By Rich Levine
MIAMI Over the course of his 13 seasons in Boston, Paul Pierce has become the player the Celtics count on most in the fourth quarter, but down the stretch on Sunday in Miami, during the biggest game of this season, Pierce was nowhere to be seen.
The Celtics captain was ejected with seven minutes left in the final frame after picking up his second technical foul, and as is the case anytime the NBA playoffs and NBA referees get together, Pierces ejection will be the subject of controversy.
(Before we go on, it should be noted that the Celtics didnt lose this game because of the referees. They lost this game themselves. But that doesnt excuse the circumstances of why Pierce spent the final minutes of Bostons Game 1 loss in the locker room.)
Pierce's first technical foul came with 7:59 left in the fourth, when he took a hard foul from James Jones, and responded by stepping toward Jones, who didnt back down. They met head-to-head (with Pierce as the aggressor) and were slapped with double technicals.
A minute later, under the Celtics hoop, Pierce attempted to set a screen on Dwyane Wade, who barreled into Pierce, and was called for a foul. Wade and Pierce had words, too many (or the wrong) words according to referee Ed Malloy, who called another double technical and immediately signaled for Pierces ejection. Ending the captains night.
Understandably, Doc Rivers was unhappy with the outcome.
I thought both were flagrant fouls, personally, Rivers said, in reference to the hits Jones and Wade landed on Pierce.
I thought Jones was a clear flagrant, he went right for the head. And I thought Dwyane Wades was an absolute flagrant, he made no effort to go for the ball, he was just trying to run through Paul.
After the game, crew chief Dan Crawford responded to both controversial plays.
On the Jones incident: Pierce's first technical, it was contact during a dead ball. He approached Jones and got right in his face. There wasnt a head butt, but he got right in his face after a hard foul.
When asked then what Jones did to deserve his half of the double tech, Crawford said: It was Jones' hard foul that pretty much precipitated Paul doing what he did.
On the Wade play: It was a verbal taunt. Pierce directed profanity towards Wade. And in the rulebook, that is a verbal taunt. And it just so happened to be Pierces second technical foul.
When asked then what Wade did to deserve his half of the double tech, Crawford said: He actually walked toward Pierce and thats why Wade received his, walking toward Pierce and then Pierces reaction to it.
As you can tell, even in the mind of the referees, both of Pierces technicals were instigated by Miami, which of course, only adds to Celtic Nations ire. But this is a veteran basketball team, one you expect to lure the other team into Ts, instead of the other way around. And through all his frustration, Rivers was sure to note that in the future his team needs to be above that, and not get sucked into any extra curricular activity.
I told Paul, you still dont react, River said. I thought we were a retaliating team tonight, we were never the first hit team, but I really thought both were absolute flagrant fouls that should have been called.
Pierce didnt speak to the media after the game (the team said hell be available on Monday), but his teammates did speak and for the most part sang a similar tune as their coach.
I didnt think anything happened that warranted a technical, said Ray Allen. Pierces emotional. Dwyane Wade is trying to run through him and hes trying to set a screen. I dont think he did anything over the top. Again, its us learning how to get out of those situations and back away from them. That the second technical foul . . . We cant put the game in the referees hands. We got to be smarter out there.
We just need to keep our composure, said Glen Davis. We cant worry about other players. If they want to throw dirty shots or anything like that. Yeah, we want to protect and stand up for ourselves but still we need to keep our composure."
Kevin Garnett was asked to respond to Rivers claim that the Celtics were caught reacting too much in their nine-point loss.
I agree with that, he said.
And will they be able to turn it around and get back to their style of ball?
Well find out tomorrow, Garnett said.
Which is when well also get Pierces take on the details of what led to him spending crunch time which is typically Paul Pierce Time watching from the locker room.