Kevin Garnett doesn't regret his role in a fracas by his opponent's bench. Neither does the player he elbowed in the face.
The pushing and woofing took place with 40 seconds left in the Celtics' 85-76 Game 1 win Saturday night. Paul Pierce had fallen by the Heat's bench, holding his right shoulder in apparent pain. Garnett leaned over, then held off Richardson, coming from behind, with his left forearm. Moments later, Boston's passionate leader elbowed Richardson in the face.
"Not at all," Garnett said calmly Sunday when asked if he regretted his actions. "I would hope if I was hurt or if I was down in that position someone would at least give me some space to sort of recover or to gather myself. That's the only thing I was asking for."
Richardson, one of Miami's more emotional players, also shrugged off the idea of regrets.
"Me?" he said. "I didn't do anything regretful. I didn't throw any punches or swing on anybody."
Garnett played well with 15 points and nine rebounds in his first playoff action since Game 6 of the 2008 NBA Finals, a 131-92 win over the Los Angeles Lakers that clinched Boston's 17th championship.
He missed last year's playoffs with a knee injury and Boston beat Chicago in seven games before losing to Orlando in seven in the second round.
"We know we can win. We know we can hold down the fort if KG is out a game," Pierce said before the league announced the suspension early Sunday night. "We're not one of those teams that when their star player goes down that's an excuse to not play hard, not try to win the game.
"We're a team that feels like with KG and without KG we're supposed to win a game"
Observers could view the altercation as the point at which playoff intensity soared.
They would be wrong, according to Pierce. He said he already had that feeling.
"You've got to understand, both teams are playing for a championship," he said. "There's so much more at stake. It's just like a prize fighter. When you fight for that goal, it's not like the other fights. This has much more meaning.
"You've got to expect that tensions are going to rise, flare-ups, but the thing is just keep it in the framework of the game to where it doesn't get out of hand."
That may not be easy to do with players with the intensity of Garnett and Richardson. Still, their teammates appreciate them for that quality.
"That's Q. I love him for it. Sometimes he can drive me crazy with it," Miami's Dwyane Wade said. "He's a little bit more rah-rah than me. The guy's tough. It's embedded in his DNA. But most of all, he's about winning. He's about making sure he's not outshone."
Garnett is the same way. Even Richardson conceded that.
"He is trying to do what he can to help his team. I don't have a problem with that," Richardson said. "I'm going to do what I can to help my team."
Richardson played well in the opener with 15 points. But the Heat blew a 61-47 lead with 7:02 left in the third quarter and managed just 10 points in the fourth. Their 22 turnovers didn't help. Neither did their loss of poise when faced by the Celtics' scrambling defense.
"They try to push you to the limit. They try to bully you," Wade said. "If you let them get in your head, they'll succeed at it. That's what they do. I think for a couple minutes there they kind of got in our head."
The Celtics got the Heat into a speedup game and too many forced shots, both going against their style of play, said Wade, whose 26 points were more than seven fewer than his average in three regular-season games, all losses, against the Celtics.
Backup guard Tony Allen did an excellent job defending Wade. But he didn't see any frustration from the Miami star.
"He's really a poised guy," Allen said. "He basically takes what the defense gives him. He got assists. He got rebounds. He got his points. He shot a good percent from the field."
Pierce said he's been getting treatment on his shoulder and it feels OK. His health becomes more important with Garnett's suspension.
"If I've got to miss a game because of my actions defending a teammate, then that's what it is," Garnett said, but "like Doc said, sometimes even when you're right, you're wrong. And a situation like that was totally classless" by Richardson.
Miami coach Erik Spoelstra doesn't think the effects of the skirmish will linger.
"I'm sure it was just an isolated incident," he said. "It's not going to be about the last 40 seconds. This series is going to boil down to the game, which it should. It'll probably be officiated a little bit tighter."
Richardson said that he told teammate Jermaine O'Neal while Pierce was on the ground that the Celtics player was OK and just taking a break. After the game, Richardson called Pierce and Garnett "actresses."
Pierce's response came Sunday.
"I don't get paid to act," he said. "I get paid to play basketball."