Celtics notebook

Pierce became a star witness

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By Julian Benbow
Globe Staff / October 27, 2010

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The pun was completely accidental.

Ray Allen shoved the dagger into the Heat with a corner-pocket 3-pointer with 49 seconds left, and since he was the one who fed Allen the ball, Paul Pierce happened to have a bird’s-eye view of the game-clinching bucket.

He was, as he put it, “a witness.’’

The Celtics fended off a late surge by LeBron James and the Heat and Allen’s shot sealed the 88-80 season-opening win.

James’s “Witness’’ billboard — a Nike production — became a famous landmark during his time in Cleveland. It was taken down shortly after James left town.

“I’ve been a witness of it the last three years, and he’s one of the best players that I’ve ever played with,’’ Pierce said of Allen. “It’s an honor just to be able to step on the court with him night in and night out. You’ve got a guy that can take that kind of pressure off you, it’s an amazing feeling.

“I don’t know if you guys realize it, but Ray, he’s hit so many game winners for us and so many clutch shots for us, we have confidence to get him the ball in these situations. He delivers nine times out of 10.’’

At that point, Kevin Garnett chimed in, “And this guy hits big shots himself.’’

Pierce responded, “I like watching, too.’’

The setup was one of Pierce’s three on the night, and during the timeout before the play Celtics coach Doc Rivers made sure to stress the importance of the extra pass.

“We drew a play out of the timeout, and the only thing we said is if it’s not there, it won’t be there because they have to rotate, and if they rotate, if we make the next pass, the ball will find the open guy,’’ Rivers said. “And that was terrific. [Pierce] had a shot, but it would have been contested, and he made the extra pass.’’

Opening Act II
It would be like going to dinner with Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie one night, then having brunch with Jennifer Aniston the next day. Fresh off their date with James’s Heat, the Celtics go to Cleveland tonight to see how his jilted ex is holding up.

Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert got the bitter love letter out of his system this summer, and management did its best to pick up the pieces in the offseason. Now the Cavaliers will attempt to move on without James.

The Celtics get to see both sides of the biggest breakup in basketball history.

“It is a bit of irony,’’ Allen said. “Who set the schedule up?’’

Obviously, the season opener was hand-picked by the league, but the Cavaliers matchup was a bit of arbitrary scheduling cruelty. The Celtics opened the season with the Cavaliers the past two years, the opening chapters in a rivalry that became heated.

The city that hung billboards, composed tribute songs, and held rallies to persuade James to stay was devastated when he left.

“I’m sure they’ll be feeling those residual effects of having LeBron being gone,’’ Allen said.

Looking good
Kendrick Perkins walked into the Celtics locker room all dressed up but with no game to play. He has spent the months since his ACL surgery in July rehabbing his right knee and hopes to return in January. He has dropped 10 pounds and is focused on watching his body fat. He also said he’s making 300 free throws a day . . . Semih Erden was active last night. Luke Harangody joined Avery Bradley and Perkins on the inactive list . . . Despite hamstring and back issues, plus torn cartilage in his left wrist, Jermaine O’Neal had a strong week of practice, according to Rivers, which led to him playing 13 minutes last night . . . Rivers said he wasn’t as concerned about Shaquille O’Neal’s total minutes as he was about how many minutes the 38-year-old center could play consecutively. O’Neal started last night and played 18 minutes . . . Some of James’s worst memories are of Boston, including his last game in a Cleveland uniform in Game 6 of their second-round series against the Celtics. “It definitely felt disappointing,’’ James said. “At that time, I didn’t think that it would be the last time I would wear a Cleveland Cavaliers uniform.’’

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