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A players’ coach… 03.09.09 at 5:47 pm ET
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Doc Rivers quipped after practice on Monday that he just worked up his best sweat since his playing days.

The former NBA point guard wasn’t joking. He just finished running Stephon Marbury through a five-man ghost drill in which Rivers called out various plays, leaving Marbury to run an offense that included the likes of Mikki Moore, Leon Powe, J.R. Giddens, Bill Walker and Gabe Pruitt.

With five players unavailable due to injury and with Paul Pierce and Ray Allen playing 45 minutes apiece the day before, the Celtics were running on a skelton practice with barely enough bodies to make it worthwhile.

Now, while he’ll have the benefit of Pierce and Allen on Wednesday when the team plays next in Miami, Marbury will have to pick up his mastery of the offense if the Celtics are to find their way on offense and not fall behind by 20 like they did on Sunday in the first half against Orlando.

“Steph ran the set, but he didn’t know what to look for or who to look for and then he’s playing at half-speed, because you could feel him thinking out there on the floor,” Rivers said. “That killed him and it killed the team as well. So, it’s just going to take time. What I’m trying to get him to do is not to press or worry about it. The first thing I told him (Sunday) night was don’t worry about, it’s going to come together.”

Even though he was clearly not playing up to the potential that Danny Ainge saw when he signed him two weeks ago, Marbury was hardly crestfallen about his chances to improve. Instead, he exhibited the kind of confidence required from a point guard of a NBA title contender.

“Yeah, I’m definitely, getting it,” Marbury said. “Today was definitely helpful. As coach said today, learning what we want out of the offense as opposed to just running the sets. As a point guard, you normally know all of the plays, you know where to go and you know what everyone is going to do.”

With Rivers saying on Monday that he foresees Rajon Rondo out for at least the next couple of games with his sprained right ankle, this will be Marbury’s team. Marbury will have a golden opportunity to show that he can pick up the offense in time to be a force for the playoffs.

“For me, asserting myself in the lineups, I need to make sure the guys get the shots who are supposed to get the shots,” Marbury said.

Read More: Celtics, Doc Rivers, injuries, NBA
Celtics fighting injury bug… 03.09.09 at 1:48 pm ET
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Please, no jokes about M*A*S*H or Doc Rivers activating himself to help out or how the trainer’s room is overcrowded.

Doc Rivers knows the deal right now.

The Celtics will not dress five players when they play the Miami Heat on Wednesday night in South Florida. Rajon Rondo and Glen ‘Big Baby’ Davis were ruled out of action by head coach Doc Rivers on Monday, both sustaining sprained right ankles over weekend. They join superstar Kevin Garnett (right knee sprain), Brian Scalabrine (post-concussion syndrome) and Tony Allen (left thumb) as injured Celtics on the sidelines.

“Baby and Rondo are out, I know that,” Rivers said. “They’re out for the next couple of games, maybe the next week. Kevin will be out longer than the Milwaukee game. I’m pretty sure of that. I would say Kevin, maybe at the end of the following week at the earliest.”

In addition Rivers said his challenge will be to not repeat what he did on Sunday when he had both Paul Pierce and Ray Allen play 45 minutes apiece.

“Somebody else has to step up and the challenge for me is not doing what I did (Sunday) with Paul and Ray, that can’t happen,” Rivers said. “Obviously, that was a different circumstance because the injuries happened during the game or right before the game. It’s tough to plan for but I still want to keep their minutes down, even in a time of crisis I want to keep their minutes down. We just have to find a way to win games.”

Rondo sprained his ankle on Friday against Cleveland and Davis injured his on Sunday in a loss against the Magic. Only 10 players dressed for Monday’s practice, with Ray Allen and Pierce getting excused after 30 minutes.

“This is a growth period for our basketball team,” Rivers said. “Clearly, we want to win the games but we have an opportunity to grow our team in this little stretch and get them closer together and get them all understanding how hard the work is going to be to win a title. In the long run, I think this might make us a better team.”

Read More: Celtics, injuries, NBA,
Sounds of the game… Magic 86, Celtics 79 03.08.09 at 4:00 pm ET
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It was clear from the start that the Celtics missed Rajon Rondo. To a man, afterward, everyone was quick to give Stephon Marbury props for doing his best, but Marbury has only been in Green for nine days. It’s hard to expect someone, even of his talent, to just step in and replace Rondo, who did not dress with a sprained right ankle.

Marbury got his first start but the Celtics were out of rhythm from the start, falling behind by 20 in the first half and commiting 11 turnovers.

Ray Allen led a furious fourth-quarter comeback but it fell short in the end as his three-pointer to tie with 35 seconds remaining was off the mark and the Celtics fell, 86-79.

Marbury said these games right now are still practice for him.

Ray Allen said the team missed Rondo early.

Allen, with a game-high 32 points, tried to pick up the scoring slack.

Paul Pierce, with 16 points, talked about passing Robert Parish for third on the team’s all-time scoring list.

Orlando coach Stan Van Gundy said the Celtics were able to get away with physical play on Dwight Howard, starting with Kendrick Perkins’ shoves in the back.

Read More: Celtics, Magic, NBA, Ray Allen
Sounds of the game… Celtics 105, Cavaliers 94 03.07.09 at 12:30 am ET
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Before Friday’s game, Celtics assistant coach Armond Hill showed an inspirational video to the team, aimed specifically at young big men Leon Powe and Glen Davis.

No, it wasn’t Rocky or even Hoosiers. It was a film of the Celtics scoring basket after basket with their big men executing great interior passes. The result – the undermanned Celtics outscored the Cleveland Cavaliers 58-22 in the paint and rolled to a stunning 11-point win, 105-94, over the Eastern Conference leaders.

The Celtics didn’t have Kevin Garnett but they did have Leon Powe. The Celtics didn’t have Brian Scalabrine but they did have Glen Davis, at least for 17 minutes before he was ejected for a flagrant Type 2 foul with 9:09 remaining in the third quarter.

But Doc Rivers, who said at the shootaround in the morning that this would be a phenomenal win, had one of his best games of the season as head coach of the defending NBA champions. Just ask Mike Brown, his counterpart on the Cleveland bench.

Brown said the Celtics deserved all the credit for pulling together and pulling off the upset, even if it was on their home parquet.

For his part, Doc Rivers gave credit to Armond Hill for showing the video and his players for taking the lead.

Paul Pierce said Powe (20 points, 11 rebounds) and Davis (10 points) showed the depth the Celtics have.

Pierce said Davis’ ejection in the third quarter fired up the Green.

Leon Powe said he knew he was going to have to pick it up when Big Baby was thrown out.

Glen Davis said his foul of Anderson Varejao was a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

LeBron James said, with or without Garnett, the Celtics are a great team.

King James said it’s hard to believe home team has won 15 straight in the series.

Read More: Cavaliers, Celtics, Glen Baby Davis, LeBron James
‘We see them as a real threat’… 03.06.09 at 1:22 pm ET
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As the Celtics shot around at their training facility in Waltham, everyone wanted to know what the Celtics needed to do to beat King James and the Cavaliers without last season’s defensive player of the year and the team’s heart and emotional soul in a suit for at least another week.

Coach Doc Rivers said that Kevin Garnett ran on a treadmill on Thursday for the first time since injuring his right knee on Feb. 19 and reported no problems.

“He ran yesterday, he told me, on the treadmill, which I’m sure was supervised,” Rivers said. “And he said he felt great so he’s feeling a lot better. That’s the first day he’s been able to run so we’ll take it day-to-day from that point on.”

“It’s the whole knee thing. We’re just going to take our time. I would say at least a week out and most likely, longer.”

As for tonight’s battle to end all battles, at least for the next 24 hours, Rivers, possibly looking back on last year’s Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Semis, pointed out what it really means, especially if they could pull it off without Garnett, Brian Scalabrine and Tony Allen.

“It’s a big game,” Rivers said. “Obviously, home court is at stake here. And it would be a great win for us, to beat them at their full strength and us not having Kevin, Scal and Tony, I think it would be a phenomenal win for us. We’ll be ready.”

The Celtics have allowed their last two opponents to score over 100 points while a third, Indiana scored 99 last Friday.

“We want to win, really, and we have to find a way to do that,” Rivers said. “We’ve got to improve defensively. Over the last couple of games, we have not played our defense, especially transition-wise. And if we don’t get back tonight, it’s going to be a long night. That’s what we have to improve.

“We’ve won games and we’ve lost to a couple of good teams, which I can always live with even though you never want to lose, but our defense hasn’t been consistent and for us to be a good offensive team, we have to have multiple stops and we have to get back to that.”

But maybe it was Leon Powe who provided the best perspective of all on Friday morning, a mere nine hours before tip.

“It’s real good for us because we’ve been looking forward to this game,” Powe said of the test. “If you want to be the best you’ve got to beat the best. I know the road to the championship means you’ve got to knock us off. We see them as a real threat. We’ve got to go out there and play our best and hopefully both teams put on a good show and hopefully we come out on top.”

Read More: Cavaliers, Celtics, Eastern Conference, Kevin Garnett
Sounds of the game… Lakers 110, Celtics 109 OT 02.06.09 at 6:49 am ET
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Forget the NBA Finals of last June. Thursday night’s regular season game between the Celtics and Lakers at TD Banknorth Garden went a long way to restoring one of the sport’s great all-time rivalries.

And just listening to Doc Rivers‘ verbal tirade to the referees in the hallway proves how much this one hurt for the Green.

Rivers COULD NOT believe a hand check was not called on the Lakers as they tried to throw Ray Allen’s timing off at the end of overtime with Allen having the ball and a chance to win the game just like he did 48 hours earlier in Philadelphia.

“That was a hand check!” Rivers exclaimed in the hallway as the Celtics filed to their locker room, past the officials’ room on the right.

Then there was the sparring between Kobe Bryant and Rajon Rondo, as Bryant, who was held to 26 points on 10-of-29 shooting, waved his finger in Rondo’s face in the third quarter. That was followed minutes later by Lamar Odom and Kevin Garnett going toe-to-toe before calmer heads prevailed. And lest we forget the rivalry between the two coaches.

Phil Jackson was peeved when Doc Rivers was given a sports-drink shower on the court in the closing minutes of Game 6 of The Finals last June. Jackson said after the game that he didn’t think Garnett looked like he was ready to return from the flu. Oh really Phil?

This game meant a lot to both teams.

It meant the end of Boston’s 12-game winning streak, meaning the Lakers have ended their 19-game AND 12-game runs this season. It meant that Los Angeles has swept the season series and holds the tie-breaker should the two teams end up deadlocked at the end of the season.

For the Lakers, it meant beating  a team that seven months earlier humiliated them on the same court by 39 points in the most embarrassing loss in franchise history. They remembered the Gatorade shower that Rivers received from Pierce and Co. as Boston claimed its 17th title.

And it showed that these Lakers, even without big man Andrew Bynum, COULD play defense when it mattered and they won’t be pushed around anymore.

Here’s how both teams articulated it.

Paul Pierce said it was just one game and hopefully they’ll meet again.

Eddie House thought the Lakers celebrated like they just won the title. Yo LA, this was game 51, regular season, that is.

House thought the Lakers were allowed to be more physical than the Celtics.

Ray Allen was more disappointed that Kevin Garnett was called for a cheap foul that gave him five late, just before fouling out in the fourth.

Doc Rivers felt that was a hand check on Allen at the end.

Rivers was worried early in the second half about how the game was getting away from the officials.

Rivers thought it was a chippy game.

Lakers coach Phil Jackson thought it was a great game for the NBA.

Jackson didn’t think Garnett was ready to play after missing the last two games with the flu.

Kobe Bryant thought it WAS a statement game for his Lakers.

Pau Gasol wished the Lakers had played like this last year in The Finals.

Read More: Celtics, Doc Rivers, Kevin Garnett, Kobe Bryant
Sobe Kobe… 02.05.09 at 1:43 pm ET
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The Boston Celtics are not in awe of Kobe Bryant.

That simple message was delivered at Thursday morning’s shoot-around here in Waltham, mere hours before they take on the reigning NBA MVP and his Lakers on the parquet of the TD Banknorth Garden.

That, and we’re not changing what we do just for Kobe.

“We just play him,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers announced. “We don’t have any Kobe rules or anything like that. We play our defense every night. We literally don’t change our style. Rarely, we may change them for a possession here or there, but you just try to keep him in front of you and wish for the best of luck because he’s tough. If it were easy to defend him, he wouldn’t be Kobe.”

Yes, Pau Gasol is starting to emerge as a scoring force alongside Kobe as they pick up the slack for their injured big man Andrew Bynum.

“They’re a good basketball team,” Rivers said. “They’re no different. Obviously, they miss Bynum’s length but they’re going to get through the regular season and get him back for the playoffs and they’ll be fine. Kobe has clearly picked it up the last couple of games but so has Gasol. Gasol has had 31 points the last couple of games himself.”

Yes, Kobe has gone off for a combined 97 points against the 21-27 Knicks and the 19-32 Raptors this week.

“We didn’t play in any of those games that we know of,” Rivers keenly observed. “We can’t do anything about that. That’s the way we always look at that. Let’s hope he doesn’t score 97 tonight. That would be very important for us trying to win this game, I can tell you that.”

Ask Rajon Rondo and the Celtics point guard is quick (and right) to point out that the Knicks have just as much to do with the 61 Kobe scored on Monday at MSG as anything else.

“He’s a great player,” Rondo said. “Sixty-one doesn’t happen all the time in the league but a lot of great scorers go off at times. That was transistion game he played against the Knicks. LeBron had 52 last night. That’s just the style (the Knicks) play.”

And yes, the Los Angeles Lakers come to town tonight with a Western Conference-best 39-9 mark, winners of four straight, playing on the same court they suffered their most humiliating loss in franchise history, that 39-point quit job last June in Game 6 of the NBA Finals.

“I’m sure they’ve seen it enough,” Rivers said. “I’m sure no one’s run that on TV at all. Well, they should be. Why wouldn’t they be? They’ll be up for the game. We’ll be up for the game.”

Therein lies the key difference between the Celtics and the Lakers. The Lakers are all about superstars, albeit great scoring superstars, but individuals nonetheless. The Celtics, during their second double-digit winning streak of the season, have built their dominance around defense.

Yes, the Celtics are weakened a little by the flu bug that has run through Kevin Garnett and the rest of the team.

“He felt strong,” Rivers said of Garnett at this morning’s shootaround in Waltham. “He’s fine. We’ll find out tonight. It’s easy to feel strong in a shoot-around but when you’re running up and down the floor when you haven’t done it, that’s a different story. I think there are six guys on Z-Paks, probably all due to Kevin, who knows.”

Z-Paks, for those who didn’t go to medical or pharmaceutical school, are antibiotics given to help those fighting off viruses.

The Celtics will want to be at full strength as they try to ward off Kobe and the Lakers.

Read More: Andrew Bynum, Celtics, Doc Rivers, Kevin Garnett
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