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Celtics are calm, confident before the storm 06.15.10 at 8:37 pm ET
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LOS ANGELES — The mood inside the Celtics locker room prior to Game 6 wasn’t loose and it wasn’t grim. They were neither joking around nor were they tight. They know what they have in front of them in Game 6 and there is no sense of relief of foreboding.

They feel like they have zeroed in on the two most important big-picture areas: defensive rebounding and turnovers and it’s a testament to how off this series has been that they weren’t able to do either well in Game 5 and still get the win.

“The offensive rebounds is what allowed them to stay in the game,” Doc Rivers said. “We turned the ball over too much. And the first thing we talked about is we got away with that in a home game, we will not get away with that on a road game.”

The Celtics are also expecting Kobe Bryant to be at his best. “I mean, that’s all you can assume for is he’s going to give us his best game, very similar to last game and maybe more, maybe more assists, more rebounds,” Rivers said. “That’s why he’s Kobe. But that’s fine. I mean, we understand that. But we have to figure out a way of winning the game if that happens.”

Laker coach Phil Jackson emphasized the opposite tact, while allowing that Bryant is capable of taking the game over.

“We talked about that in our pregame today,” Jackson said. “Once he’s hot, he’s as hot as any player could be in the NBA, so you want to keep the ball on him. There’s no doubt with that. But there’s too much individual action. There’s got to be more team play on the offensive end.”

While the Lakers try to get back to what made them successful, the Celtics are simply focused on “doing what they do,” as it was written on the whiteboard in the locker room. While they have the advantage, the Celtics are aware that momentum can turn in an instant, especially if there is a Game 7.

“We just want to avoid another game,” Rivers said. “We’ve got a chance to win now, so that should be our urgency, is right now.
But you know, the Lakers have the same urgency, and their urgency is to play another night. I think you’re going to see both teams’ best tonight.”

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What to Watch For: Game 6 06.15.10 at 11:17 am ET
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LOS ANGELES — The Celtics are one game away from an unlikely championship but they understand that what they are going to try to do tonight in Game 6 of the NBA finals will be difficult. Elimination games always are, and even in this fantastic playoff run, the Celtics are only 3-2 when trying to close out the other team and 0-2 on the road.

“This will probably be the hardest game of the season, if not of the series, if not of everybody’s career,” said Kevin Garnett. “This game coming up.”

The Celtics don’t want a Game 7. They want to end it tonight. Here’s five things to watch as they try to do just that. Read the rest of this entry »

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The captain comes through 06.14.10 at 2:53 am ET
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Paul Pierce found a way around Lamar Odom and the Lakers Sunday night. (AP)

Paul Pierce found a way around Lamar Odom and the Lakers Sunday night, scoring a team-high 27 points. (AP)

On a night when Kobe Bryant scored 38 points, Paul Pierce had his own breakout performance with 27, including 11 in the third quarter, which helped offset Bryant’s 19. That was only a part of Pierce’s night.

“Paul was terrific,” Doc Rivers said. “He attacked all night. He did it through the offense, he did it through [isolation plays], he did it in pick and rolls, he made big shots for us.”

Pierce’s biggest play didn’t come on a shot, however. It was on a pass to Rajon Rondo for a layup off a long inbound play from Kevin Garnett.

“I was just showing off my Randy Moss and Tom Brady in one play, that’s all,” Pierce said. “Going up to catch it, then I went to my Brady mode when I was falling out of bounds to find Rondo on the receiving end.”

Pierce could afford to joke after the fact, but he admitted he was a little nervous when Rondo went in for the layup. The two had an eventful night. At the end of the first half, Pierce essentially walked away from a play after Rondo didn’t get him the ball.

“Oh, it was nothing,” Pierce said. The two talked it over at halftime and went about their business in the third quarter, which for Pierce meant providing an answer for Bryant’s scoring.

“I wasn’t in a personal duel with [Bryant],” Pierce said. “I really didn’t even take notice that we were going, I guess, back and forth at the time. He makes tough shots and he’s a proven winner. I’m not in a one-on-one deal with Kobe at all.”

Things just seem to happen to Pierce during the finals. He was overheard saying late in Game 2 that the Celtics weren’t going back to Los Angeles, but here they are, and Pierce will have an opportunity to win a title in his hometown.

“It hasn’t crossed [my mind],” Pierce said. “That would be great. I’m not going to jinx it right now. We’ve got to win one game, that’s the goal. But it would be amazing if we get it done.”

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C’s need more from Rondo 06.13.10 at 7:42 pm ET
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Through the first four games of the NBA finals Rajon Rondo has been solid, yet hardly spectacular, save for a triple-double in Game 2. Rondo played only 31 minutes in Game 4, shooting 5-for-15 and finishing with 10 points, five rebounds and three assists.

The key to Rondo’s effectiveness is defensive rebounding and the Celtics have been up and down in that regard. The Lakers have also done a better job of getting back in transition since Rondo was able to turn them inside out in the second game.

But there is a concern that Rondo’s inability to make free throws combined with the Lakers size inside has taken away some of his aggressiveness.

“He kind of got back to it in the second half of Game 4,” Doc Rivers said. “He missed some layups. I thought he hung his head a little bit, and that happens. You know, I still think we forget how young he is. So, he still has some growing to do.”

Maybe so, but the time for growth has passed, at least this season. The Celtics need Rondo to play at an All-Star level because the Lakers don’t have an obvious counter for him. If Rondo and Ray Allen can get going in the same game, as they did in Game 2, it would force Phil Jackson to make a choice between Kobe Bryant and Derek Fisher and that plays heavily into the Celtics advantage.

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Phil on provoking techs: That’s not fair play 06.11.10 at 1:19 pm ET
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Phil Jackson said he wo

Lakers coach Phil Jackson said he wouldn't feel comfortable encouraging his team to bait Rasheed Wallace and Kendrick Perkins into getting their seventh technical fouls. (AP)

Kendrick Perkins and Rasheed Wallace are both sitting on six technical fouls during the postseason. If either of them gets one more they are subject to a one-game suspension from the NBA.

Doc Rivers has expressed concern that they could be provoked into getting technicals, but Lakers coach Phil Jackson said that was not part of his team’s mindset. “That’s not fair play,” he said. “That’s not the way to play the games.”

Before the series began, Jackson agreed with Rivers that the NBA should revisit the seven technical foul rule for the playoffs. Both coaches feel that the number should be reduced the longer teams are alive in the postseason and that the league should look at whether double technical fouls should be counted against the number.

That’s the biggest concern for Rivers. He noted after Game 4 that he pulled Perkins out of the game after he and Pau Gasol spent several possessions getting physical in the post because he was afraid a double tech was about to happen.

“Yeah, you can be provocative and get out there and act kind of like they do if you want to and get in people’s faces and do that,” Jackson said. “But that’s not the way I like to coach a team. That’s not what I consider positive coaching, and that’s what I like to think is the right way to do things.”

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Celtics still want to run 06.11.10 at 1:07 pm ET
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Doc Rivers wants his team to look for more fast-break opportunities. (AP)

Doc Rivers wants the Celtics to look for more fast-break opportunities. (AP)

There is still a notion that the Celtics want to force the Lakers into a slow, grind-it-out game that prevents them from running. The second part of that statement is true, but the Celtics would prefer to get out in transition when they can and push the tempo.

“Well, we want that for the Lakers, but we want to run, really,” Doc Rivers said Friday. “We want to get out on the break. I think we have to run. They’re too big. They’re long. So we would like to get out in transition more, but they know that, too, and the two things they’ve done better is even when we’re getting stops, they’re getting back now. And on the first two games we thought we could beat them down the floor, and we did. Now they’re getting back. So we just have to keep getting stops and see how many times we can get [Rajon] Rondo out into transition.”

Rivers also is concerned with what he calls “empty possessions,” when his team fails to execute a set and is forced into a tough shot.

“I don’t mind missed shots, but the last two games we’ve had a ton of empty possessions where we — and we call it random, where we came down and really didn’t establish any flow and never got into a set or an execution, and that’s unlike us,” Rivers said. “That’s the only troublesome thing for me right now with our team, and we have to get out of that because it will come down to a one-possession game. If you keep wasting these possessions it’s going to come back and hurt you. I thought it did in Game 3.”

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Last run for C’s? Maybe not 06.11.10 at 12:40 pm ET
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Throughout the Celtics postseason run, the elephant in the room has been the future of the team’s eight free agents, notably Ray Allen. (Paul Pierce also has a player option for next season).

Doc Rivers noted Friday that the team’s uncertain future has not been a regular topic of concersation in the locker room. “No, we don’t talk about it at all,” Rivers said. “I’ve said that — I said it in the middle of the year. I think hopefully we sign Ray back — I think I can say that. If not, I just got fined.”

Rivers also said that he thinks Kevin Garnett will be better next season as he moves further away from his knee surgery. As for the notion that this is the last run for the Celtics, Rivers disagreed. “We don’t think that,” he said. “I think everyone outside of us, a lot of people do.”

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