|04.29.10 at 5:37 pm ET|
WALTHAM — You can tell just by the media crush at the Celtics training facility 12 miles west of Boston on Route 128 that there is a big series about to begin involving the Celtics and the Cleveland Cavaliers.
The quotes from the participants provide another good clue.
The two teams, as any basketball fan will recall, met in an epic seven-game series in the 2008 playoffs. The series wasn’t decided until the final 30 seconds of Game 7 at the Garden when Paul Pierce and the Celtics outlasted LeBron James and the Cavs.
Before that series, fans and experts hoped for a great series. This time, it’s almost expected. But that’s about where the comparisons end as far as the Celtics are concerned.
‘Two years ago was two years ago,” Pierce said. “They have new players, we have new players. This is a whole new team. This is a different type of team. They’ve got a lot of the same players, we have a lot of the same players but it’s just like you grow up. Things change, you become better. You can’t go off what you did in the past. There’s nothing to that last series.’
Kevin Garnett agreed.
‘They have better players,” Garnett said. “They have Shaq, they have guys that have been there. They have experienced players who were there two years ago. Delonte [West] is better. [Antawn] Jamison is there, has been through the grind. They have better players, more experienced people.’
When the Celtics open their Eastern Conference semifinal series against the Cavaliers on Saturday night in Cleveland, it will be the first time in the era of the new ‘Big 3’ they’re opening a playoff series on the road. It will also mark the second time in three seasons the two teams are meeting in the second round.
But whether opening at home or on the road – as will be the case this year – Ray Allen doesn’t believe Boston’s series triumph in 2008 will have much of an impact this time around.
‘I don’t really think it makes a difference,” Allen said following Thursday’s practice. “That was yesterday. Now we’re trying to do this all over again. I’m sure that they remember. Playoffs in their building is tough and we remember Game 7 [in Boston] very vividly but it’s a new series. Even if we did play them last year, it wouldn’t have made a difference then, either. They’re geared up against trying to get past us going to the conference finals. The ground has to give one way or another and we look forward to taking more ground.’
The Celtics were also asked to make another comparison – Miami’s Dwyane Wade and Cleveland’s James – and how beating the former might help them with the latter this series.
‘They’re not close at all, truthfully,” Pierce said. “They have better supporting players. LeBron is playing two or three other guys who have been in the All-Star Game. I can’t say that about Wade. The only similarity is they have one of the top scorers in the league. That’s it. You’re talking about two different players. They’re definitely focal points but other guys, you definitely have to worry about them. There are most consistent players in Cleveland and those guys can beat you also.’
‘LeBron’s a different beast,” added Garnett. “He’s obviously with a better cast than D-Wade. I think D-Wade is one of the best one-on-one players in our game. That’s true with LeBron but I think LeBron defers more to his teammates a little bit, with his supporting cast than D-Wade. He can turn around and he has 35, eight boards and nine assists. That means he’s all-around, not even mentioning the steals and blocks. He affects the game in so many different dimensions.’
|04.29.10 at 5:31 pm ET|
It’s not hard to figure out and it’s definitely not a respect thing. While the Celtics were sleepwalking through stretches of the regular season, the Cavaliers were putting up the best record in the NBA.
“Pretty much I guess, yeah,” Paul Pierce said. “We’re the four seed, they’re the one seed. They’re the favorite to win it all, we are the underdogs.”
It’s a different feeling for the Celtics, but they are embracing their new role.
“Being an underdog is nothing,” Pierce said. “I feel like I’ve been the underdog my whole career. I definitely thrive in that situation. We’ll see how it turns out. There’s no pressure on us.”
In the end, it doesn’t really matter heading into the series. If one team gets up in the series, the other will feel the pressure regardless of who or what is supposed to happen. It’s not like the Celtics are in awe, either.
“I don’t know if we feel like that,” Doc Rivers said. “I think everyone feels like we are. We’ve been there before. Going into the championship series [against the Lakers], no one picked us outside of Boston. I don’t think we care one way or the other. We have to go out there and earn it. Orlando is the defending champions of the East. I don’t know how Cleveland’s been anointed that already. They have to earn it and we want to earn it. We feel good.”
|04.29.10 at 5:22 pm ET|
WALTHAM — In three games against the Celtics this season, Anderson Varejao averaged 13 points, nine rebounds ( with half of them coming on the offensive glass) and about a hundred different migraines. His energy seemed to overwhelm the Celtics and he was a huge key in Cleveland’s 20-point win over the Celtics at the Garden.
“They’re only good because they play hard with a high basketball IQ,” Rivers said. “I can give you a bunch of guys who can play hard but don’t think. They do it intelligently. That’s what made Dennis Rodman so good because his IQ on the floor was ridiculous. Varejao’s just a smart, crafty, hard-playing 7-footer.”
Davis will play a large role in this series. The Celtics are counting on him and Rasheed Wallace to match Varejao’s energy off the bench as well as the other big men options the Cavs can throw at the Celtics.
“Our bench has to play well,” Rivers said. “It doesn’t have to be all of them. The combination of Baby and Rasheed, we need one of them and we would prefer two. They have to play well. We need somebody to match Varejao’s energy. The two games they won he was the best player. He dominated those games with his energy and his effort.”
Varejao has also been known as an irritant, which is part of his job. He’s the kind of player only the hometown fans can love, even though all give him grudging respect. Davis is also an emotional player, but Rivers doesn’t think that will be an issue, at least not for him.
“I’m not worried about him getting under Baby’s skin,” Rivers said. “I am more concerned about the Kevin [Garnett’s] and the Rasheed’s because that’s what he wants to do. Baby’s pretty good with that. Baby will just keep competing back. Baby actually has the ability to get under people’s skin himself. The other guys, they know it. Listen, if I’m Varejao and I can get under their skin, I’m going to try.”
|04.29.10 at 12:52 pm ET|
Reports out of Cleveland indicate that LeBron James has a strain in his right elbow and a bone bruise. He is not expected to miss any time in the upcoming series with the Celtics. As Brian Windhorst of the Plain Dealer put it on his Twitter account: “In technical terms it is a “bone bruise of his olecranon.” In lay terms, it means he banged his elbow and it is sore.”
|04.29.10 at 10:30 am ET|
Celtics coach Doc Rivers made his weekly appearance on the Dennis & Callahan show Thursday morning to talk about the C’s second-round playoff series against the Cavaliers, set to start Saturday. Rivers said he does not believe LeBron James‘ elbow injury will slow down the superstar. “I don’t think it will have any effect on him,” Rivers said. “I think he’ll be fine. If he shoots Games 1, 2, 3, 4 left-handed, then I would say something’s wrong. Other than that, he’ll be fine.”
Rivers said even if LeBron James is slowed due to his sore elbow, the Cavaliers have enough other weapons to pick up the slack. “They’re a very deep basketball team. They have a lot of different guys,” Rivers said. “We have to guard the 3-point line against these guys. LeBron does what he does. But when all those guys — [Anthony] Parker, Mo Williams, Delonte West, Jamario Moon, [Antawn] Jamison — when they’re standing behind that line making 3’s, then they become unbeatable. That’s the part of the game that we have to take away from them — at least try.”
Rivers gave some insight into how the C’s and other teams attempt to limit James’ impact. “One is if you can force him to his left, you’d like to do that, even though he goes both ways pretty well,” Rivers said. “Two is give him a cushion. And three is if you can force him into being a jump shooter. That’s so much easier said than done. He understands that what teams are trying to do, and he won’t have it for the most part. He’ll still put the ball on the floor.
“As far as guarding him, you can just name [the C’s defenders]. Marquis [Daniels] will get a chance, Tony [Allen] will get a chance, Paul [Pierce] will get a chance, Hopefully, no more than those three.”
Asked what he would like to see from Rasheed Wallace in this series, Rivers said: “Three things: He has to be better defensively for us, especially vs. the pick and roll. Offensively he has to be a low-post presence. And then he does have to knock down a couple of shots, because that will spread their defense.”
Asked about the history of problems between the teams, Rivers implied that his club will focus more on the basketball and less on the extracurricular stuff this time around, although the C’s won’t back down. “We’re just going to come and play,” he said. “We’ll be ready. If it becomes a physical series, we’ll be ready for that as well.”
Rivers said the Celtics’ victory over the Cavaliers two years ago en route to a title won’t mean much now. “[Cavs general manager] Danny Ferry has done an amazing job with them,” Rivers said. “He’s added talent. When you think about their team when we beat them two years ago to their team now, it doesn’t even resemble the same team. They just keep adding talent and skileld players around LeBron. And that’s what they had to do, and they’ve done it.”
Rivers commented on Patriots draft pick Brandon Spikes, who is dating Rivers’ daughter, Callie (they were University of Florida classmates). “My boys got a lot of pleasure out of that the first time Brandon came over to the house, because I’m always intimidating my daughter’s boyfriends but I was saying, ‘Yes, sir,’ to him,” Rivers joked.
To hear the interview, click on the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.
|04.29.10 at 10:30 am ET|
The NBA has set the dates for the Celtics‘ conference semifinal series with the Cavaliers. Most of the times are still to be determined. The Celtics get a bit of a break with three days off between Games 2 and 3.
Game 1: Saturday, May 1: Boston at Cleveland, Time to be determined
Game 2: Monday, May 3: Boston at Cleveland, TBD
Game 3: Friday, May 7: Cleveland at Boston, TBD
Game 4: Sunday, May 9: Cleveland at Boston, 3:30
*Game 5: Tuesday, May 11: Boston at Cleveland, TBD
*Game 6: Thursday, May 13: Cleveland at Boston, TBD
*Game 7: Sunday, May 16: Boston at Cleveland, 3:30
* if necessary
|04.28.10 at 11:56 pm ET|
Michael Finley had played in over 110 playoff games when he signed with the Celtics in March. Now he is putting his championship-winning experience to good use, both on the court and in the locker room.
‘My role since I’ve been here really hasn’t changed. I can just be a little bit more vocal now that I’ve been here for a while,’ Finley explained. ‘I just didn’t want to come here right away and be the loud mouth of the locker room. But now the guys feel a little more comfortable with me. I’m able to pull guys to the side, tell them different situations, especially in these playoff series that are important, not only to them, but to our team. And they’re listening and they’re being receptive, and that’s been good.’
The 37-year-old is happy to share the veteran wisdom he has accumulated over the last 15 years, and the C’s are just as happy to receive it.
‘Mike is big,’ said Ray Allen. ‘Most people don’t realize the things that he’s saying, just his advice, just some of the things that he says coming out of timeouts, coming to the bench. You can always tell he wants to win. Even though he came here later on in the season, he’s invested now in what we’re doing. So he’s always making sure, ‘Look for this, this is what’s going to go down,’ or, ‘Ray, you need to do this,’ or ‘Paul you need to make sure ‘¦’ So that’s great coming from the bench and you know that he’s fielding us more information so when we go out there, we’re prepared.’
On the court, Finley is fulfilling his role as a reserve who can come in and make timely plays. Even though he averaged less than three points per game in the first round, he shot an efficient 40 percent from both the field and 3-point range.
On the defensive end, he has picked off three steals in 44 minutes (Paul Pierce has three steals in 193 minutes), and is the only Celtic besides Marquis Daniels (who has played just six minutes) who has not committed a single turnover in the postseason.
Finley stays level-headed, regardless of the scoreboard. He has played in enough postseason games to understand how quickly momentum can change. His proven wisdom will be beneficial as the Celtics shift from eliminating the Heat in the first round to battling the Cavaliers in the second.
‘It’s a playoffs series, and what I’ve learned over the years is, every game is different, every series is different,’ Finley said. ‘Once you win one, the next one is even tougher. You’ve just got to stay humble in victory and don’t get too high with the highs and too lows with the lows. Just try to keep an even keel, especially emotionally.’
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