Mental lapse proves costly for Pierce at free throw line

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Mental lapse proves costly for Pierce at free throw line

BROOKLYN, N.Y. Looking up and down the final box score in Boston's 102-97 loss to the Brooklyn Nets, it's clear that the Celtics' demise was a team-wide calamity.

But few took the defeat any harder than Paul Pierce.

Trailing 95-92 with 43 seconds to play, a defensive switch by the Nets gave Pierce a lane to the basket so he attacked. There was enough contact on the play to warrant the foul called, but not enough to have thrown Pierce's shot off too much.

And there he watched the ball tickle every part of the rim before rolling out.

But here's the other problem besides him missing the shot.

The play was over, time to move on.

Unfortunately for the C's, Pierce did not; mentally at least.

A career 80.8 percent shooter from the line, Pierce missed both free throw attempts.

"I was thinking about the lay-up too much," Pierce acknowledged after the game. "I was real disappointed. It was very unlike me to miss two free throws. I take a lot of blame for down the stretch. I'm the guy they call upon to make the plays. I didn't make the plays tonight."

But Pierce isn't going to make the same mistake with the season that he made with the missed lay-up and dwell on it too long.

As important as it was for him to take ownership of his contributions to the Celtics' loss, it was just as vital for him to embrace the reality that Thursday's defeat was a team loss and not an individual one.

"You can point to a number of little things we talk about all year long," Pierce said. "Execution, defensively we weren't very good."

Especially in the fourth quarter which has typically been one of their best quarters of the season.

The C's gave up 28 points in the quarter which is very unlike the Celtics. And it came on a night when the C's could only muster up 18 fourth-quarter points which is also unusually-low for the C's.

"It's a lot of little things we have to correct," Pierce said.

Curran's Sunday 4-pack: So, what HAS Tom Brady been up to?

Curran's Sunday 4-pack: So, what HAS Tom Brady been up to?

Six days – four quarters of football – remain in Tom Brady’s four-game suspension.
 
The fact is the Patriots are 3-0 and have gotten a long – and enjoyable – look at their quarterback depth behind Brady. Brady, meanwhile, has gotten a chance to shave one-quarter off the season-long wear-and-tear he takes.
 
But highlighting silver linings and pointing out there’s not much sand left in the suspension hourglass is no real consolation. Said one team source Thursday night, “It’s never going to go away.”
 
What’s Brady been up to? Mixing family time and working out. He’s routinely spent four hours a day training, I’m told, presumably with his body coach Alex Guerrero at TB12 Sports Performance at Patriot Place. Also, aside from his Sunday session with Wes Welker, Brady’s been throwing to young college players at undisclosed locations, eschewing the opportunity to bring in some of the “name” former players who’ve reached out and offered their services.
 
Spotted in Italy with wife Gisele Bundchen last week, Brady’s also been back home in San Mateo visiting with his family.
 
Speaking to two people close to him, I was told he succeeded in making peace with the time off and avoiding the creep of too much bitterness. I was also told he’s unbelievably motivated to return at a high level and wants his transition back to be seamless in terms of performance and conditioning. That last part is, of course, to be expected. But it will be interesting to see how Brady does perform out of the gates after a month’s forced exile.
 
NINKOVICH RETURNS, TOO

The lesser of the two suspended prodigal sons set to return next week – Rob Ninkovich – is no doubt going to benefit physically from the quarter-season vacation as well. And the defensive ends who’ve performed well in his absence – Jabaal Sheard and especially Chris Long – will do well to have Ninkovich back in the mix. Mention should also be made of Trey Flowers who has shown up in opponent’s backfields on a weekly basis. It depends on what your personal cup of tea might be, but through three games, Long seems to me a much better defensive fit for this team than Chandler Jones. Jones was the more explosive pass-rusher but Long’s ability in the running game, and his play-in, play-out impact in applying pressure on the tackle in front of him makes it seem so far as if he’s an upgrade.
 
NEW DEALS AHEAD?
 
Still no word on which Patriot may be in line for a new deal since the team restructured Devin McCourty and freed up some cap space.

Donta Hightower, Malcolm Butler and Jamie Collins have been seen as the most likely targets for extensions and a redo of Hightower at this point would whittle down his $7M cap number and possibly allow another extension to be executed for either Collins or Butler, as our Phil Perry pointed out.  Jabaal Sheard, meanwhile, is the Patriot who flies under the radar when extension talk starts. He may be every bit as important to the success of the Patriots defense as the other three.
 
REX WRECKS
 
The Bills are 0-2, the natives are beyond restless in Buffalo and the Cardinals are in Western New York on Sunday. The Bills are expected to play without wide receiver Sammy Watkins and are a team staring into the esophagus of 0-3 with a visit to the Patriots coming next week. Have a gander at the Bills Mailbag in the Buffalo News.  Seems like years since Rex was all giddy about the paint job on his new truck. It was less than 19 months ago.