AUBURN HILLS, Mich. — If Paul Pierce is concerned about his recent shooting struggles, he isn’t showing it. The Celtics’ leading scorer is shooting 35.3 percent from the field in his past four games, missing 16 of 19 3-point attempts.
The Celtics experienced trouble scoring in losses to New Orleans and Chicago, relying on staunch defense to stay competitive. Pierce said he doesn’t consider his recent skid a legitimate slump.
“It’s nothing I’m worried about,” he said before Sunday’s 103-88 loss to the Pistons, in which he shot 5 of 10 for 10 points. “Nothing feels different.”
Pierce’s numbers have declined in January. His 17-point average is 3.8 lower than in December, and he is shooting 64.7 percent from the free throw line. His season average is 79.4.
“He’s just not making shots right now, he’s getting a lot of them,” coach Doc Rivers said. “But he’s not making them. So as a coach you keep looking at the attempts and I thought overall they were pretty good attempts. I still would like him in the post a little bit more. I think that’s his spot now.
“I think getting bodies off him has been better for him.”
As Pierce gets older, Rivers would like to see him get easier baskets.
“I think he has become a better catch-and-shoot player for us,” Rivers said. “And he needs it now because he gets picks.”
About 20 minutes after Rivers declared him doubtful to play Sunday, Avery Bradley was back in the starting lineup after missing Friday’s loss to the Bulls because of bruised ribs. Bradley participated in the morning shootaround and worked out with strength and conditioning coach Bryan Doo before being declared healthy.
Bradley scored 6 points in 19 minutes, wincing at times in pain because of his ribs.
“I just lost my breath, got hit by [Robin] Lopez in the ribs,” said Bradley of the injury he sustained Wednesday against the Hornets. “At first it hurt but the adrenaline had me going until I sat down on the bench and I felt it. And obviously later on in the night I could really feel it.”
Bradley has missed significant time because of injuries during his first three seasons.
“Very frustrated. I already missed a lot of games this year,” he said. “Not to be able to be there for my team is frustrating. I definitely feel as I get older, I’ll be able to pick my spots to be able to protect myself so I am not getting injured as much. It’s hard because it’s how I’ve always played. I’m going to be like a soldier going to battle. I’m going to have to wear all the pads, all the mouthpieces and those things to try to protect myself.”
Barbosa ‘happy here’
Contrary to what he was quoted as saying in a Brazilian publication, Leandro Barbosa does not want to be traded.
“It’s not true, I never said I wanted to get traded or any of that talk that you guys saw in the media,” he said. “I’m happy here and I knew it was going to be the situation I’m in. I didn’t say that [about being traded].”
Barbosa said he was shocked at the article.
“They even said that I would come back to Brazil to play in Brazil, like leave Boston to play there,” Barbosa said. “It’s strange for me. I don’t know who said that. It wasn’t me. I talked to [team president] Danny [Ainge]. Danny knows what it is. I’m happy here.
“I had an interview but it was nothing about me coming back to Brazil. It was just how was the situation here in Boston. I was happy about it and waiting for my chance to come.”
Barbosa, averaging a career-low 10.8 minutes per game, acknowledged he wants a more prominent role in the guard rotation.
“Definitely I wanted to play more but my role right now is this,” he said. “Coach has been talking to me and told me to stay ready and the minutes that I have, I’m going to try to help the team. It’s a good experience for me. It’s a championship team, a lot of good veterans and I’m learning a lot.”
Rivers said Barbosa had been battling back issues and was nearly scratched from Sunday’s game but was cleared to play. He scored 4 points in seven minutes.
Fab Melo helped the Maine Red Claws of the Development League to a 110-106 win over the Iowa Energy on Saturday with 13 points, 11 rebounds, and 4 blocks. The rookie 7-footer is healthy after missing nearly two weeks with a concussion . . . Before the game, the Pistons dedicated their press room to former public relations director Matt Dobek, who worked 30 years for the organization. He died in 2010 at age 51 . . . Rivers said he didn’t know whether Ainge submitted video of the controversial jump-ball call Friday against Chicago to league headquarters.Gary Washburn can be reached at email@example.com. You can follow him on Twitter at @gwashNBAGlobe