Celtics’ Pierce Is Angry at Himself After Ejection

Since then, Pierce has become a respected leader, a champion, a finals most valuable player and a likely Hall of Famer. He is generally more cool-headed than the guy who was ejected from a first-round game against Indiana in 2005, and more conscious of potential consequences. His memory may be selective, however.

Pierce spoke with remorse on Monday, a day after being ejected in the fourth quarter of a 99-90 loss to the . He said he let down his teammates. He vowed to “do a better job of keeping my composure.”

And, he added, “I don’t think nobody here has ever seen me lose my composure — what I consider losing my composure.”

Composure may be in the eye of the beholder. Pierce surely lost it six years ago, in a Game 6 against the , when he threw a forearm into Jamaal Tinsley in the final seconds of regulation. Pierce was ejected, but the Celtics won in overtime.

Back then, Pierce was a young, frustrated All-Star, trapped on a middling team without enough talent. His world, and to an extent his demeanor, changed two years later when the Celtics acquired and Ray Allen. They won the championship in 2008, and Pierce was named M.V.P. of the series.

At 33, Pierce is nearing elder statesman status, with a better sense of his mission and his importance and the consequences of impulsive behavior. What happened Sunday night, then, was something of a throwback moment.

Pierce earned two technical fouls in 59 seconds, both for reacting aggressively to hard fouls. The second technical, with seven minutes left, brought an automatic ejection.

Pierce had just scored 7 straight points for the Celtics, who were rallying back from a 19-point deficit. They were 13 behind when Pierce headed to the locker room. Without him, the rally sputtered and the Heat claimed a 1-0 lead in the second-round series. Game 2 is Tuesday night.

“I was more disappointed at letting my teammates down,” Pierce said before practice at the . He added: “When you put yourself in a situation that you can control and it hurts your team, that’s what I was most upset about. And I can’t do that. I’m too important to this team to be putting myself in that situation.”

In the first instance, James Jones clobbered Pierce around the shoulders on a jump shot. Pierce bellowed angrily at Jones, then shoved his nose into Jones’s cheek. It fell short of a head-butt, as some initially described it, but the aggression could have prompted additional discipline. Both players received technical fouls.

“I’m definitely worried,” Pierce said of a possible suspension, “because if it’s a situation where it affects my team, then it was very selfish.”

League officials later concluded that his actions did not warrant a suspension, removing one major concern for Boston.

The Celtics contended that Jones should have been assessed a flagrant foul. The league agreed and on Monday reclassified his personal foul to a flagrant foul-1, while also rescinding Jones’s technical foul. The league also downgraded ’s flagrant foul (issued in the third quarter) to a personal foul.

The league took no action on Dwyane Wade’s hard foul on Pierce, which led to Pierce’s ejection. Pierce verbally assaulted Wade after the play.

“I probably overreacted,” Pierce said. “I thought I was fouled excessively on both plays, actually.”

In the immediate aftermath of Game 1, Celtics Coach characterized the Heat’s posture as “chippy,” a description that seemed almost complimentary. But the Celtics have generally been the ones applying the extra elbow or shoulder in recent years.

“I expected it that way, honestly,” Rivers said Monday. “That’s fine by us. We don’t mind that. That makes the game enjoyable. But we didn’t handle it very well.”

Rajon Rondo was hampered by early foul trouble and came apart in the fourth quarter after Pierce was ejected. Garnett, who usually leads the team in snarls and body checks, was a nonfactor, scoring only 6 points.

Rivers said the Heat “hit first the entire game,” literally and otherwise. “I thought they played the game with a better force than we played the game with,” he said. “And that’s something that shouldn’t happen.”

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Elbows Land but Shots Miss as Knicks Lose to Celtics

Anthony had collided with Rajon Rondo as they jostled for an inbounds pass near midcourt. Anthony lay stunned on the court as Rondo expertly navigated the lane and passed the ball to Glen Davis for a jumper that stretched Boston’s lead to 4 points with a minute remaining.

Again, the Knicks’ defense collapsed, allowing Boston to rally from a 15-point deficit and post a 96-86 victory Monday night. The Knicks have lost three straight games and are 7-9 since trading for Anthony. There is little relief on the horizon as and the will visit the Garden on Wednesday.

The Knicks (35-35) are .500 for the first time since February, when a loss to the dropped them to 26-26.

Coach expressed concern about how his team faltered in the final minutes.

“We just got to a point there, I just thought we just panicked,” he said.

As the loss settled in, Anthony watched from the bench and attended to his eye. “It just got out of our hands a couple plays down the stretch,” he said.

Anthony scored a team-high 22 points but had only 5 in the second half. Amar’e Stoudemire added 16. Neither Anthony nor Stoudemire had a field goal in the fourth quarter.

“We have to keep playing the way that we play to get the lead,” Stoudemire said. “We can’t all of a sudden change our method in the fourth quarter or the second half.”

D’Antoni said: “I’m getting to a point where we got to figure something out, because it’s not real good right now, obviously. And there’s no reason why we can’t figure it out. We got two scorers on the floor like Amar’e and Carmelo, then we got to do a little bit better job.”

With 12 games remaining, the possibility of a Knicks-Celtics playoff pairing is real. It will be an abbreviated first round if the Knicks and Anthony do not quickly adapt to one another.

If the teams meet again, both will have added motivation. Jared Jeffries glanced Ray Allen with an elbow in the third quarter, leaving Allen with a cut above his right eye while his mother, Flora Allen-Hopson, watched from a courtside seat next to .

Earlier in the game, Anthony grabbed a rebound and struck Davis with an elbow that left Davis momentarily dazed.

Later, Anthony’s hard foul sent Paul Pierce sprawling.

“It was a bloodbath, but it was beautiful,” Celtics Coach said. Allen’s cut added to his frustrating night. He shot abnormally poor: 5 of 16. Pierce was limited by foul trouble but still managed 21 points, including a key shot with 55 seconds left.

After Pierce’s shot, Toney Douglas missed two 3-pointers and Shawne Williams missed one.

led Boston with 24 points and 11 rebounds.

An earlier Pierce 3-pointer, Boston’s first, brought the Celtics to 4 points behind, at 82-76, with 6 minutes 45 seconds left. The shot came shortly after Chauncey Billups converted a 4-point play, created when Rondo fouled him as he made a 3-pointer, to give the Knicks a 9-point lead.

Garnett tied the score, 82-82, on a layup, and Boston (50-19) did not trail again.

The Knicks returned home after dreadful losses to Detroit and Milwaukee. Anthony performed better Sunday against the after sulking during a poor performance against the .

Against Boston, Anthony started efficiently and made quick decisions. He scored 7 points before he picked up his second foul and sat the rest of the quarter. In a display of their erratic play, the Knicks scored 9 points — their total in the first quarter against Milwaukee — in the first 3:27 against the Celtics.

The Knicks opened the second quarter with a 14-4 run. Ronny Turiaf supplied energy with two baskets, and Anthony picked up where he left off. He finished the first half with 17 points.

Anthony indicated Sunday that it could take until next season before the Knicks blossomed into a quality team. The Knicks’ president, , disputed that notion.

“Yeah, I don’t want to hear that,” Walsh said of Anthony’s statement. “I understand what he’s saying, because you put it in the context of really good teams are together for a long time. We’re trying to compete against some teams that have been together for a long time. That’s like an uphill fight sometimes.”

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Pierce Scores 31 to Lead Celtics Past Nets 94-80

BOSTON (AP) — Paul Pierce bounced back from one of the worst games of his career to score 31 points Wednesday night and lead the to a 94-80 victory over the .

With the win, the Celtics head into the All-Star break with the best record in the Eastern Conference.

Pierce, who was 0 for 10 and had one point in Sunday’s victory over the , scored seven points during a 16-0 run late in the fourth quarter as the Celtics turned a one-point deficit into a blowout.

scored 14 points with 10 rebounds for Boston.

Brook Lopez scored 18 points and Devin Harris had 16 for the Nets, who scored just 10 points in the fourth quarter and had just two free throws in the last 6:17 of the game.

Ray Allen scored 12 points and Rajon Rondo — Boston’s fourth All-Star — had seven points and eight assists. Allen sank a 3-pointer with 5:58 left in the fourth quarter to give the Celtics an 80-78 lead and start them on a 16-0 run.

Pierce, who missed his first four 3-point attempts, sank one from the top of the circle with 3:56 left to give Boston an 85-78 lead. That gave him 1,542 in his career, tying for 12th on the NBA’s career list a mere 1,022 behind Allen, who broke ‘s NBA record last week.

Pierce and Allen will represent the Celtics in the NBA’s 3-point contest during All-Star weekend in Los Angeles.

The Nets did not score again until Derrick Favors hit a pair of free throws with 55 seconds left.

The Celtics had lost three of their last five games, but they head into the break percentage points ahead of , Dwyane Wade and Miami in the East. After losing to the on Thursday in an NBA finals rematch, Boston beat the Heat on Sunday to clinch the season-series against them.

The Celtics scored the first eight points of the game and led by 15 in the first quarter. It was a seven-point game with 3½ minutes left in the half when Morrow hit a 3-pointer as the Nets outscored Boston 10-3 heading into the break to tie the game at 46.

New Jersey then made the first four baskets of the second half — two by Lopez, two by Harris — to take its first lead of the game and eventually open a nine-point lead. But it was all Celtics in the fourth quarter.

Notes: Nets F Travis Outlaw went down after collision with Luke Harangody in the fourth quarter, but he was able to walk off on his own. … New Jersey coach Avery Johnson called a timeout just 29 seconds into the game after the Celtics scored on their opening possession. … Ray Allen and Paul Pierce, who will represent the Celtics in the 3-point contest at the All-Star game, missed their first five shots from beyond the arc and finished 2 for 7. … The Nets won 104-96 in Boston on Feb. 27 last year for one of their four road wins in the season. They have won four already this season. … New Jersey is 0-9 vs. the Atlantic Division.

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