Not quite 48 hours later, Paul Pierce has a shot a redemption.
It's not like his ejection from Game 1 of the Celts' Eastern Conference Semifinal Series against the Heat on Sunday cost the C's the game. They were going down anyway, thanks to a slow start, a couple of subpar games from Kevin Garnett and Rajon Rondo and the otherworldly play of Dwayne Wade combined the with the game of Heat reserve James Jones's life. But to allow himself to even be near the situation he was in at the seven-minute mark of the fourth quarter, when he got his second technical foul in less than a minute and was tossed by trigger-happy official Ed Molloy was plain irresponsible and unacceptable. The calls against both Pierce and Jones and wade that led to the ejection may have been overblown, but Pierce, his team's captain, an NBA champion and Finals MVP, has to know better.
"I was more disappointed in letting my teammates down," Pierce told reporters at practice on Monday. "I'm too important to this team to be putting myself in those situations."
It sounds like Pierce gets it. The Celts had better hope so if they want to bounce back and steal Game 2 on Tuesday night at 7 p.m. EDT, on TNT. After beating the Heat the first three times the two teams met this season, Boston has now lost the last two and hardly wants to return home for Saturday's Game 3 down 2-0.
In addition to getting a more focused, upright performance from Pierce on Tuesday night, the Celts will need much more from Garnett and Rondo than they got in Game 1. Rondo picked up two fouls in the game's opening minutes and three in the first quarter, limiting him to six minutes in the first half which never allowed him to get on track. He finished with a pedestrian eight points and seven assists, numbers that msut improve going forward, especially given that the Heat counter with the less than impressive duo of Mike Bibby and Mario Chalmers at the point.
As for Garnett, he followed up his stellar performance in the first round against the Knicks with an inexplicable no-show in Game 1. In 37 minutes, he took only nine shots, missing six of them, and finishing with a non-impactful six points and eight boards. Garnett must do more on the offensive end if the C's are going to win, especially against Miami's Chris Bosh, who not only is mediocre defensively but looked uncomfortable bordering on scared of the stage and magnitude of the matchup in Game 1.
On defense, the C's will live with the numbers put up by LeBron James on Sunday (22 points, six rebounds, five assists) but must contain Wade more effectively on Tuesday night. Wade exploded for 38 points on 14-of-21 shooting in Game 1, taking charge of the Heat's offense in the early going and never letting up. Jones's 25 points on 5-of-7 from long range and a perfect 10-of-10 from the free throw line was unexpected to say the least, especially given his season average of 5.9 points per game, and unlikely to happen again. But it proved that even though the Heat had one of the worst benches in the league statistically during the regular season, anyone can come out of nowhere and provide a jolt and the Celtics subsequently must be wary.
Finally, despite looking "phenomenal" in Monday's practice according to coach Doc Rivers, Shaquille O'Neal is doubtful for Game 2. But fear not, Celtics fans - Shaq is "likely to play in Game 3. Hallelujah.