Pierce: 'It's only one game'

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Pierce: 'It's only one game'

ATLANTA When you look at all the predictions heading into this first-round series with the Boston Celtics and Atlanta Hawks, most predicted the C's would emerge victorious and move on to the second round.

Within those predictions, not a sweep of the series can be found.

Which is why the Celtics are disappointed with their 83-74 loss, but far from dejected.

"We just can't panic," said Celtics captain Paul Pierce. "It's only one game. It's not the end of the world. Like I said, you gotta win four. They just held down their home court advantage in Game 1. We get another opportunity in Game 2 to steal the home court before we go back home."

The C's may have to get it done without Rajon Rondo who is awaiting word on whether he will be suspended for Game 2 after chest-bumping NBA official Marc Davis with 41 seconds to play in Boston's loss on Sunday.

Rondo said the contact he made with Davis was not intentional.

"As I was walking, I thought he stopped and my momentum carried me into him," Rondo said. "I think I even tripped on his foot. I didn't intentionally chest-bump him."

With or without Rondo, several other Celtics must step their game up if the C's are to leave Atlanta with this series tied up.

Pierce was especially off in Game 1, scoring just 12 points on 5-for-19 shooting.

"At this point, both teams know each other's plays. There's not going to be a ton of open looks," Pierce said. "I thought I really had good looks (on Sunday). For us to win, I have to be a better player; that's just what it is. I have to knock down the shots, I have to be aggressive on the offensive end. I have to do my job defensively on Joe Johnson. So I think i was a really big culprit of that (Sunday night loss)."

Pierce becoming a more efficient scorer would certainly help.

More than anything, the Celtics defense has to be more consistent.

In the days after the season end and prior to Game 1, C's head coach Doc Rivers talked about defensive consistency as being an area in need of improvement by his ball club.

"We have played great defense, but I think it's been spurt defense (recently)," Rivers said. "I want us to get back to being as solid defensively as we were (earlier)."

That will involve doing a better job against an Atlanta Hawks team that, like the Celtics, relies heavily on the jumpshot to be successful.

The Hawks led the NBA this season in shots taken between 20-24 feet away from the basket. The Celtics, meanwhile, were the league's best at defending those shots with teams shooting a league-low 30.5 percent against the C's from that distance.

While the final stats would indicate the Celtics did a decent job of defending those shots - the Hawks were 6-for-20 shooting within those shooting parameters - it doesn't tell the whole story.

In the first quarter, the Hawks were 3-for-6 on those shots, which factored heavily in the C's 13-point deficit after one quarter of play - a deficit that they were never able to recover from completely.

"The margin they built up in the first was just too great," said C's coach Doc Rivers. "We gave up 31 points to start the game on the road. It gave them confidence, and it's very hard to shut it off."

Blakely: Celtics made the right choice in not pursuing Cousins

Blakely: Celtics made the right choice in not pursuing Cousins

NEW ORLEANS -- There will be a significant faction of Celtics Nation who will see DeMarcus Cousins’ trade to New Orleans as a lost opportunity for the C's, who could have offered a much more enticing trade package than the one the Sacramento Kings accepted.
 
The Kings received nothing even remotely close to a king’s ransom for Cousins, acquiring him in exchange for rookie Buddy Hield, journeyman Langston Galloway and ex-Pelican Tyreke Evans (who has never been the same since his Rookie of the Year season in 2010), along with a protected first-round pick and a future second-round selection.

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While the knee-jerk reaction is to focus on why Boston decided to not pursue a trade for Cousins, more important is what the non-decision means for the moment and going forward.
 
Think about what the Celtics have done in the last three-plus seasons.
 
They went from being a lottery team to one that has the second-best record in the East. They're holding the potential No. 1 overall pick in the upcoming draft; at worst, the pick will be in the top four or five. They have three of the most team-friendly contracts (Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley and Jae Crowder) in the NBA. They have promising prospects overseas as well as in the D-League. And they're led by a coach who has improved his coaching acumen -- and the team’s win total -- every year he's been on the job.
 
And it's all enveloped by a culture with a high level of selflessness, which has created a locker-room environment that has been more about fighting for each other than fighting one another or others off the court.
 
Do you really think Cousins’ talent would have trumped the baggage he'd be bringing to the Celtics if they'd acquired him?
 
For him to have fit in with this team would have required him to make the kind of changes that, frankly, I just don’t see him being capable of making at this point.
 
On more than one occasion, “not fitting in” with the Celtics culture was given to me as the reason why a Cousins-to-Boston trade never gained any traction with the team’s brass. Or coaching staff, for that matter.
 
While there's no denying that he's arguably the best center in the NBA, Cousins is a high-risk, high-reward talent that makes sense to pursue if you're a franchise which has nothing to lose by adding him to the mix. Like, say, New Orleans.
 
The Pelicans are 11th in the Western Conference despite having Anthony Davis, who has been asked to carry the weight of a franchise that has yet to figure out the best combination of talent to surround him with and find success.
 
The addition of Cousins not only provides Davis some major help, but serves as a reminder of just how desperate the Pelicans are.
 
While there are mixed reports on whether the package of assets the Kings agreed to was the best they could have received for Cousins, there was no way they were going to get anything close to comparable talent in exchange for him.
 
And that was solely due to the risk that any team was willing to take on in order to acquire him.
 
At some point, the Celtics need to take advantage of an opportunity to go all-in for a superstar player. But this was not that time, or that player.

Blakely: Pelicans form arguably the best frontcourt with Cousins-Davis

Blakely: Pelicans form arguably the best frontcourt with Cousins-Davis

A. Sherrod Blakely breaks down the DeMarcus Cousins trade to the New Orleans Pelicans