|06.14.10 at 12:06 pm ET|
Now comes the hard part.
The Celtics, after dropping Game 3 on their home court, have crept to within one win of their 18th title by taking advantage of the incredible energy inside TD Garden. But if they are to raise yet another banner to the rafters in the fall, they’re going to have to get it done in the hostile environment of Staples Center.
Kendrick Perkins said the key to transferring the momentum and energy of the TD Garden crowd to Los Angeles will be mental toughness.
“It’s all mental,” Perkins said. “I think we have to go out there and take their crowd out of it early. We can’t let them get energy going in the building. I think it’s got to be all mental. There are going to be times where they make runs and their crowd may get involved in the game and it may get loud in there. But we have to make sure we have to keep our composure and just keep going, keep attacking.”
While their 24-17 regular season home record was tied with Miami and Chicago as worst among the 16 playoff teams, the playoffs have been a different story.
The Celtics won six of their first seven at the Garden in the opening three rounds, and went 7-2 at home to advance to the NBA finals. They dropped Game 3, 91-84 to the Lakers but came back to win Games 4 and 5 to finish 9-3 at home in the playoffs.
While it was not the 13-1 mark they had on the parquet in their 2008 title run, the energy in TD Garden the last two games clearly helped the Celtics. And they were quick to point that out after the game.
“The energy in the building really feeds our defensive intensity,” Tony Allen said. “We all feel it.”
Now, the Celtics need to find a way to replace that energy with focus.
“Mental toughness,” Allen added. “Guys staying together and knowing what our goal is and everybody knowing what their role is when we get down there. And I think that’ll get the win.”
Ray Allen remembered 2008 after Game 5 Sunday night. Those finals ended with a celebration on the parquet. But if the Celtics can win once more, this celebration will be just as sweet.
“That’s the beautiful thing about this whole situation,” Allen said. “The circumstances that have been before us all playoffs long. We never had home court advantage except for the first round. We had to win on the other team’s floor. We talked about what team we’re going to play in the first round. I remember sitting in the locker room and we’re watching Miami and Milwaukee play and we’re talking about where we want to go.
“It seemed like so long ago. At the same time, we had to beat Miami on their home floor, we had to beat everybody on their floor in order for us to advance. We’ve been in this position before. I think the guys mentally are ready for it. We’ll get prepared and get ready to get it done.”
|06.14.10 at 2:53 am ET|
On a night when Kobe Bryant scored 38 points, Paul Pierce had his own breakout performance with 27, including 11 in the third quarter, which helped offset Bryant’s 19. That was only a part of Pierce’s night.
“Paul was terrific,” Doc Rivers said. “He attacked all night. He did it through the offense, he did it through [isolation plays], he did it in pick and rolls, he made big shots for us.”
“I was just showing off my Randy Moss and Tom Brady in one play, that’s all,” Pierce said. “Going up to catch it, then I went to my Brady mode when I was falling out of bounds to find Rondo on the receiving end.”
Pierce could afford to joke after the fact, but he admitted he was a little nervous when Rondo went in for the layup. The two had an eventful night. At the end of the first half, Pierce essentially walked away from a play after Rondo didn’t get him the ball.
“Oh, it was nothing,” Pierce said. The two talked it over at halftime and went about their business in the third quarter, which for Pierce meant providing an answer for Bryant’s scoring.
“I wasn’t in a personal duel with [Bryant],” Pierce said. “I really didn’t even take notice that we were going, I guess, back and forth at the time. He makes tough shots and he’s a proven winner. I’m not in a one-on-one deal with Kobe at all.”
Things just seem to happen to Pierce during the finals. He was overheard saying late in Game 2 that the Celtics weren’t going back to Los Angeles, but here they are, and Pierce will have an opportunity to win a title in his hometown.
“It hasn’t crossed [my mind],” Pierce said. “That would be great. I’m not going to jinx it right now. We’ve got to win one game, that’s the goal. But it would be amazing if we get it done.”
|06.14.10 at 2:12 am ET|
One team is a game away from a championship, the other could be 48 minutes away from the end of its season.
Following the Celtics’ Game 5 victory, Kobe Bryant had a steady focus looking ahead to Tuesday’s matchup.
“We have a challenge, obviously, down 3-2,” he said. “We let a couple of opportunities slip away. But it is what it is. Now you go home, you’ve got two games at home that you need to win, and you pull your boots up and get to work.”
The Celtics also are staying even-keeled. They won’t let themselves look too far ahead and look past the keys to getting a clinching win.
“You have the tendency to look ahead,” Ray Allen said. “But for us it’s like you have to mentally block it out. All day tomorrow, you have to think about what you need to do, how you need to rest, the small things you need to do to start the game off. … To achieve that we want, it’s going to take everybody to do the things they do. We can’t leave any stone unturned, we can’t take any shortcuts.”
|06.14.10 at 1:59 am ET|
Rajon Rondo received a technical foul at the 4:42 mark of the second quarter of Game 5 for pushing Ron Artest following a hard foul from the Lakers forward to Kevin Garnett. Artest, though, had no problem with Rondo when asked about the altercation in a postgame interview.
“That’s his teammate, his teammate hit the floor,” Artest said. “And he didn’t like it. He did what he had to do. Part of the game, I don’t care. He pushed me, I’m not going to push him back. I gave a hard foul, he pushed me, the ref called a tech. Next possession, you know? Move on.”
Rondo was asked the incident in his postgame press conference.
“Pretty self-explanatory,” Rondo said. “I felt that Artest pushed Kevin. It wasn’t just a regular foul, and we weren’t going anywhere, so in Kevin’s defense I pushed him back.”
Artest nearly fell down following the shove, which ABC color analyst Jeff Van Gundy found hard to believe, given the size difference between the two players.
“Oh, he didn’t even shove him,” Van Gundy said while watching the replay. “Oh, come on. He didn’t push him, he put his hand on him. This is another sell job. This guy [Rondo] weighs 112 pounds, and Artest weighs 280 pounds.”
Rondo was asked if he felt that Artest had “flopped” on the push.
“I’m not that strong,” Rondo said. “He sold it a little bit. He’s probably the strongest guy on the court in this series. I’ve been lifting a little bit, but other than that I didn’t push him that hard.”
|06.14.10 at 1:48 am ET|
|06.14.10 at 1:09 am ET|
As soon as Ray Allen walked off the floor Sunday night following the Celtics‘ Game 5 win, he was greeted by his son Walker, who had a giant smile on his face. The night was an extra cheerful one for Allen, because he was forced to rush his son to the hospital early Saturday morning when Walker’s blood sugar dipped to an unsafe level. Following the win, Allen spoke to the media about a difficult 48 hours.
“It’s just tough to deal with with my son having diabetes, you know,” Allen said. “You do everything you can, but his body just wasn’t operating correctly. And as a family, we try to figure out what you can do at home. And it got to a point where it was about 12:45, 1 o’clock at night, he wanted to fall asleep, but we couldn’t let him fall asleep because his blood sugar was dipping into the 50s and 40s.”
Walker’s blood sugar dipped so low, he had to be rushed to the hospital around 1:30 in the morning.
“As parents, you try not to panic and try not to get unnerved,” Allen said. “We got him to the hospital, we got him situated, so he’s better now. And hopefully, we can keep him at the point he is now.”
Ironically, Allen found out his son was diagnosed with diabetes before Game 5 of the 2008 NBA finals. This time around, Allen was forced to go through an eerily similar experience. But in the end, everything turned out OK, and his son was able to attend the game.
“It meant a great deal to me because he doesn’t like missing games. Even if all the kids stay home, he wants to be at the games and he wants to wear green.”
Allen was excused from practice on Saturday but still attended. He finished Sunday’s game with 12 points, three rebounds and two assists. He was 0-for-4 behind the 3-point line.
|06.13.10 at 10:49 pm ET|
The Celtics are headed back to Los Angeles one win away from taking their 18th NBA championship, after beating the Lakers, 92-86, Sunday night at TD Garden. Here are five reasons that was made possible. (For a complete recap, click here.)
1. Limiting the Lakers’ top two options: Kobe Bryant might have gotten his points (38), but few were easy. Ray Allen was particularly effective against the LA star, staying on his shooting hand from the get-go, with Bryant going just 1-for-4 in the first quarter and 4-for-12 in the first half. Paul Gasol, who was checked by both Kevin Garnett and Kendrick Perkins, couldn’t take advantage of the Celtics’ early willingness to let him shoot from the outside, going just 1-for-4 for the first half. Gasol did show a renewed aggressiveness in the second half, taking six shots in the third quarter. But at the end of the day, Gasol never established himself as the interior threat witnessed in the series’ first few games, finishing with just 12 points.
2. Paul Pierce: It was clear this was Pierce’s time to take top billing when it came to the Celtics’ offense, coming out of the shoot going 7-for-10 in the first half. He then continued in the third quarter, going 5-for-8 from the floor. With Ray Allen and Co. clearly deferring to Pierce, the Celtics captain never stopped displaying the kind of aggressiveness that he hadn’t offered at any point throughout the finals, finishing with 27 points. This was the Paul Pierce who carried the Celtics to their 2008 NBA championship.
3. The Celtics’ overall defense: As promising as it was that the Celtics had held the Lakers to just 33 percent shooting in the first half, the fact that they led by just six points heading into the intermission was cause for concern, especially considering the Celts had shot 65 percent. But the C’s defense never let up. And to cap it off, nobody on the Celtics was getting into foul trouble, with Allen becoming the first Celtic to pick up three fouls with just under eight minutes left in the game. Another sign of the Celtics’ resolve was their rejuvenation on the glass, with the C’s actually out-rebounding LA, 27-22, through three quarters. The Lakers finished shooting 40 percent from the floor, to the Celtics’ 55 percent.
4. Ability to control the paint: Remember the matchup problems the Celtics were supposed to continue to have on the interior? Many of them magically disappeared in Game 5. Leading the way was Kevin Garnett, who found his Fountain of Youth, going 5-for-6 from the floor through the first three quarters while grabbing nine boards and helping control Andrew Bynum (1 rebound) and Gasol during that time. Credit has to go out to Perkins, as well, with the center not only making both his shots from the floor while keeping the Lakers away from the glass, but also keeping his composure. At one point Perkins walked away from a rift with Gasol, holding his hands in the air while pointing to his head as a reminder that he wasn’t going to be coaxed into his seventh technical foul of the playoffs.
5. The point guards: Perhaps statistically, Game 2 was Rajon Rondo‘s best game, but Game 5 offered how far Rondo has come as a point guard. He consistently got the ball in the right hands (usually Pierce), while taking few bad shots (as his 8-for-11 showing from the floor would suggest). But it wasn’t only Rondo (18 points) who helped set the tone for the Celtics at the point, with Nate Robinson continuing to play with confidence, albeit not too much confidence. Robinson went 2-for-4 in his 10 minutes, only turning the ball over twice while coming away with a plus-1.
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