C’s Practice Costly Free Throws

WALTHAM - Thursday's practice ended with a simple directive from Coach Doc Rivers. Everyone had to shoot 100 free throws before leaving the gym.

The point of the drill was obvious; the Celtics shot just 61.5% (24-for-39) from the charity stripe in Wednesday night's 91-87 loss to the Hornets, and made just six of their 12 fourth-quarter foul shots.

Paul Pierce took his mandatory 100 shots, but he isn't really convinced that it will help him in game situations. He thinks it's more about focus on the court than any practice off the court.

"I try to tell people, you can go out here and shoot as many free throws as you want, but there's no way you can simulate being in the game, seeing the crowd and looking up at the scoreboard in practice," Pierce said. "You can get a routine and do that same routine in practice as you do in a game, but there's no simulation for it. It's just total focus and concentration, and that's where we have to pick it up."

Pierce, who enjoyed a laugh with Wally Szczerbiak while intentionally using the glass on his final free throws before talking to reporters, admitted that the pressure of a sold-out opening game may have gotten to him a little when he went to the line.

"I might have let it get to me a little bit," Pierce said. "I kept shooting it the same way, and I noticed most of the time I hit the back rim, so [with] just a little tweaking, taking a little off of it, I'll be fine."

Injured Ratliff Aims to Keep Spirits High

Theo Ratliff didn't take part in practice with his teammates on Thursday, but that didn't stop him from delivering a post-session pep talk. Ratliff saw some heads sagging during last night's game and Thursday's practice and didn't like it.

"This is a young season," Ratliff said. "Guys have got to learn how to keep their heads up, especially the young guys. They can get discouraged real quick. We've got to keep these guys motivated to play their best game."

According to Ratliff, he's been working out for the last four days going through non-contact basketball drills as he tries to work his way back into the lineup after a preseason back injury. After Thursday's practice Ratliff worked with Tony Brown and Clifford Ray on post-up moves and spot up shooting from about 16 feet. In the post-up drill, Ray would place the ball on the ground, forcing Ratliff to bend over, gather the ball and then go up strong to the basket several times in rapid succession. He'd worked up quite a lather after about an hour or so of these drills, and said today's workout was his most intense yet.

"Every day I go a little bit harder, a little bit further, and I just try to keep the process moving so I can get back to 100%." Ratliff said. "It feels pretty good right now but when I go home I know I'm going to be a little sore."

Right now, Rivers and Ratliff are looking at next Wednesday's game against Charlotte as a possible return date. With games Friday and Saturday, the team wont likely practice Sunday, but Ratliff expects to work out with some of the younger players and have them "bang on [his] back" to see where he's at in the recovery process.

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