Pierce picks up offense Lakers scorch Suns, 124-112
BOSTON — Freed from the burden of trying to guard LeBron James, Paul Pierce is back to his high-scoring ways.
That plus tenacious team defense have the Boston Celtics rolling in the Eastern Conference finals. They swept the first two games at the home of the Orlando Magic and now have time to rest their old bodies before Game 3 Saturday night in Boston.
Pierce already feels revived now that he can focus more on his offense after the Celtics beat James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in six games in the conference semifinals.
He's averaged 25 points in the two games against the Magic after managing just 13.5 per game in the Cleveland series.
"The biggest thing is I don't have to guard LeBron James," Pierce said. "You sit at home before the series, I'm watching so much LeBron, how to play him defensively, you forget about your offense. I have the opportunity to be a little more aggressive in this series."
Pierce and his teammates showed their veteran poise in Tuesday night's 95-92 win after Orlando went ahead 90-89 with 3:35 left.
Then Kevin Garnett and Rajon Rondo hit jumpers before Orlando's Jameer Nelson made a layup. But Pierce calmly sank two free throws that put Boston ahead by three. Vince Carter missed two critical free throws for the Magic with 31.9 seconds to play.
Carter scored 16 points and made just 5 of 15 shots with Pierce guarding him much of the time.
"I don't have such a huge defensive responsibility," Pierce said. "Not taking anything from Vince. Vince is a great challenge and he's known for having big games. But you are talking about playing the best player (James) in the league. It's tough physically and mentally."
The Celtics had a day off from practice yesterday and will be back at it today.
They'll try to fix the few problems in their defense, which has been outstanding. They've allowed an average of 90 points in the past two games to a Magic team that scored 107.3 per game in the previous round against Atlanta, a four-game sweep, and 102.8 in the regular season.
Still, Boston must do a better job against Dwight Howard, who scored 30 points in Game 2. When center Kendrick Perkins was on the bench with foul trouble, the much thinner Garnett guarded the powerful Howard.
"That's not a matchup we were hoping for," Boston coach Doc Rivers said. "Overall, he did a great job with his length. Kevin knows he's not going to win a muscle contest with Dwight Howard, but he does have length. And he stretched him out and he made him change some shots."
The Celtics know the key to their success is defensive intensity. That doesn't change whether they're in front of a hostile crowd or a full house of friendly fans that should be rocking Saturday night.
But Boston is just one of two teams with a better record on the road (26-15) than at home (24-17) and was beaten there 124-95 in Game 3 when Cleveland took a 2-1 series lead.
"I know last time we laid an egg at home in Game 3," Pierce said. "I don't feel this team being complacent when we get home."
Knick in minor drug bust: New York Knicks swingman Wilson Chandler was charged yesterday with a minor drug offense after police said they found marijuana in his car during a traffic stop.
Police stopped Chandler at a corner in Queens at 11:15 p.m. Tuesday for driving his Mercedes Benz with the headlights off. When officers approached the car, they smelled marijuana, police said. A passenger in the front seat, Lamonte Yarbrough, admitted to the officers he had been smoking pot, police said.
Chandler, 23, and Yarbrough, 22, were charged with fifth degree criminal possession of marijuana, a misdemeanor.
The 6-foot-8 Chandler averaged 15.3 points and 5.4 rebounds in 35.7 minutes per game this year, missing the final month of the season with a groin strain.
Nets to release Vandeweghe: New Jersey Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov says general manager Kiki Vandeweghe will be let go when his contract expires this summer.
"I wish him well," said Prokhorov, who added he does plan to retain team president Rod Thorn.
New Jersey finished 12-70. Vandeweghe was the interim coach after the Nets fired Lawrence Frank during their 0-18 start, but was only expected to coach until the season ended.
Collins on 76ers' coaching list: TNT analyst Doug Collins, who has been a coach with three NBA franchises, started negotiating with the Philadelphia 76ers to become their coach, according to a person familiar with the talks.
The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the negotiations were supposed to remain confidential.
Team president Ed Stefanski interviewed Collins on May 1, and he emerged as the leading candidate to replace the fired Eddie Jordan. The pool of candidates includes former Dallas coach Avery Johnson and Toronto coach Sam Mitchell.