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Ainge on The Big Show: Both teams ‘desperate’

05.13.10 at 7:48 pm ET

Celtics president Danny Ainge joined The Big Show Thursday evening to talk about Boston’€™s success against Cleveland and the importance of closing out the series in Game 6 at TD Garden.

‘€œBoth teams are very desperate to win this game tonight, for obvious reasons,’€ Ainge said. ‘€œI think that’€™s why it will be a good game.’€

Ainge also touched on the amount of criticism LeBron James received after the Cavaliers‘ lopsided loss in Game 5.

Below is a transcript. Visit The Big Show audio on demand page to hear the interview.

It’€™s been a bizarre series, do you have any idea what to expect tonight?

I have no idea. I would be shocked if it was going to be any sort of blowout like we’€™ve had in a couple of games in the series. I expect both teams to be ready, they know what they’€™re doing, they kind of know the strengths and weaknesses, and I’€™d be shocked if it wasn’€™t a close game.

Kevin Garnett spoke about the sense of urgency after the last game about treating this is as a Game 7 and not as a Game 6. Do you like that approach?

Yeah, I think so. Both teams are very desperate to win this game tonight, for obvious reasons. I think that’€™s why it will be a good game.

You guys have really played great defense from the initial point of attack.

I think the identity of this team is defense. I think we’€™ve gotten back to that in the playoffs. We’€™ve had a few bad spells, we let our guard down in Game 3 of course, but overall our defense has really stepped up, improved, and I think the effort each possession is better than the regular season.

Even you couldn’€™t have envisioned this team playing so well after the way they played in the second half of the year.

The thing is that we’€™ve got great players on our team. Regardless of their age or regular season, there’€™s something about great players. There’€™s something that makes them great and there’€™s something inside of them. I think Rajon [Rondo] is becoming one of those kinds of guys and there’€™s a reason why they’€™re great. I think that those guys have really responded.

What was impressive about the last game was I don’€™t remember over the last two years a time when all of our starters played well on the same night. I mean, that’€™s rare for any team that you’€™re just clicking on all cylinders. That’€™s very tough to repeat tonight, that’€™s something you can’€™t count on night in and night out. There’€™s usually one guy who’€™s going to have an off night or two guys, and you hope someone off the bench can step it up. Tonight, we have to anticipate that Cleveland is going to play well and LeBron is going to play a lot better. We have to be able to meet that challenge.

To you, over the last couple of games, what’€™s been the most encouraging individual performance on your team?

Each game has been different, but Rondo obviously has been playing great. But watching [Kevin Garnett] move, he’€™s moving so much better than he did even late in the year. It seems like he’€™s feeling better and is more confident in his legs, and that’€™s very encouraging now just now but moving forward. I think Ray [Allen] has had a terrific year, so I’€™m not really surprised at the way he’€™s been shooting in the series. Paul [Pierce] has had an up and down year because of his health, so it was really encouraging in the way he broke out and kind of had a big game. Then, Tony Allen over the last month has been playing pretty consistent and good basketball for us. All of those are very encouraging.

How much do you think being healthy brings confidence in your game?

There’€™s no doubt about that. Doc [Rivers] and I had so many conversations about what was the best thing to do with KG. Do we need to give him some rest? Do we need him to play? Then we talked with KG about it. That was a challenge this year, everybody thought we needed to give him rest and we weren’€™t sure what was the best thing to do. But KG really wanted to play and wanted to get his confidence and wanted to stay in rhythm. I think that those decisions of allowing him to play and work through the injury have really paid off now because he not only looks like he’€™s playing with confidence but he looks like he’€™s moving better. He’€™s in a great rhythm right now.

Have you ever seen so much criticism for one superstar player the way it’€™s been on LeBron James? It seems like it’€™s not about how the Celtics have defended and played so well, it’€™s about how poorly LeBron James has played?

It’€™s just a sign of the times. There are so many panel shows and talk and they have to have something to talk about. I mean, here is a guy that’€™s a great player and he doesn’€™t even realize how great he is. Even Tiger Woods, people fail to realize when was the last time Tiger Woods won a golf tournament when he was behind going into the last day? It’€™s never happened, but he’€™s had enough in the bank account with all his success. You would think LeBron has enough in his bank account to avoid all this criticism.

People have come out and said after Game 5 that Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, and Michael Jordan never had bad games like this, but they did plenty of times.

We have ex-players and ex-coaches saying those things, that’€™s what’€™s bizarre to me. Those guys have had games like that, every one of them. You can’€™t play in this game against competition at this level of the playoffs and not have struggles periodically. That’€™s what scares me the most tonight, because [LeBron James] is coming off that kind of game, he is a player that is very driven and has great pride.

Was there one adjustment, like going under the screen, that you guys made against LeBron James that’€™s been really effective?

No, that’€™s what it’€™s been every time we play LeBron. Two years ago, we tried to go under the screen at certain points. Sometimes players forget during the course of the game, but that’€™s not an adjustment, that’€™s something that’€™s in the game plan depending on where the screen is. A couple of times, Paul got caught too far out on the court and going over the screen. The biggest thing is stopping him in transition and making shots, because that’€™s always a great solution to transition defense to successful winning teams. When we’€™re making shots, we’€™re tough to beat and that’€™s going to be the biggest thing in stopping LeBron is getting back in transition and getting five guys in the paint to not allow easy baskets.

I look at this team and I watch how they give what I think from time to time are Danny Ainge fouls. It seems like this team has an understanding, we have fouls to give and were going to foul you before you get an opportunity to hurt us.

I think that the guys understand it and we have experienced players that have been through this before. In this situation, you’€™ve seen Paul, who’€™s our leading scorer, give fouls to take them out of games. That’€™s showing something, were not giving a lay in even if I’€™m in foul trouble and even if I might foul out, and that shows you a sign of total commitment.

How about hack-a-Perk with four minutes to go?

When a team is hot, we were scoring from the 3-point line at a high percentage, it’€™s a decent strategy. It’€™s just a different way to try to get the ball back and not give up three points. Maybe you give up one or two points. I think that it’€™s sound strategy and it’€™s something that a lot of coaches have employed on different players throughout the league that aren’€™t good free throw shooters.

Read More: Cavaliers, Celtics, Danny Ainge, Kevin Garnett
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