with 5 points in 19 minutes . . . The Celtics are holding Joe Johnson’s numbers down in the playoffs; he shot 6 for 17 for 15 points Tuesday. Entering Game 5, Johnson was averaging 17.8 points per game, a point less than his regular-season average.

Allen over the hump?

Ray Allen appears to have recovered after missing 11 games because of bone spurs in his right ankle.

“Ray feels good - he’s probably the healthiest right now,’’ Rivers said before the game. “Part of Ray had to get through getting on the floor. Because there was pain involved and he had to jump, you know what I’m saying? Once he jumped into the water, I think he found he could do more.

“The concern with him, obviously, is with his ankle reacting on days, you don’t know when. You just don’t know his next step. I was joking; I’m going to get every minute out of him.’’

Allen played 30 minutes Tuesday night and had 15 points.

Bradley ditched brace

Avery Bradley was set to wear a left shoulder brace in Game 4 after having sustained a dislocation, but he discarded it before the contest.

“I tried it but it limited me so much, I didn’t feel comfortable,’’ Bradley said. “Not only my shooting, but a lot of movements - raising my hand up - it limited me a lot.’’

Bradley was limited to 2 points in 18 minutes Tuesday.

Frank Dell’Apa can be reached at f_dellapa@globe.com.

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