CHICAGO - Paul Pierce took more than his share of big shots in the fourth quarter of Wednesday’s loss to the San Antonio Spurs, including a tying 3-pointer that sparked a late Celtics’ run. Yet, as he has often over the past two seasons, he struggled taking the potential winning shot.
For the third time this season, Pierce missed a potential winning shot or failed to get it off before the buzzer. The latter was the case Jan. 29 in an 88-87 loss to the Cavaliers after Kyrie Irving capped a 12-0 run with a layup with 2.1 seconds left.
On Feb. 9 against the Lakers, Pierce missed mid-range jumpers that would have won the game in regulation and overtime in an 88-87 loss. And in Wednesday’s 87-86 defeat, he elected to try a step-back 20-footer despite being defended by 35-year-old center Tim Duncan.
Pierce was asked after Wednesday’s loss about his decision-making in those situations. In previous games, Pierce has sometimes had to shoot because a teammate made a mistake on the pick and roll. But Wednesday, Celtics coach Doc Rivers said the team wanted the Pierce-Duncan matchup.
“They usually do [switch] on Paul,’’ Rivers said. “And they had a foul to give. We actually said that they probably would and we were trying to get Duncan on a Paul matchup because we thought we had the speed advantage. We wanted him to go a little quicker because I thought he could’ve beat him off the dribble and he would’ve reached the foul line and you know Paul has a knack of getting the ball up. But, his step-back is what he wants. I just thought we waited a little too late in the clock.’’
Late-game execution has been a major issue for the Celtics this season as well as trying to execute quarter-ending plays. Pierce was visibly disappointed that he missed the shot but unapologetic about his approach.
“You just play the game and see what happens,’’ Pierce said. “You don’t know what to expect. There’s numerous possibilities of things that could have happened when I came off the pick and roll. They could have switched. They could have trapped. Stephen Jackson could have stayed on me, but that’s not what I am thinking about.
“You know you play a lot of this game on instincts. Things that happen, they happen on the fly, they happen so quick. I like the shot that I took. I play the game in instincts.’’
Allen working it out
Ray Allen was not quite himself in his first game back since March 19 in Atlanta. Allen’s sore right ankle was injected with cortisone Sunday and he said the flexibility was back.
Rivers still showed confidence enough in calling a major for play for Allen despite the fact he had not hit a 3-pointer until he canned a pivotal long ball with 39.8 seconds left to bring the Celtics to within 1.
“He’s a veteran, he understands,’’ Pierce said. “He’s been in those situations time and time again. The great ones, they find ways, through sickness, through injury. Ray is definitely a great one. You kind to come to expect it from him.’’
Allen, who played 35 minutes Wednesday, didn’t start against the Bulls, Avery Bradley getting the call instead.
Rose sits out
Derrick Rose missed his 12th consecutive game Thursday with a strained groin. Rose participated in the team’s morning shootaround but was ruled out after a pregame workout. It was the third time this season the Celtics faced the Bulls without Rose. They split the previous two.
Waiting for Pietrus
Rivers said swingman Mickael Pietrus could begin his concussion tests Friday. Pietrus, who has been out since sustaining a concussion in a scary fall March 23, has to pass a series of NBA-mandated neurological and physical tests and also be cleared by a league doctor before being allowed to return. “We need to get Mickael back soon,’’ Rivers said. “I don’t know if that’s going to happen.’’ . . . Rivers said former Celtics assistant and Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau and Spurs coach Gregg Popovich should be the main candidates for NBA coach of the year. The Bulls, with Rose missing 22 games with injury, have the league’s best record . . . Rivers said he has kept rookies JaJuan Johnson and E’Twaun Moore away from the NBADL because of the shortened season. Moore has played 239 minutes and Johnson 231, the fewest of any Celtic except newcomer Ryan Hollins.