Just as Paul Pierce was starting to regain his form, going for 20-plus points in five of his six games before last night, he got a scare in the third quarter.
Manu Ginobili, a one-man wrecking ball, crashed into him as he drove hard through the lane, banging into his shoulder. Pierce rolled around on the hardwood, team trainer Ed Lacerte came out to check on him. He eventually got up, and took both of the ensuing free throws, grimacing as he rotated his arms after missing the first, then going back to play defense after making the second.
After the game, he said he was still feeling the affects.
"It’s a little sore," Pierce said. "It’s a stinger, got some numbness down the right side of my arm but hopefully it doesn’t get any worse.”
Pierce has already taken time to recover from a mixed bag of ailments (foot, knee, thumb).
THIRD QUARTER KNOCKOUT
The third quarter was the killer. The Celtics closed the first half with a 6-2 burst that cut the Spurs lead to 44-43. But in the third Boston missed 12 of its 17 shots, while the Spurs shot 65 percent from the floor, winning the quarter 33-17, putting the game away.
“I feel like we always got a chance regardless if a team makes a run. I just always feel like we got a chance when I’m on the court. Until the final buzzer rings, unless you’re down like we were tonight.
I mean you’re down twenty with like two minutes to go against San Antonio you pretty much know. But it’s all about effort regardless if you’re gonna win or lose. I mean coach is always saying that we gotta prepare for the next game.
It’s also about getting better and that’s about habits. But I feel like regardless of whatever type of lead a team’s got on us I feel like we’re a team that’s always gonna fight and has always got a chance.”
DOING IT WITHOUT DUNCAN
After playing just 27 minutes in a win over Cleveland, Tim Duncan played identical minutes against the Celtics, never stepping on the floor in the fourth.
"They’ve had more injuries than I think us," Rivers said. "They have to be knocking on the door to that. And Tony Parker’s still out. But everybody played well. It’s amazing. They’re doing this right now and getting not a lot out of Tim. You know he still sets the table for them, because they still go down there. And I thought for us in the third quarter we never went down; it was all jump shot, jump shot, jump shot.”
If there was a turning point, it came in the third quarter about four minutes after the fact. Rajon Rondo drilled a 3-pointer as the shot-clock expired that made it 52-46.
It was the Celtics only basket in the first four minutes of the second half, breaking up a 12-point San Antonio flurry. But four minutes later, the officials waived the basket off, saying Rondo didn't beat the buzzer. The Celtics went from being down seven after a paul Pierce 3-point play to being down 10, and with the way the Spurs were playing, it was just a formality from there.