If Paul Pierce appeared spent during his final six games with the Celtics in a first-round playoff loss to the Knicks, it’s because reality matched the perception.
Last year, Pierce averaged 33.4 minutes and the burden of being the main scoring option after Rajon Rondo injured his knee seemed to wear on him.
“I feel a lot better [this year],” Pierce said Monday after practice. “I mean, I thought throughout the regular season with the Rondo injury it really physically and mentally took a toll on me. I started playing around the 40-minute mark, I think, the second half of the season and I was kind of spent in the playoffs.”
Pierce backed up feeling better by playing better in the fourth quarter of Game 1 in Toronto. He scored nine points in the final 2:58, prompting shouts of “That’s why they brought me here!” to the Air Canada Centre crowd, which went around the world on video after the win.
“I think [head coach] Jason [Kidd] did a great job throughout the regular season, limiting the minutes and giving me the days off in practice and in certain games to where I’m well-rested and ready.”
Alan Anderson used to hostile environment
For players without much NBA experience, crowds that spend time trying to get throw a visiting team off its game might be a big deal.
But not for Alan Anderson.
Before appearing in his first NBA playoff game Saturday, Anderson spent time playing in Italy, Russia, Croatia, Spain, Israel and China. European basketball crowds often get into games as much as infamously rowdy soccer fans.
Anderson spent 2010-11 with Spanish League club Regal Barcelona, which was the defending Euroleague champion at the time. Anderson scored 19 points in a 68-60 victory over Real Madrid that secured a title in the Copa del Rey de Baloncesto, the nationwide basketball championship in Spain.
“Every game was big for us,” Anderson said of playing in Europe. “It was a different atmosphere because over there you're playing against countries that country has been at war with or something like that. It's more dangerous. Seriously it's more dangerous. When you're playing over there you got to have [more] security and stuff like that because fans are throwing rocks and lighters and all kinds of stuff. So this is a new atmosphere, I know I'll be safer.”
The Nets had nothing thrown at them Saturday in Toronto after their 94-87 victory.
"It's the best,” Anderson said. “I like the boos a lot too. The boos get you going when you're playing well but when you silence the crowd, it's like they're more frustrated than you want to be. So it's a good feeling to have them silenced [after] the whole 48 minutes of yelling at you.”
And that might mean more profanity from Toronto general manager Masai Ujiri, which is perfectly fine for Anderson.
"It doesn't bother me,” Anderson said. “They can [say] 'Effing us' as long as we're winning.”
Joe Johnson sticks in the lane
For the better part of four months, Joe Johnson has been among those considered primary post options after Brook Lopez was lost for the season.
Johnson took 12 of his 13 shots from inside 3-point range in Game 1 while spending most of his 45 minutes being defended by DeMar DeRozan.
“We planned that,” Johnson said. “I just wanted to take advantage. I know I had DeRozan guarding me. He’s the leading scorer, so just making him work as much as possible defensively.”
Johnson made 8-of-13 shots and finished with 24 points, his most as a Net in a regulation playoff game. It also was his most points in the postseason since scoring 29 in Game 3 of the 2012 first round against the Celtics in a six-point loss.
“It’s a great feeling,” Johnson said. “Last year I couldn’t even warm up or shoot with the guys because of the plantar fasciitis, but this year’s a lot different. I’m thankful for that.”
Johnson shot 38.7 in the playoffs last year.
This time it’s entirely different for the Nets’ most consistent regular-season performer.
”Joe was our one constant throughout the whole game,” Pierce said. “We feel like he has a matchup on most [defenders], especially in this series. We’re going to feed off of that. They’re going to pay so much attention to Joe that it just leaves us other guys open and I think that’s why I was able to do what I was able to do, because of the attention they paid to Joe.”
Follow Nets beat writer Larry Fleisher on Twitter @LarryFleisher.