Lakers coach Phil Jackson is famous for his ability to work officials with his postgame comments. Celtics coach Doc Rivers has caught on and appears to be employing the same tactics.
Two games after Celtics guard Ray Allen was slowed by early foul trouble in a Game 1 loss to L.A., and one game after Kevin Garnett picked up two early fouls that led him to the bench, Paul Pierce was restricted by foul trouble in Game 3.
Rivers was visibly frustrated with the officiating after the Celtics’ 91-84 loss to the Lakers, ESPN.com reports. His frustration was most vocal in regards to calls on Pierce throughout the night, calls Rivers felt kept his star forward from getting any sort of offensive rhythm.
"Every time he [Pierce] came on the floor, another whistle blows and he had to sit down," Rivers said, according to ESPN.com. "He was completely taken out of the game by the calls. … Every game so far, we’ve had one of our top players in foul trouble. Maybe I should start complaining about fouls. Maybe I can get a turnaround like it was turned around [in Game 3.] It was amazing."
Pierce finished the game with 15 points on a pedestrian 5-of-12 shooting in only 34 minutes. Many have attributed Pierce’s lackluster offensive output in the Finals so far to Lakers stopper Ron Artest’s individual defensive abilities, but Rivers is not ready to do that – yet.
"I’ll give Artest credit when he deserves it, but this was more Paul Pierce had to sit on the bench," Rivers explained. “He’d play five minutes, have to go back down, four minutes have to sit."
Pierce, however, was a little bit less critical of the officials, and realized that his team was the one that needed to start making adjustments, not those with the whistles.
"We’ve got to a better job of not fouling,” Pierce said on Boston.com. "Every game, it seems like one of one of our key players is in foul trouble. I think maybe it’s the excitement of the championship. Maybe it’s understanding that the referees are calling it tight [or] knowing when they’re calling it tight or letting you play a little bit. We’ve got to do a better job of understanding that but … no excuses."
The Celtics get a shot at redemption Thursday as the series resumes with Game 4 at the TD Garden.