Pierce Tossed, and C's Frustrated in Game 1 Loss
MIAMI – Doc Rivers approached the postgame podium, and asked PR chief Jeff Twiss for a water before addressing the media.
Then he thought about it, and changed his order to a beer.
"I'm joking..." Rivers said.
He looked like he needed it. Blame the week layoff, the ejection of Paul Pierce, or Rajon Rondo's foul trouble that limited him to just 8:23 of playing time in the first half. Wahtever the reason, it was a frustrating loss for the Celtics in Game 1 in Miami. The Celtics offense sputtered early, and the team only discovered it's rhythm late in the second half when they found themselves down by 19 points. Not where you want to be against Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and company. The end result: a 99-90 loss to the Heat in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals and the Celtics first "L" of the postseason.
A frustrated Rivers said the team's offense was too aggressive and not patient enough, an assertion that Ray Allen (25 points) later corroborated.
"I thought we were way too aggressive, to eager to score on the first pass, early on," Rivers said. "We were so eager to score, we call it thirsty, we never got to the second pass or second option. We were very easy to guard."
Wade, on the other hand, is the antithesis of "easy to guard." Wade dropped 38 points on 14-of-21 shooting, using an array of offensive moves and shots from all over the court to bury the Celtics. His big night was complemented nicely by two teammates. Eighty-five of the Heat's 99 points came from Miami's Big Three of Wade, LeBron James and – wait for it – James Jones, who drained five 3s and went 10-for-10 from the free-throw line.
The Celtics also turned the ball over early. Paul Pierce didn't set the world on fire to start the game, turned it over four times in the first half, and his frustration bubbled over into a pair of technical fouls, stemming from a pair of hard fouls that Rivers felt should have been flagrants and that Pierce just flat out didn't like.
Pierce was corralled by James Jones on a move to the basket on one occasion, and followed that up with pushing his head into Jones', thankfully avoiding a headbutt. He was whistled for a T on that altercation. Later on, when Wade tried to steamroll him on a baseline screen, his reaction to the latter play earned him the second T, which carries the automatic ejection.
That second technical earned Pierce an automatic ejection, something official Ed Malloy apparently already knew, because he made the "ejection" gesture, emphatically pointing Pierce to the door. After the game, crew chief Dan Crawford said that the second technical was for taunting and "directing profanity against Wade."
There you have it. Apparently name-calling is now enough to get tossed from an NBA Playoff game. Either way, Pierce didn't meet the media after the game, but will probably be peppered with questions at Monday morning's practice at the University of Miami. Unless he's feeling charitable (read: NBA fine), he probably won't respond to those inquiries.
Rivers, for his part, felt his team got the short end of the stick on the whistles with regard to the plays that drew Pierce's reactions, and ultimately earned him the heave-ho.
"I thought they were both flagrant fouls," Rivers said. He didn't espouse any opinions on the validity of the technicals, but suffice it to say that while Rivers couldn't really say it without paying a fine himself, he presumably felt they were unearned.
Rivers said he felt Miami's play wasn't "physical", but "chippy," and said that the Celtics have to be the "hit-first" team and not the reactionaries. Meanwhile, Heat Coach Erik Spoelstra, when informed of Rivers suggestion, took exception and claimed his team has been physical all season.
"Both teams are physical. This is the playoffs, at this point in the year you can't be something we're not," Spoelstra said. "We're not stepping out of who we are. We're a physical team. There are some adjustments. But at this point, both teams are who they are."
The Celtics weren't whole after the Pierce ejection. He was just starting to heat up, but left the game with 7:00 to play with 19 points and seven rebounds. Even without their captain, the Celtics continued to fight down to the last minute. But the hole was too deep, and even Allen's long-range bombing couldn't salvage what would have been an impressive comeback had they completed the job.
The series is expected to be a long, drawn-out, physical battle, and that tone was set in Game 1. But the Heat did what they were supposed to do, and that's win at home. The Celtics now look to Game 2 to even things up and swing momentum back in their favor.
In the meantime, Doc and Paul may want to have that beer to blow off some steam.