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11/16/2009 - 19:51
Celtics Look to Rebound
by Ward Lucas

Despite almost 40 points from Paul Pierce over a two-game span, the Boston Celtics fell to 8-3 this weekend after two straight losses -- Friday, to the Atlanta Hawks, and Saturday to the Indiana Pacers.

Friday night, the Atlanta Hawks found redemption in the Garden and overcame their seven game losing streak against the Celtics. Last season, Boston swept Atlanta in the regular season. But the streak of Celtics success came to an end at tip off.

It was a defensive battle in the first half as the Celtics clung to a one-point lead, 42-41 at the break. But in the third quarter, the tide turned when No. 34 suffered an injury. The Concord Monitor provides the analysis:

"The Truth led the Celtics with 24 points despite bruising his left knee early in the third quarter. Garnett and Kendrick Perkins scored 14 points apiece.

Pierce bruised his knee on a drive to the basket. He sat out the final few minutes of the third, and was wearing a brace and had it taped when he came back early in the fourth quarter.

"It’s a little tender," Pierce said. "I’m just going to wait and see how it feels when it cools down. I’m just gonna ice it right now and see how it feels."

By the 4th period, Paul was moving sluggishly from the injury and Boston was unable to recover from the Captain's ailment and the Hawks picked up the 97- 86 win.

Paul driving to the hoop against Indiana's Dahntay Jones (Getty Images).

INDY 100
The Captain and the Cs traveled to Indiana Saturday and went head-to-head with the Indiana Pacers.

No. 34 was in the starting line-up even after injuring the knee one night prior. But Coach Doc Rivers had his concerns, the American Chronicle reports:

"Even by (Friday) night he said it felt pretty good," Rivers said before last night’s game. "(Saturday) morning he said it felt great. I told him, 'If I see anything, you’re not playing. I’m taking you out.' He said, 'I feel great.' "

It was a tightly contested battle for most of the first two frames, but the Cs outscored the Pacers in the second quarter to take a nine-point lead at the half, 61-52.

In the second half, the Pacers smothered Boston's offense and held the Celtics to just 18 points while scoring 32 points themselves to take a commanding lead. Eventually, the Cs succumbed 113 -104.

No. 34 told ESPN Boston that while the offense has been succeeding, the Celts' defense needs to pick up its game:

"It's definitely a bump in the road," said Pierce. "It's on us players to get the job done. We understand we have a game plan and we didn't stick to that tonight. We deviated a lot at times. We can't allow a team to get 110-115 points, that's not Boston Celtics basketball. We're a better defensive team than that. We've shown that through the years.

"We weren't there defensively. When we score 100 points, we feel like we should win every game, because we don't allow 100 points. And that wasn't the case tonight."

As the American Chronicle noted, Paul saw the writing on the wall:

"It was just the kind of thing Pierce had been pointing to the night before as a Celtic problem – bad starts by the starters."

The Captain finished with 15 points, four rebounds and four assists. The Truth took responsibility for the loss after the game, as quoted by the Boston Globe:

“I was able to make it through the game, but I obviously hurt us tonight,’’ he said. “Especially on the defensive end. I was a step slow pretty much all night and it really hurt us. I pretty much told the fellas, I really take a lot of the blame. Dahntay Jones goes out and has one of his best nights, with me guarding him most of the night. I am really going to take that one on the chin right there.’’

Even with their two losses this weekend, the Cs still have a leg up on the rest of the Atlantic Division.

Boston maintains a 2.5 game lead as they head back home to the Garden this week. The Celtics welcome in the Golden State Warriors on Wednesday as they look to return to form after the back-to-back losses and maintain that cushion.

Paul's recovery will be crucial to the team's success but Frank Dell'Apa of the Boston Globe reports No. 34's status remains a question mark:

Celtics' captain Paul Pierce (left knee sprain) practiced briefly Monday and will be held out of Tuesday's training session, according to coach Doc Rivers. Pierce's status for the Celtics-Golden State Warriors contest Wednesday has not been determined.

Coach Doc Rivers is regretting having played Paul Saturday, which may play a role in the decision on Wednesday's game:

"I shouldn't have played him," Rivers said of Pierce's appearance against the Pacers. "But he talked me into it."

Pierce participated in agility drills Monday, then went to the sidelines as the Celtics scrimmaged, working out on a stationary bicycle, then going to the lockerroom to have his knee taped."

The Celtics and Warriors tip at 7:30 EST on Wednesday night and all the action can be seen on CSN. Check for the latest on The Truth's knee and his status for Wednesday's tilt.

Celtics worn down by Pace (The Boston Globe, November 15, 2009)
Atlanta 97, Boston 86: Hawks show growth (Concord Monitor, Nov. 17, 2009‎)
Celts underachieve ; Indiana delivers KO punch in 4th quarter (American Chronicle, Nov. 16, 2009)
Pierce takes blame in loss (ESPN Boston, November 16, 2009)
Rivers: Pierce shouldn't have played (Boston Globe Celtics Blog, November 17, 2009)