Pierce on loss: 'The 50-50 ball really hurt us'

Pierce on loss: 'The 50-50 ball really hurt us'
February 25, 2013, 1:45 am
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PORTLAND, Ore. — Moments before the Rose Garden floor was flooded with streamers (I guess that's what happens when you win after losing seven straight), the ball was in the hands of Blazers point guard Damian Lillard after he missed a short lay-up.

The Celtics didn't bother to foul him.

At that point, trailing by six with a few ticks left on the game clock, it was a wrap.

The Blazers knew it.

So did the Celtics.

But that last rebound snatched by Lillard in so many ways summed up the kind of night it was for the Celtics, losers in three of their last four games following Sunday's 92-86 loss.

When Lillard's shot fell off the mark, it was anybody's ball for the taking.

Far too often on Sunday, Boston failed to capitalize on those opportunities.

Although the final score was relatively close, the Celtics lost because they were beaten soundly on the boards, 47-36.

When you take a look at the most common hustle stats that are usually quite telling as to who out-worked who, the C's had to feel pretty good afterwards - minus the final score of course.

Boston won the points in the paint battle, 36-32. They had more fast-break points to the tune of 19-7.

The only hustle stat of note that the Blazers came out ahead was second-chance points, with Portland coming away with nine of the game's 13 second-chance points.

And those second-chance points only tell part of the tale as to the important role that rebounding - or in this case, Boston's lack of rebounding - played in the game's final outcome.

Sure, Portland's 11-6 edge on the offensive glass hurt Boston.

But more than that, the C's lack of rebounding took away precious possessions that they surely needed against a Blazers team that had lost seven straight and played with the kind of desperation that a team on that kind of skid, has to have.

And unlike some of Boston's past struggles with rebounding, Sunday's bumbled effort on the boards came against a team that has had its own problems rebounding this season as well.

Boston ranks 29th (out of 30 teams) in rebounding while Portland comes in at No. 18.

More telling than their actual rebounding numbers is their margin of rebounds per game. The Blazers average getting out-rebounded by one per game, while the C's come up short by an average of 3.8 rebounds per game.

"You have to do all the dirty things," said Celtics coach Doc Rivers. "They got two big rebounds at the end."

In addition to Lillard's offensive rebound with 18 seconds to play that sealed the victory, Portland got a pair of defensive rebounds in the final 1:14 following misses by Pierce that the C's had chances to secure but failed to do so.

"That's something that killed us all night," said Pierce, referring to the Celtics rebounding struggles. "The 50-50 ball really hurt us when we had a chance to get the loose balls in key possessions. Obviously, rebounding and late three-pointers really did us in. It was a game that could have went either way."