Celtics  coach Doc Rivers  joined the Dennis & Callahan show Thursday morning to talk about how his team is playing, whether he had a problem with Tony Allen  or Rasheed Wallace’s actions in the Cleveland game and how hard he’s going to push for the third spot in the Eastern Conference.
Let’s talk about last night’s game [against Toronto]. You’ve been up and down, that was the good Celtics team?
I liked it. We didn’t use a lot of minutes with guys, which was really good. Michael Finley  was absolutely terrific last night. You get a performance like that off your bench, especially in the fourth quarter where you can afford to not play Paul Pierce  in the fourth quarter, at this point in the season that’s good.
Going back to Sunday, the Cleveland game. How big was that game?
I’ll put it like this. I didn’t think going into the game that it was a desperate game. I felt that once we got the big lead and Cleveland made the charge, then it became a desperate game. It turned into a desperate game because of the way the game it transpired. It worked out that way and obviously we won the game, so that was good.
I didn’t feel that way going into it. I just felt the way we played for three quarters we could have beaten anyone, and we showed that. And then we stopped playing. They made an unbelievable run, or LeBron [James ] made an unbelievable run and then you felt like we have to get this win somehow.
Did you have an issue with the way Tony Allen handled himself at the end of the game [with James]?
I really didn’t because I don’t think Tony started that. I think LeBron said something to Tony and Tony responded. Basically what Tony was saying is, “I don’t care who you are.” He said it in more colorful words, but I don’t think Tony Really started that talk. I don’t mind a guy not backing down. And Tony will never back down.
What about Rasheed? Should he have backed down?
I don’t know what exactly happened with Rasheed. I know he felt the official said something to him. Once that happened I could see that Rasheed was not coming back, let’s say. Once you get to that stage where you’re emotionally over the line. Usually when our players go up to him when he starts going off on officials, he backs away from the players. Once I saw where he was at with our own players and then with me, I knew we just had to get him out of the game, sit him down and play him another day.
I waited until the next day and Rasheed understands the next day those are things that he can’t do, that he shouldn’t do. But he can’t himself and unfortunately that was one of them.
Did he cross the respect line with you?
At the moment he did. But Rasheed has a lot of respect for his teammates. He has a lot of respect for me. But listen, when you get that emotional, I don’t think there is a line. Clearly he crossed it. It’s something we’ve dealt with and talked about. You know, he is who he is, he’s not going to change.
You’ve talked a lot about 50-50 plays, it seems like your team is getting beat a lot more on loose balls and things like that then we’re used to seeing. Why is that?
Part of it is athleticism. Part of it is focus. It’s funny, in the Cleveland game we got them all. We got most of the big rebounds. We created the steals. We got most of the offensive rebounds and so that clearly shows me that in a game that you have to have and you want to have, we can do it. Then we turn around in the New York game we couldn’t get any of them. This is the way I look at offensive rebounds: If the ball is bouncing on the floor then the team on defense should get it. We counted six times when the ball was bouncing on the floor in the New York game and we didn’t get any of them. That is a focus issue.
Do I think we’ll have that problem in the playoffs? No. Does it bother me in the regular season games? Absolutely.
What has happened to Nate Robinson ?
I shortened my rotation in the Cleveland game. We went in with a mind to use a more playoff rotation, and then last night I wanted to do it only in the first half but we ended up doing it for the entire game.
You’ve had a chance to rest guys late in the season, but you really can’t do that this year. Are you playing down to the wire for the third spot?
I’m not. I’d like to have it. I think it would be great for us to have. If you polled our players I think it would be split. I don’t think they care who they play in the first or second round, they really don’t. That’s a good thing in some ways, I don’t know if it’s the smartest thing, but rest is more important for my team.
We have to be right and that’s why in the Cleveland game I extended minutes. Last night only two guys [Rajon Rondo  and Ray Allen  played extended minutes]. We’re going to play our guys, but we are absolutely going to try to find rest for them in games. That’s why you extend the minutes with the bench at times. That’s more important for us to be rested and ready than it is for us to be in the third or fourth spot.
In your experience how realistic is a team flipping a switch and being a better team in the playoffs?
If we win a couple of more games that means we’ve won over 50 games. When you do that, I don’t know if you’ve had that switch off a lot. You can look at it that way as well. Obviously we’re not a 60-win team this year and I don’t think there’s going to be but one. That’s going to be Cleveland. We have been on and off this year at times, but we’ve been on more than off record-wise. We’ve lost games clearly that we shouldn’t have lost, but overall I think this team will be ready.
Michael Finley almost didn’t play for you last night?
Eddie [Lacerte] called me over at the arena and said that [he] doesn’t think Michael’s going to go, we’re not sure. I told Eddie to tell Michael that we’re going to sit him. I don’t want to take a chance. I don’t want this to be something that lingers. It’s more important for him to be ready for the playoffs then to play tonight. By the time I got over to the arena, Michael said, ‘I think I’m going to give it a try.’
For those who don’t know, what happened to Finley yesterday?
When we were checking out he reached down to pick up his luggage and he strained his back. I was laughing because that’s true sign that you’re an older player.
Did you watch Monday’s national championship game with a rooting interest?
I loved the game, it’s funny I didn’t have a rooting interest, much. I know coach [Mike Krzyzewski ] very well, and I know coach [Brad] Stevens  a little bit, too. It was an interesting game. It was fun to watch. Unfortunately for me I wasn’t rooting for one team so that took something away from it.
Did you see more than one or two NBA players in that game?
I would say more than that. I would say four or five. I can’t give names because we get fined now for talking about players. I do think four or five, maybe even one or two from Butler. Definitely one.