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."

Texas Hold'em: Noel would interest Celts, but Mavs probably won't let him go

Texas Hold'em: Noel would interest Celts, but Mavs probably won't let him go

The Celtics' two main targets in free agency are expected to be Gordon Hayward and Blake Griffin. But what if neither signs here . . . or what if the C's have other plans? This week, we'll look at some of  'The Other Guys' who might interest the Celtics: TODAY: Dallas' Nerlens Noel.

BOSTON -- When the Celtics had trade talks with Philadelphia last season, it was no secret they had their eyes set on Nerlens Noel.
 
The 23-year-old has shown tremendous potential as an elite, rim-protecting big man.

THE OTHER GUYS: POTENTIAL CELTIC FREE-AGENT TARGETS


The Dallas Mavericks saw those same qualities, which is why they engineered a trade for him last season despite knowing he would be a restricted free agent this summer.
 
And while he would certainly be the kind of player Boston would absolutely love to add to the mix, seeing the Mavericks go in a different direction seems highly unlikely.
 
But until he signs with the Mavericks or any other team, the Celtics can’t be totally discounted as a possibility if they strike out on Gordon Hayward and Blake Griffin.
 
WE LIKE HIM BECAUSE . . .
 
His proven body of work and his potential. Noel has shown flashes of being a decent player offensively, but he’s going to get paid handsomely this summer because of his defense and rebounding.
 
According to Basketball-reference.com, Noel has been among the NBA’s top 10 in defensive box plus/minus two of his three NBA seasons.
 
During the 2014-15 season, his defensive plus/minus was +4.5 (fourth in the NBA) and the following season it was +3.4 (eighth in the NBA).
 
And while his upside is viewed primarily through a defensive prism, his presence on the floor seemed to provide a much-needed jolt to the Mavericks offensively.
 
In his 22 games with Dallas, he averaged 8.5 points and 6.8 rebounds with a solid offensive rating of 106.1.
 
NOT CRAZY ABOUT . . .
 
You love Noel’s length and athleticism, but you wish he would add some weight to withstand the physical rigors of playing primarily in the post. In an ideal world, Noel will add another 10-15 pounds, which would put him weight-wise similar to another standout Maverick from a few years back, Tyson Chandler. But Noel’s narrow shoulders and pogo-stick thick legs will likely result in his current 228-pound frame not changing much in the near future. He will still be a factor defensively, but there will be nights when stronger, more physical centers will give him problems. Fortunately for him and the Mavericks, big men whose strength is well, their strength, are becoming scarce in this new age of position-less basketball in the NBA.
 
IN CONCLUSION . . .
 
Noel would look really good in a Celtics uniform, but there’s little to no chance the Mavericks allow him to get away. They've made it clear that re-signing the 6-foot-11 big man is their top priority. And short of Kevin Durant or Stephen Curry saying they want to become a Maverick, it’s highly unlikely Dallas will change course.
 
PRICE TAG
 
Four-year, $106.4 million. That’s the most a team outside of Dallas can offer the soon-to-be restricted free agent. Noel knows the Mavericks won’t hesitate to offer him a max contract, which would give him more guaranteed years (five), better raises (eight percent versus five percent) and a total package of $143.55 million, which is more than $37 million beyond what other teams like the Celtics can offer.
 
Again, something would have to go unexpectedly wrong for Noel to wind up on any roster other than the Mavericks.