Not even the captain could bail them out of this one.
Paul Pierce made a surprise return for Boston against the New Jersey Nets Friday night but could not boost the Celtics to their first win in over a month. The Celtics fell to the Nets, 92-78. Boston’s franchise-record losing streak, now at 17 games, lives on.
Pierce talked about hustling before the game. He talked about desperation. He talked about coming out like you wanted to fight somebody.
Aside from a few angry facial expressions by Al Jefferson, the Celtics showed none of the tenacity demanded by their captain. To be fair, Pierce did not show, or was not well enough to show, much tenacity himself.
Celtics coach Doc Rivers voiced some concerns about Pierce before the game.
“Going through a shootaround and going through an NBA game — especially against the Jason Kidds and Vince Carters of the world — is two different speeds. It’s different adrenaline. So that will be an issue for him.”
The pace of the game was definitely an issue for Pierce, who looked a step behind on almost every play. The stats reflected Pierce’s rust: nine points and four rebounds in 20 minutes.
After a low-scoring first half, Brian Scalabrine tied the game at 42 with the first basket of the second half. Scalabrine’s three-pointer kept the Celtics in the game to start the second half despite 34 percent shooting in the first.
But the Nets found their groove in the third. Jason Kidd (13 points, 8 rebounds, and 9 assists) pushed the tempo and led the Nets to a 69-56 lead at the end of the third quarter.
Pierce missed all seven of his shot attempts in the first half and finished with one assist, one rebound, and one turnover before the break. He was 1-11 by the end of the third quarter.
Pierce’s second basket of the game came on a tip of a Delonte West miss with 5:07 remaining in the fourth. He would finish the game 4 of 16.
Delonte West had 12 points but committed four turnovers in the first half for the Celtics. He finished with 20 points.
We’ll be back in a bit with reaction from the locker rooms.