MIAMI — Paul Pierce is from Los Angeles, so he knows a thing or do about Hollywood.
And he knows he’ll have to act better if the Boston Celtics are going to avoid getting into a quick two-game hole in their Eastern Conference semifinal series against the Miami Heat.
A day after getting ejected from Boston’s Game 1 loss, Pierce acknowledged that his actions were “selfish” and that he needed to do a better job keeping his composure. Nonetheless, he still believes that he was more victim than aggressor during the two plays in which he got technical fouls that sent him to the locker room with 7 minutes left in Miami’s 99-90 win.
Game 2 is Tuesday, and Pierce isn’t sure if the physicality both teams offered Sunday would carry over.
“This is not a movie or a script,” Pierce said. “It’s hard to really say what’s going to happen game in, game out.”
The Heat don’t necessarily agree with that.
They think they know exactly what’s coming on Tuesday — a much better effort from the Celtics. Boston missed 20 of its first 26 shots in Game 1, never got Kevin Garnett rolling offensively and had Rajon Rondo limited by foul trouble. Even after all that misfortune, the Celtics had their chances to recover from what was once a 19-point hole in Game 1.
“We’re physical teams, we’re defensive-minded teams, play a similar style of basketball and it’s the playoffs,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “That’s all it is. We’re not overblowing the physicality part of it. We’re not trying to be somebody we’re not. They’re not trying to be anyone they’re not. … We know what our tenets are.”
Pierce spoke to reporters Monday for the first time since the ejection. He was not available Sunday night, after he clashed with James Jones with 7:59 remaining following a hard foul, then exchanged words with Dwyane Wade 59 seconds later after the Heat guard ran into his screen. Double-technicals were called after both plays, and Pierce’s ejection was automatic on the second.
“I thought I was fouled excessively on both plays,” Pierce said.
So did Boston coach Doc Rivers, who is not wavering from the stance he offered in the minutes following Game 1, when he said the Heat were more “chippy” than “physical.”
But on Monday, while not backing off that assertion, Rivers said the Celtics had bigger issues than whistles that didn’t go their way.
“We didn’t handle it very well,” Rivers said. “Overall, I thought they hit first the entire game. I’m talking legally — I’m talking their picks, their cuts, their actions. I just thought they played the game with a better force than we played the game, and that’s something that shouldn’t happen. Both teams should play with the same force.”
What Wade and Jones did that hurt Boston most had nothing to do with the two plays that ended Pierce’s night. They combined for 63 points on 19-for-28 shooting from the field and an 18-for-19 combined performance from the foul line. Those numbers made LeBron James’ 22-point, six-rebound, five-assist statline seem quiet by comparison.
“I would approach this game just like I would approach this game whether I had 12 points (in Game 1) or 38,” Wade said. “For me, every game is different with this team. Certain nights, my job is going to be different. They put a lot of attention toward LeBron so I got an opportunity to not have all eyes on me so I got into a rhythm. It might be different next game.”
So might the lineups.
Rivers said Monday’s practice might move Shaquille O’Neal closer to a return after missing nearly all of the last three months with leg problems. A decision on his Game 2 status likely won’t be finalized until Tuesday morning’s pregame shootaround. And Miami forward Udonis Haslem worked out again Monday, a day after he nearly made the active roster for the first time since rupturing a foot ligament on Nov. 20.
Both sides would see their depth bolstered if those big men returned, but the Celtics know an O’Neal comeback alone won’t be enough of a change if they plan on returning to Boston with a 1-1 split in Miami.
“Miami has two of the best athletes in the game in LeBron James and Dwyane Wade,” Celtics center Jermaine O’Neal said. “When they get into the open court, they tend to be very, very tough.”
James knows a 1-0 lead against Boston is not enough. When he was with Cleveland a year ago, the Cavaliers had both 1-0 and 2-1 series leads over the Celtics in the East semis.
Undeterred, Boston won in six games — a decision that still stings James.
“We’re naturally confident,” James said. “But you never get too high or too low in a playoff series. It’s one game. Series is not won in one game.”