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Sounds of the game… Celtics 90, Clippers 77

03.23.09 at 11:29 pm ET

It’s the most basic lesson Celtics head coach Doc Rivers preaches, with some serious nudging from assistant Tom Thibodeau.

Think defense first and everything else will follow.

Rivers didn’t think his team was in that mindset in the first half on Monday night against the lowly Clippers, especially when the Clip Joint went on a 19-5 run early in the second quarter to wipe out a 13-point lead and take a lead against the sluggish Celts.

‘€œWe didn’€™t get any stops and we didn’€™t score the basketball,” Eddie House said. “They went on a 19-5 run I think from the start of the 2nd to 4 minutes left so that’€™s a recipe for disaster if you don’€™t get stops and don’€™t score. Second half we concentrated on getting stops and our offense slowed up our defense.’€

Thanks to Kevin Garnett, the Celtics picked up their defensive intensity. And as our colleague Paul Flannery writes, the offense did, indeed, follow.

But with Orlando lurking in the land of Magic on Wednesday and second-place in the East on the line, Rivers knows his team, especially the second unit, can’t afford to come into a game like they did Monday night.

“Honestly, I thought in the first half they came out thinking all about offense and it was a one pass, shot unit,” Rivers said. “In the second half they thought about defense and they got stops.  And then we moved the ball and got open shots.  And it’€™s amazing when you play the right way together how things work out.  And then when you have the right mindset when you walk on the floor. 

“Sometimes the worst thing that can happen ‘€“ you want it to happen ‘€“ is the second unit sees a big lead, and they see the first unit scoring at ease, and so they’€™re walking on the floor and all they’€™re thinking about is how many ways they can score, instead of not thinking that the reason the first unit scored is because they were getting stops and they were running and they were sprinting down the floor, and that’€™s how we were scoring.  So, that’€™s what we talked about at halftime,’€ Rivers added.

Garnett said the team is getting closer and closer to where they want to be defensively, coinciding with his return to the lineup. Monday marked the third game with Garnett back in the lineup.

“I’€™m ok, man,” Garnett said in his most reassuring tone. “I’€™m trying to get Paul, Ray and the rest of the guys everything I got right now until I get back full strength but for the most part it felt like defensively we’€™re back to where we want to be a little bit, we got a little ways to go, I feel. But tonight we helped the team to get 70 something, 80 something points and that’€™s the focus. To continue to be dominant on defense with them. We’€™re not perfect but you know with the new guys we’€™re trying to get a rhythm with them and form a harmony with them and we will, we will.’€

Mikki Moore feels Wednesday night will be a playoff-type game in cental Florida.

“We just have to look at it like a playoff game,” Moore said. “We can’t go out there thinking about home court advantage or anything like that. We just have to look at it like that’s the next team in our way of being successful.”

Read More: Camby, Celtics, Garnett, NBA
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