After Paul Pierce exploded for 36 points and 14 rebounds in 44 grueling minutes in Game 2, Rivers had a good idea of how he would have reacted in his early days coaching against the Celtics.
Rivers always seemed to be at a loss for how the stumbling, herky-jerky forward could take over games despite Pierce’s perceived limitations.
“He was frustrating to coach against because you didn’t see how good he was,” Rivers said Thursday at the Celtics’ practice facility. “I’ve told Paul, I was always upset when he had a good game against us. This guy, who doesn’t look in great shape, doesn’t look athletic and looks slow as molasses, just had 30 on us. There’s many times I’ve blown up our whole locker room over Paul Pierce, going ‘How do you let this guy beat you?’”
Since Rivers began coaching Pierce in 2004, though, he has developed respect for Pierce’s deceptive athleticism and professional approach. Fittingly, Pierce’s performance on Tuesday included more than a few moments that must have left Drew — and would have left Rivers in the past — pulling out his hair.
“Some of the guys I yelled at, I should go apologize to, because Paul’s pretty good,” Rivers said. “You learn that.”
For Pierce’s next trick, he will have to keep from trying to do too much in Game 3. Rivers noted that with Rajon Rondo‘s return from a one-game suspension, Pierce does not need to go into the game intent on scoring nearly 40 points again — although if he does, Rivers would not complain.
“In golf, they always say the best guy to play is the guy who shot a 61 the day before, because he’s going to try to duplicate it,” Rivers said. “In ours, that’d be an 80. You always worry about that, but I never even voice it, because then you’re talking them down and I don’t want to do that, either. The play will tell me and then I’ll have to react.”
Whether Pierce feels the need to “do everything,” as he admitted he did in Game 2, was not clear. Pierce declined to speak with reporters at Thursday’s practice, but as he walked off the court to the team’s film session, he announced, “I’ll talk to you all after Game 3.”
His play alone was enough to fill the notebooks for two days. Many people in Atlanta were still trying to figure out how in the world they let this guy beat them, after all, and he did not see the need to give them any hints.