MIAMI - Celtics captain Paul Pierce is hoping the team’s championship runs are not over, making an appeal for Kevin Garnett to extend his Celtic career after a 101-88 loss to the Heat Saturday night in Game 7.
“He’s done everything for my career, just his locker room presence, his desire, his determination,’’ Pierce said of Garnett. “Just his leadership. I said before, when Kevin first got here he really changed the culture of everything we did around here, you know, practice habits to the discipline. He made everybody accountable, from the ball boys to the chefs to the guy who flew the plane, everybody was accountable.
“It’s been tremendous to have him around, just the culture he brought, you know? It’d be great to end my career with Kevin. I have a couple years left and, who knows what his future’s going to bring - management can do something to bring him back and get us the pieces we need to get over the top. If not, it’s been a tremendous run.’’
Pierce scored 19 points but was scoreless over the final 9:52.
“It’s tough, everything is going so fast right now,’’ Pierce said.
“Disappointed by the loss, you feel like you let your teammates down, especially to not accomplish your goal to win a championship - a lot of emotions.
“We had our opportunities, had a chance to close it out in Game 6 at home, and we didn’t take advantage of it.’’
The postseason started for the Celtics without Ray Allen, who could face ankle surgery, and they lost Avery Bradley (shoulder surgery) along the way. Pierce had been performing with a knee sprain.
The way in the playoffs was cleared for the Celtics, as their first-round opponents, the Hawks, lost Josh Smith (knee sprain) at a key point in the series, and the Bulls lost star guard Derrick Rose to knee surgery. Then, the Heat lost Chris Bosh (abdominal strain), who returned for Game 5 of this series and had 19 points and eight rebounds Saturday.
“Let’s just be honest,’’ Celtics coach Doc Rivers said before Game 7. “If you had told me before the playoffs started that you can have a Game 7 to decide to go to the Finals, we’d have taken it and we didn’t care where you played.’’
The Celtics had Miami on the ropes after taking a 94-90 win in Game 5, but were blown out, 98-79, in Game 6.
“When you lose, it always feels like it’s it,’’ Allen said. “There’s a conclusion. Last year it felt like it was it. The year before it felt the same way. It’s probably the worst feeling that we feel in our lives, in our careers. There’s nothing you can do about it.
“There’s one game that you want, there’s one team that wins that last game. We want to be that team every year. If we don’t - we’ve been through a lot. We won a lot of games. At the end of every season, it always feels like it’s it. This one hit me hard. We wanted it so bad.’’
The Celtics are 2-3 in Game 7s since the 2007-08 season and 21-8 overall in Game 7s. The Celtics’ last Game 7 road victory was in the 1974 Finals against Milwaukee (102-87). The Celtics also defeated Philadelphia (100-96) on the road in Game 7 of the 1968 division finals.
“I’ve been in a lot of them,’’ Rivers said Friday. “I just think you prepare the way you prepare. Obviously, in Game 7s, that means you have six games of great film to look at, and you can look at all the tweaks and changes that each team has made. But at the end of the day, you’ve just got to go out and perform. You have to make shots, you have to rebound, you have to do all the things you’ve probably talked about in Game 1 of the regular season up. And you have to do it with an urgency.’’
The Celtics’ early plan was to get Garnett involved offensively down on the post. “I don’t think we did a very good job with it,’’ Rivers said of Game 6. “He really made the first post shot, and then he didn’t get one for 10 touches, I think. I counted. I thought they threw him out of his rhythm. We threw him out of his rhythm. And all great scorers or great players are rhythmic.’’ I didn’t think we did a very good job of keeping him within the rhythm of our offense.’’ . . . Allen arrived at AmericanAirlines Arena for pre-practice shooting at about 10 a.m. “I didn’t ask,’’ Rivers said of Allen’s condition. “I don’t want to know and I don’t care. I always try to take the same position. How would LeBron [James] or [Dwyane] Wade - I guarantee they’re not going to ask Ray, ‘How are you feeling?’ ’’ . . . Rivers said the Celtics’ bench “is what it’s been all year. I think for our bench, it depends on what you’re looking at. Our bench is a defensive bench. When they give us points, that’s great. But when they come in with great energy and change the tempo of the game, they’re having an impact on our team.’’