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The Magic were the team to beat all along 05.15.10 at 8:02 pm ET
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WALTHAM — At first glance, the comments from Doc Rivers about his hometown Orlando Magic seem like just more lip service in an effort not to give his opponent any bulletin board material.

But deep down, the Celtics head coach meant what he said and he wanted to make sure his players understood it before they boarded their plane Saturday afternoon for Orlando and Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals.

‘€œLike we told our guys, Cleveland wasn’€™t our goal and neither is Orlando,” Rivers began. “Having said that, Orlando is the team, coming into the season, that you felt if you wanted to get out of the East, you had to beat Orlando. They’€™re the team that won the East last year, not Cleveland. I wanted our guys to have focus on that.’€

Captain Paul Pierce remembers the feeling of walking off the court on that Sunday night in early May last year when the Magic stunned the defending champion Celtics in Game 7 at the Garden in the Eastern Conference semifinals.

‘€œYou’€™re talking about pretty much two different teams,” Pierce said Saturday. “Obviously, what Jameer [Nelson] means to that team from not having him a year ago and Vince Carter and us adding KG to the starting lineup in this series and bringing in Rasheed [Wallace]. Definitely, two different teams for the most part. A lot of core guys are still there. It should be an interesting matchup.’€

Pierce said this a great chance for the men in green.

‘€œIt feels good,” Pierce said. “You get an opportunity to play against the Orlando Magic at their full strength and us at our full strength, so you have the two best teams in the Eastern Conference at full strength going at it to see who’€™s going to the championship. They’€™ve been playing very well, if not the best of everybody in basketball the last month. We’€™ve got our work cut out for us.

‘€œWhen you got into the off-season and don’€™t win the championship, you use things like that for motivation. That was one of my motivations, just the way we went out, especially on our home court really left a bad taste in my mouth. Hopefully, if we can get this series win, it can erase some of that.’€

Ray Allen was another veteran stung by last year’s exit in Boston.

‘€œThis is a great opportunity, coming back and knowing they put us out last year,” Allen said. “I think there are two different scenarios now. It’€™s two different teams but we know where our history lies and where we want to go and they’€™re a team in our way.’€

Allen will be one of those with the responsibility of trying to match up with Rashard Lewis and Mickael Pietrus and helping to take away weapons from point guard Jameer Nelson.

‘€œThey’€™ve built their team around having strong point guard play, somebody who can penetrate the ball and Dwight being so powerful inside,” Allen said. “So, we have to each guard a man-and-a-half. We have to guard our man and then help when they do pass because they try to build us out against our defense.

‘€œObviously, we take player tendencies into account but I think the first game is going to dictate how the second game is going to go and each game is going to be different from the previous one and so forth.’€

Whatever the match-ups, Rivers has prepared his team to be ready for a Magic team that is as versatile as they come in the NBA. If they’re not ready, they have no one to blame but themselves.

‘€œHopefully, our antennas are up, if they’€™re no we’€™re going to struggle,” Rivers said. “It’€™s no secret what they do, they use Howard as a great post guy and try to suck in everybody. Jameer Nelson tries to crack you off the dribble and then go draw and kick and look for threes. That’€™s what they do.’€

‘€œWe have a go-to guy in Kevin [Garnett] that we’€™re going to go to. And they have their team leader back. He’€™s their team leader in a lot of ways. I think they get a lot of their toughness from him. He makes big shots for them. I think it’€™s two different teams anyway, especially them. They’€™ve changed their personnel completely.’€

Read More: Celtics, Magic, NBA playoffs, Paul Pierce
Better safe than sorry with Perk at 6:30 pm ET
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WALTHAM — Kendrick Perkins, the player primarily responsible for guarding Orlando’s Dwight Howard, was held out of practice on Saturday with a sore right knee. Perkins wore wraps on both knees and kept ice on his right one until the end of practice.

“He tried to go early and it bothered him a lot.” Rivers said. “He wanted to go I said, ‘I don’t need you tonight. You’re not going to help me today in practice. I need you tomorrow.'”

Following practice in Waltham, the Celtics left Saturday for Orlando and Sunday afternoon’s Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals. Tipoff is set for 3:30 p.m. ET.

Read More: Celtics, Eastern Conference finals, Kendrick Perkins, Magic
Thanks to T.A., C’s where they want to be 05.14.10 at 1:06 pm ET
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One man’s misfortune often is another’s opportunity. Such was the case for Tony Allen in the recent series against the NBA’s MVP and the team with the best record in the NBA this regular season.

With Paul Pierce once again saddled with two fouls early in Game 6, it was up to Allen to step up and help on LeBron James.

And help he did, as he held James to single figures in the first quarter and applied pressure throughout the second half in key spurts. The superstar wound up with a triple-double but he hardly was able to dictate the pace and tempo of the game with his trademark rocket cross-court passes as the Celtics prevailed, 94-85, to advance to Sunday’s opener of the Eastern Conference finals in Orlando.

‘€œThat’€™s my role on this team,” Allen said. “I’ve got to be aggressive, just as aggressive as he is. For the most part I took that challenge. He still had a great night offensively all around. My whole thing is just to contain him, and listen to my bigs in transition.’€

Whether it’s Kevin Garnett, Kendrick Perkins or Rasheed Wallace shouting out, Allen proved he can be all ears and arms on the court.

As the Cavaliers were in the midst of a big run, cutting the lead to four on back-to-back 3’s by James, Allen recalled a key turning point.

‘€œI remember while being in the game, I just missed getting to [LeBron] and then got encouraged from my bigs ‘€“ I didn’€™t hear them and they cut into the lead. For the most part we stuck together, we grinded it out. We were able to get back to the lead up.’€

From that point on, the Celtics re-established their double-digit lead.

Paul Pierce had a couple of huge baskets including a 3-pointer and felt like he had more energy toward the end of the game, thanks in part to T.A.

‘€œIt wasn’€™t really that grueling for me because I was in foul trouble, Pierce said. “I think it was more grueling for Ray and Tony because he’€™s a special talent, obviously he’s the best player in the NBA, tough to guard one-on-one, but you have to give a lot of credit to the other guys. He did his job, got me in foul trouble, but I’€™m a lot fresher in this series because of the foul trouble than I was when I played against him two years ago when he just completely wore me down.

“But those other guys, they played their hearts out on defense, it wasn’€™t just me, it was Ray [Allen], Tony, Kevin, Rasheed, Baby [Glen Davis], it was a number of guys. There is no person that can guard the guy so lets just leave it at that, it was nothing that one person did, it was a collective group, it was a team defense that was surrounded around stopping him.’€

Ultimately, the Cavs learned that a team of reserves like Tony Allen can help shut down a team led by the two-time reigning MVP.

‘€œMost definitely, at the end of the day everybody has their role,” Allen said. “Like Doc said before the game, ‘€˜Do your role, do your role 100 percent.’ Everybody took that challenge, and we were fortunate enough to get that win.

‘€œIt was big, but I think guys came in focused. They meant what they said, they didn’€™t want to go back to Cleveland. At the end of the day we prepared for this, and we were where we wanted to be.’€

Read More: Cavaliers, Cavs, Celtics, LeBron James
No Magic lessons in last year 05.13.10 at 8:43 pm ET
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Last year, the Celtics were in the same round with the same advantage.

They were up, 3-2, having two chances to get one win and advance to the Eastern Conference finals. The Celtics blew a double-digit lead in Game 6 before getting blown out in the second half of Game 7 at home against Orlando.

Fast forward 12 months, and these Celtics entered Game 6 Thursday with a 3-2 series lead and a chance to advance to the Eastern Conference finals with a win over LeBron and the Cavaliers. Any lesson to be learned?

“No, different team,” Rivers answered before Thursday’s contest. “We’re playing a different team. Orlando outplayed us so all we learned there is you have to play better. You have to try to seize the moment when you have the home court but at the end of the day, you have to perform.

“If Cleveland comes out and makes more shots and does their game plan better than ours, we won’t win. If we do ours, we’ll win. Last year won’t help you.”

And Rivers was totally in agreement with Kevin Garnett’s sentiments following the Game 5 blowout win in Cleveland. The Celtics want no part of Game 7 in Cleveland and look at Game 6 as a must win.

“We are, we are,” Rivers said. “We’ve won in Cleveland twice. We don’t want to press our luck. We have to view it the same way they are. It’s a big game for both teams.”

Rivers – an Orlando resident – knows the Magic await the winner and responded with humor when asked what he thought Orlando was thinking watching this series.

“Orlando is a terrific city and so, yes, it’s warm, it’s 80 degrees most likely,” Rivers said tongue-in-cheek. “They’re having a ball. They love it.”

Then he took a more serious approach, pointing out the Magic have earned their rest this round after sweeping through eight playoff games so far.

“They want it to go eight, if it can,” Rivers said of Orlando’s preference in watching the Celtics and Cavs. “There’s no doubt about it. If we were in the position they are in, they would want the same thing. They’ve earned it. They did it quick. They’ve only played eight games when you think about it. That’s pretty remarkable.”

Read More: Cavaliers, Celtics, Doc Rivers, LeBron
Ainge on The Big Show: Both teams ‘desperate’ at 7:48 pm ET
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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. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Cavaliers, Celtics, Danny Ainge, Kevin Garnett
Is this the end of the LeBron era in Cleveland? 05.12.10 at 11:58 am ET
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Last Friday, in the wake of the Cleveland Cavaliers‘ dominant 124-95 win over the Celtics at TD Garden in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference semifinals, everyone was ready to call the series over. LeBron James was back, putting behind any notions of a elbow troubles by coming through with an unstoppable performance, tallying 38 points, eight boards and seven assists in the blowout.

But that was then, and this is now. Now being the day after James submitted an astonishing 3-14 effort and finished with just 15 points in a 120-88 Game 5 loss to the Celtics. Just when it looked like James and the Cavs were going to take control of the series, the Celtics bounced back to win two straight, and now have the chance to take the series in Game 6 at the Garden Thursday.

By no means are the Cavaliers done, particularly the way the Celtics have played at home this season. But there was an air of finality on Tuesday night at Quicken Loans Arena, as only a handful of people were left in the seats to watch what might have been LeBron James’ last game on that court as part of the home team.

The question has loomed large in Cleveland (and New York) all season, and with the Cavs one game away from having their season come to an abrupt finish fans are getting antsy. Depending on whether or not you want to believe James’ “official biographer,” he is all but gone from Cleveland, whether the Cavs can rebound and end up winning the title or not. And with offers like this, how could you blame him?

While LeBron’s destination for the 2010-11 season isn’t a certainty, there was no denying that he struggled mightily on Tuesday night. And the King is catching a lot of flack for his performance, with much of the blame being placed squarely on his shoulders despite the struggles the rest of his team had both offensively and particularly defensively in Game 5. Much of the discussion has centered on the fact that the Cavs have looked like a team without much of an identity, particularly when compared to the Celtics. For all the hoopla over Boston’s regular season troubles, it is the Celtics who have found the rhythm in this series (minus that Game 3, where it seemed they barely showed up) and the Cavs who have looked lost.

There is at least some sentiment that that could be caused by chemistry issues. For all the talk of Cleveland’s abundance of talent, Mike Brown has had trouble juggling it in this series. That was on display Tuesday night when he gave Zydrunas Ilgauskas, who had barely played at all in this series, an extended run and even put a cold Daniel Gibson in during the third quarter when he felt the game slipping away. There is some suggestion that maybe a new coach could keep LeBron in his home state. Despite what Brown has done to help mold this Cleveland into a contender, you can bet that Cavs owner Dan Gilbert will do whatever it takes to keep James from leaving. But it is not like the blame that has been placed on LeBron himself has not been warranted. Brian Windhorst, the Cleveland Plain Dealer’s beat writer for the Cavs, wrote that he has seen chemistry problems develop as James has acted increasingly “disengaged” in this playoff series.

So you have every right to be afraid, Cleveland fans. If the Celtics win on Thursday, the Cavs could lose a lot more than just this series.

Read More: Cavaliers, Celtics, LeBron James,
Why Spike Lee is rooting for the Celtics 05.11.10 at 12:09 pm ET
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Diehard New York fan Spike Lee is throwing his support to the Celtics ‘€” but not without his own motivations.

As Lee explained to ESPNNewYork.com, he has the Knicks’ best interest in mind when he roots for the C’€™s. He hopes that an Eastern Conference semifinals loss for the Cavaliers could sway James to leave Cleveland during free agency this summer.

“We need LeBron,” Lee said. “I feel we have a better chance to get LeBron James if Cleveland loses this series to the Celtics. The quicker Cleveland loses, the better our chances are of getting LeBron.”

In spite of his allegiance to the Knicks, Lee actually has a few ties to the Celtics. He directed Ray Allen in ‘€œHe Got Game’€ and recently spoke with Rajon Rondo at an event for ‘€œJust Wright,’€ a movie in which Rondo has a cameo.

While Lee told ESPN he does not think the Cavs have an answer for Rondo, he strongly re-emphasized the true reason behind his unexpected support for the C’€™s.

“I’m not putting on any green and I’m not going to kiss the Blarney Stone or do the shamrock thing,’€ he said. ‘€œI hate the Red Sox as much as I hate the Celtics and the ghost of Johnny Most and all those guys. This is the first and last time I root for Boston on anything, but for this one possible result it’s worth it.”

Read More: Cavaliers, Celtics, Knicks, LeBron James
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