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Celtics Notebook

Pierce not dogged by doubts

He expects better execution tonight

If Paul Pierce and the Celtics lose Game 2, the Lakers will be halfway home to another banner. If Paul Pierce and the Celtics lose Game 2, the Lakers will be halfway home to another banner. (Jim Davis/Globe Staff)
By Frank Dell’Apa
Globe Staff / June 6, 2010

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EL SEGUNDO, Calif. — Paul Pierce acknowledged that the Celtics are in the underdog role after losing the opening game of the NBA Finals. But Pierce said the team has not lost faith in itself.

“That’s fine,’’ Pierce said of fans thinking the Lakers have the edge in the series. “That’s the way we feel going into the playoffs, that’s the way we feel now, it doesn’t matter who believes in us. The important thing is the guys in the locker room believe.

“To be honest, I really don’t even hear that stuff. I don’t hear what people are saying. Obviously, we’re going to be an underdog because of our record, with the way we’re playing.

“But as far as hearing about how we played, and how we performed, and not being the favorite, I really don’t get caught up in that. I don’t really watch too much TV, I don’t read the press clippings, so that doesn’t factor to what my thinking is approaching each game.’’

Pierce’s formula for success in Game 2 tonight?

“Our execution is going to be there, our defensive scheme is going to be there,’’ he said. “It’s just about how hard, how willing you are to sacrifice your body, go out there and do it, on the court for 48 minutes.

“We haven’t changed too much throughout the whole year, throughout the playoffs, about the way we play, about the way we prepare, so we just have to go out there a little bit faster, a little bit harder.

“Obviously, we have three games at home, but the most important game is the next game up, and that’s No. 2. We don’t want to dig ourselves too deep of a hole. We haven’t been in a two-game deficit in all playoffs. It’s definitely important for us to bounce back in Game 2, so we don’t find ourselves clawing to get back in the series before you go home for three games. Either way, when you go home, games aren’t guaranteed. Even though you’ve got three games, you’ve still got to go and play them.’’

But Pierce is hoping the Celtics will grasp this opportunity.

“You’re talking about the last series of basketball for the entire year, for the grand prize,’’ Pierce said. “So, if guys aren’t willing to give it their all or sacrifice whatever they need to do at this point of the season, shame on them, truthfully.’’

No holding back
Center Kendrick Perkins plans to be more aggressive tonight.

“It was a few times [in Game 1] when I probably would have went in there and mixed it up a little bit and I didn’t,’’ Perkins said. “It’s times when you want to get in there, mix it up, go in there and bang a little bit, but you’ve just got to pick and choose.

“In a way I was [holding back]. This game coming up, I’m just going to be myself. We’ve got to get this win, so whatever it takes.’’

Stops, then start
The Celtics are thinking defense first. “We have not proven that we can stop them yet,’’ coach Doc Rivers said. “If we’re going to be in the 100s every game, that’s not good for us.’’

And if the defense functions as it should, Rajon Rondo can kick the transition game into gear.

“If we can get multiple stops, we can get multiple runs, so we’ve got to get stops,’’ Rivers said.

Pierce knows how important it is to turn Rondo loose on the Lakers.

“When you don’t get stops, that means you’re taking the ball out every time down, [and] it doesn’t allow Rondo to get out there and use his speed in transition for fast breaks,’’ Pierce said. “It’s important for us to do a better job securing the rebound after the shot and getting the ball in his hands so his speed and play-making ability can become a factor in Game 2. So we’ve got to make a concentrated effort and do a better job of that.’’

Daniels may play
Marquis Daniels (concussion) was scheduled to practice at full speed yesterday and could be available tonight. “That’s a big surprise for us,’’ Rivers said. “I thought he was out for the playoffs.’’ . . . Rivers said Rondo has a gluteus maximus problem. “It’s been tight, you see him doing the stretch every chance he gets,’’ Rivers said. “Listen, everyone has something going on with their bodies right now. The NBA playoffs are very difficult, by the time you get to the Finals there’s a chance that every single guy on the floor has some kind of [injury], and we’re not different than anybody else.’’ . . . Pierce on the foul problems that limited Ray Allen in the opener: “Obviously, Ray is huge in everything we do both sides of the ball. When you take one of your clutch, premier players out of the game, it does have an effect. When you don’t have him out there guarding Kobe [Bryant] like he has been doing, it hurts your chemistry. Especially early, getting into foul trouble, that hasn’t been a characteristic of his game. That’s part of the game and other guys have to step up, but not having him out there definitely hurts.’’ . . . Pierce on coaching legend John Wooden: “What John Wooden has done for basketball, I look at him really on the same level of what Red Auerbach did. I had a chance to meet him a couple times and I think that UCLA, the tradition of what he built there, is kind of similar to what they’ve done in Boston and what they’ve done here in Los Angeles.’’

Frank Dell’Apa can be reached at f_dellapa@globe.com.

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