PHILADELPHIA - Celtics captain Paul Pierce made a concerted effort Wednesday night to make up for his 2-for-9 shooting performance in Game 2. Pierce went 2 for 10 in the opening half but finished with 24 points and 12 rebounds in Boston’s 107-91 victory over the 76ers in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference semifinals.
“I just wanted to be aggressive, regardless,’’ Pierce said. “Everything I do was going to be aggressive, and that’s it. When I’m getting limited to nine shots in a game, that’s not me.’’
Coach Doc Rivers noted Pierce had five offensive rebounds in the opening half.
“We talked about it before, if what you do well is not there, what else are you going to do to help your team as a group?’’ Rivers said. “Paul was a great example for that. I thought a lot of guys had those type of games.’’
Pierce said his sprained left knee was not a problem.
“I’ve been feeling good all series,’’ he said. “I thought we really came out in the third quarter and established it early. We haven’t really had a great third quarter in this series and I thought that was important, especially because teams like to come out at home and get the crowd going.
“You know, they’re a confident team. Look at the way the games have been going, they probably should have won Game 2, so we wanted to come out and try to establish who we are as a team, offensively and defensively, and try to take some confidence away from them. They’re confident, especially the way they played us all year long and the first two games, and I thought key for us was to get a win like that tonight.’’
Pierce is a proponent of Boston’s three-guard lineup.
“I thought the small lineup really helped us out a lot,’’ he said. “There was more room out there, the lane wasn’t as clogged. That’s a good lineup for us.’’
Garnett sounds off
Kevin Garnett also had a point to make.
“After [Game 2], I just came in and said we’re not beating anybody, and that includes JV teams and high school teams, if we weren’t going to play together,’’ Garnett said. “We worked so hard to get to there and we did it together. Ubuntu. I had to just remind the guys, the younger guys, new guys, how we succeeded here and our creed and Celtic basketball - who we are here.
“The biggest challenge is to come out and try to repeat that effort and know your effort was on the defensive end more than anything. As far as a supreme effort, it has to be supreme effort from a defensive standpoint.
“This team has a lot of young legs, a lot of individual players that can put up buckets. We have to respect that and be ready for it. When you beat a team like this you have to expect them to come out with a lot of energy, and we’ll be ready and have a lot of energy ourselves. So, we’ll see what happens.’’
Mickael Pietrus was without a 3-pointer in six of seven playoff games before converting two in Game 2, and went 3 for 4 from long distance and scored 13 points Wednesday.
“I thought he broke through last game, honestly,’’ Rivers said. “He’s a shooter and so he’s got to keep shooting - I thought there was a stretch where he didn’t want to. But his value is his defense. If he makes a shot it’s gravy and that’s great. His value for us - he’s a great defensive player and he understands team defense. He’s invaluable for us.’’
Ryan Hollins’s first action as a Celtic was as a designated free throw shooter after Pietrus was fouled during the Sixers’ 99-86 win March 23. Pietrus, who sustained a concussion, was taken by stretcher to an ambulance, and the Sixers chose Hollins to shoot the foul shots, marking the first time he stepped on the court as a Celtic. Hollins had 3 points and three blocked shots in a 16-minute stint in his return to the Wells Fargo Center Wednesday. “He’s doing the right stuff, defending, running the floor,’’ Rivers said of Hollins before the game. “He’s an instigator. We haven’t had a lot of choices. We are really thin with our ‘bigs.’ One of them has to surprise us with their play. The first series maybe overwhelmed [Greg Stiemsma], but now he’s back to where he was.’’ . . . The playoffs have been marked by low-scoring contests and inconsistent offense. “A lot of it is defense,’’ Rivers said before Game 3. “I don’t think a close game is ever ugly. A 122-120 or 71-70, to me, if it comes down to the end and it’s close game the crowd is excited. Because of lack of practices I do think execution - you see it every night - has hurt teams. That’s just the way it is, so defense has the advantage.’’
Frank Dell’Apa can be reached at email@example.com.