Celtics captain Paul Pierce crumpled to the ground in pain after being hit on his right shoulder while attempting a shot midway through the third quarter.
Pierce got tangled with San Antonio's Manu Ginobili in traffic near the lane and drew a foul going up for a shot attempt. He landed on his feet, but soon fell to the ground clutching his right shoulder. He was attended to on the court, but stayed in the game through a timeout, and proceeded to miss the front end of two free throws.
Celtics coach Doc Rivers soon subbed for Pierce, but he shot the coach a quizzical glance coming to the bench, then refused to be examined by trainer Ed Lacerte who came over to check on him. Pierce subbed back in a short time later and finished with a team-high 18 points (only five of which came after the injury scare).
"It’s a little sore," Pierce said after the game. "It’s a stinger -- I've got some numbness down the right side of my arm, but hopefully it doesn’t get any worse."
Pierce, the reigning Eastern Conference Player of the Week, finished 4-of-11 shooting, missing all three 3-pointers he attempted, and generating 10 of his points at the charity stripe. This was only the second game in his last six that he's been held below 22 points.
Pierce didn't elaborate much on how the injury happened.
“I don’t know, I ducked my head or something," said Pierce. "It’s a collision. I mean, you guys watched the game and saw the replays, I hope."
Doc's Opinion: 'One of those nights' vs. Spurs
Some nights the explanation about why a team played so poorly is simple. And Doc Rivers didn't get too deep when describing his team's struggles while setting a new season-low for scoring in a 94-73 loss to the Spurs.
"We just didn’t play well, really," said Rivers. "I thought early on we had great shots and they didn’t go in. I thought we pressed a little bit, and started forcing instead of [relying on] ball movement, offensively. And they won the 50-50 game. It was one of those nights, guys. We played awful. I thought they wanted to play.
"The first quarter I thought was terrific. I thought the bench came in in the second quarter and just everybody went [isolation.] There was no ball movement at all with that group. And then after that I thought the starters came back in, got us back into the game, and then the third quarter was awful for us. But I thought in the third quarter is when they stopped moving the ball, I thought, offensively. And, defensively, we struggled all night. Ginobili was fantastic and [DeJuan] Blair in the fourth quarter was a one-man wrecking crew."
The Celtics did a decent job on Tim Duncan (8 points, 9 rebounds over 26:31), but Rivers said the team had no answer for Ginobili.
"Oh, I could look at the box score before the game and say, ‘I would take that on their end.’ Except for Ginobili, he said. "When Ginobili has points and assists they usually win. And 28.7 assists is a great indicator for them. That means his hand print [is there and] Ginobili dominated this game. All the loose balls that he kept alive, that he didn’t get credit for, defensive plays -- I thought he single-handedly was the will of the game. And then Blair just followed in. But once you get a chance to beat a team on the road, and a team like us, your energy does go up. And you can see that with them in the fourth quarter. It was going to be tough to turn it around."
Loose balls: No extra emotion for Finley
* Competing against his old team for the first time since requesting and receiving his release earlier this month, Celtics swingman Michael Finley said he didn't have any extra emotions facing the Spurs. "Tonight wasn't really that big of a deal," said Finley, who went scoreless over 13:23, missing both shots he took.
* Kevin Garnett's take on the loss: "I don’t know, I just think we were just flat, we weren't aggressive. I thought we put a lot on Paul to score the ball. I don’t think the ball was moving as it was the first half and we gotta get better at that." Asked about Ginobili, KG added: "I think he definitely imposed his will on the game, that was apparent. I thought when he was in there, for the 35 minutes he played, he was aggressive... He was setting guys up, getting guys open shots. He’s been playing well over the last four or five games. We were well aware of that. He just got into a groove where he was scoring and setting guys up for the long ball."
* Celtics forward Rasheed Wallace ended a bit of media silence (if our notes are correct, he hadn't talked postgame with reporters since the middle of the month) by chatting after Sunday's loss. Like Rivers, he chalked up the defeat to "basic basketball." Asked about what the Spurs did to neutralize the Celtics, Wallace said, "They're a veteran team, a championship-caliber team -- like we are -- and they don't try to do too much. They just play basic basketball." Making his second start in place of Kendrick Perkins (left knee tendinitis), Wallace finished with seven points and eight rebounds over 25 minutes.