BOSTON Paul Pierce was not a happy man, and it wasn't just because the Boston Celtics squandered a double-digit lead in the fourth quarter that paved the way for Cleveland's 88-87 come-from-behind win.
Part of Pierce's anger had to do with C's coach Doc Rivers keeping him on the bench for all but the final 3:42 of the loss.
"I would have liked to have been in there to finish off the game," Pierce said. "But the coaches make their decisions."
At the start of the fourth quarter, Boston led 70-62. With a unit that included E'Twaun Moore, Mickael Pietrus, Sasha Pavlovic, Brandon Bass and Kevin Garnett, the C's pushed their lead to as many as 11 points.
But after a Bass free throw with 4:25 gave the C's an 11-point lead, Cleveland cut the lead down to seven by the time Pierce returned at the 3:42 mark.
By then, the game's momentum had clearly shifted away from the C's.
Pierce had one last shot to win it, but his shot in the game's closing moments was off the mark. Had it gone it, it still would not have counted because he didn't get the shot off in time.
Following the game, Celtics coach Doc Rivers acknowledged that the C's "got cute" and let up some in the fourth, which opened the door for Cleveland's comeback.
"We were trying to do too much with the ball instead of making simple plays and holding on to it, instead the ball - touch, pass to the next guy. I thought that hurt us."
And when asked about Pierce's turnover-prone night, Rivers said, "I thought he did too much tonight with the ball. It's just that simple. He's been playing great for us. And I thought he just pre-determined some passes instead of just making the simple play."
When asked about Rivers' comments about the guys relaxing some in the fourth and getting "cute" with the ball (i.e. fancy, no-look passes or passes into traffic that either got deflected or led to a turnover), Pierce declined to comment.
To Pierce's defense, he has been the Celtics' best player during their four-game winning streak coming into Sunday's game. And with Rajon Rondo (right wrist) still out, Pierce has had to become a ball-distributor as well as a scorer.
Holding both of those jobs has a tendency to increase the likelihood of turning the ball over and making mistakes.
And while Pierce made no secret about being angry and disappointed, he said he understood why Rivers decided to stick with the backups longer than usual.
"At the time, we had a pretty good lead," Pierce said. "So I can understand it."
Still, that doesn't change his belief that the game's outcome would have been different had he been put into the game earlier.
"I wish I was a fortune teller," when asked about how different the game would have been had he re-entered it sooner. "I don't think this would have been the outcome."