|Celts ready for the unexpected||05.13.10 at 7:31 pm ET|
The talk this morning was of the Cleveland Cavaliers possibly making some kind of a lineup switch for Game 6. Cavs coach Mike Brown has been searching for the right combination of players since the series started and it’s fair to say after five games that he still has not settled on a set rotation.
Brown has already strayed from the early-series script by playing Zydrunas Ilgauskus ahead of J.J. Hickson in Game 5 and Daniel Gibson, who hasn’t played at all.
“When Gibson came in, when Ilgauskus came in, everyone’s antenna did go up a little bit because we knew what those guys do,” Ray Allen said before Game 6. “Those guys are good offensive players so everyone was on alert. For us, we know each other. [It's] not as much of a surprise as it is when you see a guy go in, you adjust.”
The Celtics rolled with the adjustments just fine in Game 5 and part of that is that they are so set in their ways. The other part of that is preparation.
“We have to prepare for everything; big lineup, small lineup,” Doc Rivers said. “Fortunately or unfortunately for them, they have the ability to do a lot of different things because of their personnel. We can’t. We are who we are and we’re not going to change, and in some ways that makes it easier.”
Still, Rivers doesn’t think that the Cavs will change all that drastically in Game 6.
“They’re a solid basketball team,” he said. “They’re not going to change a lot. We wouldn’t be shocked to see Varejao maybe in the starting lineup or them going with size early. But they didn’t get this record by doing a lot of changing.”
|Lineup changes coming for Cavs?||05.13.10 at 2:04 pm ET|
Reports out of the Cavaliers shootaround this morning indicate that Mike Brown is considering lineup changes for Game 6 tonight at the Garden. Plain Dealer beat writer Brian Windhorst noted that Brown is unlikely to change his starting five, but he brings up the one radical move that Brown has left: playing LeBron James at point guard.
The Cavs lineup would look like this: James at the point, Anthony Parker at off-guard and Antawn Jamison at small forward. The big men would be some cobination of J.J. Hickson, Anderson Varejao and Shaquille O’Neal, but probably the former to try to speed up play.
That would do a number of things: First, It would take Jamison away from Kevin Garnett where he is getting worked in the post and it would also remove Mo Williams out of the equation where he is getting worked against everyone. It would also set up James to match up directly with Rajon Rondo.
Brown tried a number of personnel adjustments in Game 5 including playing Zydrunas Ilgauskus ahead of Hickson, and calling on Daniel Gibson who hasn’t been in his rotation since March. Ilgauskus actually played well, but the moves had a feel of desperation about them.
This might be a desperate move, but it’s not necessarily a panic move. Taking Williams out of the lineup is addition by subtraction at this point and James has been successful guarding Rondo in small doses.
On the other hand, it could also open up Paul Pierce. The Celtics are going to keep pounding the ball to Garnett on the post regardless of who’s guarding him and there’s no reason to believe they wouldn’t keep attacking Jamison in whatever matchup he finds himself.
The Celtics have been able to come up with effective counters for whatever the Cavs have thrown at them and it would be surprising if they haven’t planned for this scenario as well.
|In praise of Thibs||05.12.10 at 4:44 pm ET|
WALTHAM — Associate coach Tom Thibodeau has already been mentioned in connection with a number of head coaching jobs this season, and if his resume needed any more polishing he can point to the work his defense has done against the Cavaliers in this series.
If you throw out Game 3 when the Cavs shot almost 60 percent and scored 124 points, they have averaged just 90.5 points and shot less than 43 percent from the floor. Even with Game 3 in the mix, they have shot just 27 percent from 3-point range.
Much of the focus, as always, has been on LeBron James, but the Celtics team defense has been stellar (again, aside from Game 3), and much of that credit goes to Thibodeau and the plan he has in place.
“He’s terrific,” Doc Rivers said Wednesday after the team conducted a short practice. “He’s the best defensive coach I think in the league. I don’t know if there’s a better one and our guys buy into it. I think that’s very important. If they don’t buy into what you’re doing, it’s not going to work. We have a group of guys who are willing to buy in to what we want them to do, to what Thibs wants them to do, and that’s why it works.”
Paul Pierce has been in the crosshairs thanks to his matchup with James, but he has been quick to deflect praise back to his teammates. The Celtics have a solid gameplan for James: Try to make him take jump shots, keep him out of the paint whenever possible and don’t allow layups. The initial onus is on Pierce, of course, but he knows he has help waiting for him in the paint.
The other issue with a player like James is with all that focus and attention, his teammates can get open, but the Celtics have done a superb job of shutting down his complimentary players.
Antawn Jamison has averaged 13.2 points, and has been held under 20 points in every game except for Game 3. Mo Williams has also struggled, shooting just 39 percent from the floor and 3-for-15 from 3-point range. Anthony Parker has shot the ball well, but he’s simply not a threat like Jamison and and Williams.
The Celtics have a solid plan in place and the players are executing. That’s not an accident. Thibodeau is known as a grinder. A coach who puts in long hours of work and preparation. That kind of work should be appreciated without fail, but that’s not always the case in this league.
The Celtics, however, are firmly are on board with what Thibodeau preaches and it starts with Kevin Garnett.
“He needs the support of his head coach, one, and then it’s the best player,” Rivers said. “If the best player buys in, everyone follows. Tim Duncan bought in to Pop and [Spurs assistant Mike Budenholzer] and they all followed. It’s the same here. Kevin bought in on Day One. And what choice do you have? You have to follow.”
If Thibodeau does finally break through and get a head coaching job, the Celtics will have a large hole to fill. But for now they are more than happy that he is on their side.
|Perk reacts to Shaq’s elbow||05.12.10 at 4:08 pm ET|
WALTHAM — Things got a little heated Tuesday in Game 5 of the Celtics series with the Cavs as there were two sets of double technical fouls issued. The first pair were handed out to Kendrick Perkins and Shaquille O’Neal. The second went to Rajon Rondo and Mo Williams.
Rondo didn’t talk to the media Wednesday, but Perkins was asked about the exchange.
“I got caught up in the moment,” Perkins said. “He threw an elbow. He hit me in my neck. I just told him watch his elbows. If you let a guy keep throwing elbows and don’t tell him and let him get too comfortable, he’s going to keep doing it. At some point as a man you got to stand up.”
|Passing of the torch? Doc passes||05.11.10 at 7:48 pm ET|
CLEVELAND — For the last few days all the talk around the Celtics has been on the passing of the torch from the Big Three to Rajon Rondo. Funny, but the Celtics don’t look at it that way.
“That’s for y’all, I’m just trying to get them to pass the ball to each other,” Doc Rivers said. “That torch stuff, I’m going to leave that alone. As long as they keep passing to each other, I’m good.”
|Searching for consistency in an inconsistent series||05.11.10 at 7:44 pm ET|
CLEVELAND — Through four games of this series, neither the Celtics nor the Cavaliers have been able to establish anything that could be easily identified as momentum. There have been two blowouts, two close games and two road wins.
The prevailing thought hours before Game 5 was that no one knows what’s going to happen tonight.
“Rhythm-less,” is how Doc Rivers termed it. “No one’s won two games in a row. I suspect this game tonight, I think both teams are going to play really well and we’re going to have a better understanding.”
Ray Allen, for one, is not surprised that the series has gone the way it has.
“I believe in momentum during the regular season,” Allen said. “Even though we played a day-a-and-a-half ago, the turnaround is so quick. We know what they’re doing. They know what we’re doing. You have to create whatever momentum from one day to the next. You can’t just think that the last game gets you to win the next game. It gets you the loss, really.”
The Celtics have been searching for consistency since the dawn of the new year. Injuries took them out of their comfort zone, but even when the players started returning, getting back into a groove proved difficult.
“We knew who we were,” Rivers said. “We knew our identity. We started off the season with it and then we lost our way.”
It’s now become clear that their decisive first round win over Miami kickstarted the Celtics rejuvenation. Throughout that series, the Celtics won games with their defense, which fed their transition game.
“I hate to say that we bypassed what we did in the regular season,” Allen said. “But once the playoffs came everybody was ready to play. Regardless of who we played, we knew homecourt wasn’t going to sustain us. We have to win in somebody else’s building and here we are.We never talked about it. It was never anything that any of us ever worried about. In the first round we had to just play.”
And now? “I still think that it’s 2-2 and we’ve both won on each other’s court,” Allen said. “It’s a three-game series and now it starts to get really interesting.”
|Doc: We don’t care who guards Rondo||05.10.10 at 4:17 pm ET|
WALTHAM — After Game 4, LeBron James said it was time to “explore” having him guard Rajon Rondo. On Monday in Cleveland, Cavs coach Mike Brown said it was likely going to happen.
That’s fine with the Celtics who have been waiting for this to happen since the series started.
“We don’t care who guards Rondo,” Doc Rivers said Monday. “We’re going to still run out stuff. It’s not like we’re going to stop running our offense. We anticipated it. I’ve only talked about it for three games. We know it’s going to come at some point in this series. When it does we have to find a way of using Rondo and making sure he’s still the facilitator.”
Rivers felt that one of the keys in Rondo’s huge Game 4 performance was that he made things happen off ball movement. This was a key difference from Game 3 when most of the Celtics offense came off one-on-one isolation plays (or rather breakdowns).
Rondo, who sees more gimmick defenses and adjustments than any of the other Celtics combined, isn’t worried about it either.
“It’s happened before,” Rondo said. “LeBron is going to be LeBron. He’s a great help-defender so he’s definitely going to be helping. He’s a good defender. They did that a couple of years ago when Kobe [Bryant] was checking me in the Finals. So, I’m used to bigger guys giving me the shot and challenging me late because of their wingspan.”
Brown has resisted employing the LeBron option to this point and a good reason for doing so is that James has taken Paul Pierce out of the series to this point. If he does take Rondo, that would put Anthony Parker on Pierce, and while Parker is a good, veteran defender, he’s no nearly as physically imposing as James.
“That’s probably one of the reasons they haven’t,” Rivers said. “But they’re going to at some point. It may not be all game. It may be in the fourth quarter. It may be in the second half, out of timeouts. And will be ready for it.”