|Time is now for Celtics||04.29.10 at 5:37 pm ET|
WALTHAM — You can tell just by the media crush at the Celtics training facility 12 miles west of Boston on Route 128 that there is a big series about to begin involving the Celtics and the Cleveland Cavaliers.
The quotes from the participants provide another good clue.
The two teams, as any basketball fan will recall, met in an epic seven-game series in the 2008 playoffs. The series wasn’t decided until the final 30 seconds of Game 7 at the Garden when Paul Pierce and the Celtics outlasted LeBron James and the Cavs.
Before that series, fans and experts hoped for a great series. This time, it’s almost expected. But that’s about where the comparisons end as far as the Celtics are concerned.
“Two years ago was two years ago,” Pierce said. “They have new players, we have new players. This is a whole new team. This is a different type of team. They’ve got a lot of the same players, we have a lot of the same players but it’s just like you grow up. Things change, you become better. You can’t go off what you did in the past. There’s nothing to that last series.”
Kevin Garnett agreed.
“They have better players,” Garnett said. “They have Shaq, they have guys that have been there. They have experienced players who were there two years ago. Delonte [West] is better. [Antawn] Jamison is there, has been through the grind. They have better players, more experienced people.”
When the Celtics open their Eastern Conference semifinal series against the Cavaliers on Saturday night in Cleveland, it will be the first time in the era of the new ‘Big 3′ they’re opening a playoff series on the road. It will also mark the second time in three seasons the two teams are meeting in the second round.
But whether opening at home or on the road – as will be the case this year – Ray Allen doesn’t believe Boston’s series triumph in 2008 will have much of an impact this time around.
“I don’t really think it makes a difference,” Allen said following Thursday’s practice. “That was yesterday. Now we’re trying to do this all over again. I’m sure that they remember. Playoffs in their building is tough and we remember Game 7 [in Boston] very vividly but it’s a new series. Even if we did play them last year, it wouldn’t have made a difference then, either. They’re geared up against trying to get past us going to the conference finals. The ground has to give one way or another and we look forward to taking more ground.”
The Celtics were also asked to make another comparison – Miami’s Dwyane Wade and Cleveland’s James – and how beating the former might help them with the latter this series.
“They’re not close at all, truthfully,” Pierce said. “They have better supporting players. LeBron is playing two or three other guys who have been in the All-Star Game. I can’t say that about Wade. The only similarity is they have one of the top scorers in the league. That’s it. You’re talking about two different players. They’re definitely focal points but other guys, you definitely have to worry about them. There are most consistent players in Cleveland and those guys can beat you also.”
“LeBron’s a different beast,” added Garnett. “He’s obviously with a better cast than D-Wade. I think D-Wade is one of the best one-on-one players in our game. That’s true with LeBron but I think LeBron defers more to his teammates a little bit, with his supporting cast than D-Wade. He can turn around and he has 35, eight boards and nine assists. That means he’s all-around, not even mentioning the steals and blocks. He affects the game in so many different dimensions.”
|Details on LeBron’s injury emerge||at 12:52 pm ET|
Reports out of Cleveland indicate that LeBron James has a strain in his right elbow and a bone bruise. He is not expected to miss any time in the upcoming series with the Celtics. As Brian Windhorst of the Plain Dealer put it on his Twitter account: “In technical terms it is a “bone bruise of his olecranon.” In lay terms, it means he banged his elbow and it is sore.”
Celtics coach Doc Rivers made his weekly appearance on the Dennis & Callahan show Thursday morning to talk about the C’s second-round playoff series against the Cavaliers, set to start Saturday. Rivers said he does not believe LeBron James’ elbow injury will slow down the superstar. “I don’t think it will have any effect on him,” Rivers said. “I think he’ll be fine. If he shoots Games 1, 2, 3, 4 left-handed, then I would say something’s wrong. Other than that, he’ll be fine.”
Rivers said even if LeBron James is slowed due to his sore elbow, the Cavaliers have enough other weapons to pick up the slack. “They’re a very deep basketball team. They have a lot of different guys,” Rivers said. “We have to guard the 3-point line against these guys. LeBron does what he does. But when all those guys — [Anthony] Parker, Mo Williams, Delonte West, Jamario Moon, [Antawn] Jamison — when they’re standing behind that line making 3′s, then they become unbeatable. That’s the part of the game that we have to take away from them — at least try.”
Rivers gave some insight into how the C’s and other teams attempt to limit James’ impact. “One is if you can force him to his left, you’d like to do that, even though he goes both ways pretty well,” Rivers said. “Two is give him a cushion. And three is if you can force him into being a jump shooter. That’s so much easier said than done. He understands that what teams are trying to do, and he won’t have it for the most part. He’ll still put the ball on the floor.
“As far as guarding him, you can just name [the C's defenders]. Marquis [Daniels] will get a chance, Tony [Allen] will get a chance, Paul [Pierce] will get a chance, Hopefully, no more than those three.”
Asked what he would like to see from Rasheed Wallace in this series, Rivers said: “Three things: He has to be better defensively for us, especially vs. the pick and roll. Offensively he has to be a low-post presence. And then he does have to knock down a couple of shots, because that will spread their defense.”
Asked about the history of problems between the teams, Rivers implied that his club will focus more on the basketball and less on the extracurricular stuff this time around, although the C’s won’t back down. “We’re just going to come and play,” he said. “We’ll be ready. If it becomes a physical series, we’ll be ready for that as well.”
Rivers said the Celtics’ victory over the Cavaliers two years ago en route to a title won’t mean much now. “[Cavs general manager] Danny Ferry has done an amazing job with them,” Rivers said. “He’s added talent. When you think about their team when we beat them two years ago to their team now, it doesn’t even resemble the same team. They just keep adding talent and skileld players around LeBron. And that’s what they had to do, and they’ve done it.”
Rivers commented on Patriots draft pick Brandon Spikes, who is dating Rivers’ daughter, Callie (they were University of Florida classmates). “My boys got a lot of pleasure out of that the first time Brandon came over to the house, because I’m always intimidating my daughter’s boyfriends but I was saying, ‘Yes, sir,’ to him,” Rivers joked.
To hear the interview, click on the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.
|Davis plans on attacking the Kingdom||04.28.10 at 12:31 am ET|
Glen Davis was speaking for the Celtics when he characterized the match-up with LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers starting this Saturday at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland in the opener of the Eastern Conference semifinal series.
“It’s going to be tougher, we know that,” Davis said. “We’ve got to go there and grind it out. We go to them first. We just have to make sure we go there with the mentality of attack first. It’s just like in every kingdom, sometimes you’ve got to go to the fight, you’ve got to bring it to them, attack their fortress and bust down their wall with a wooden tree and go attack it. That’s how it is.”
Davis and the Celtics will have Wednesday off before returning to practice Thursday afternoon. Game 1 is Saturday while Game 2 will be Monday in Cleveland before the series shifts back to Boston for Games 3 and 4.
While Dwyane Wade had another big game with 31 points in Game 5 Tuesday night, it was Davis who helped keep the rest of the Miami starters in single digits.
“Our defensive presence was just there,” Davis said. “Game 4 we kind of backed off of that a little bit and D-Wade had a big game, some of the other players on their team. One of the reasons we closed this out is because of defense and kind of [containing] people round D-Wade.”
Davis said the five-game series against Wade and the Heat might just be the perfect tune-up for James and the Cavs beginning Saturday on the shores of Lake Erie.
“It’s just great practice for us against Cleveland,” Davis said. “We had good practices. D-Wade is a great player. LeBron’s a great player and he has good players around him and he makes them better. We have to stop the ones around him.
“We could do better,” Davis added. “We’re a better team, we’ve been together for a long time and we still make some of the same mistakes. We can always be better.”
Starting Saturday, Davis and the Celtics have little choice if they plan on advancing.
|Doc on the Cavs: ‘I like the hatred’||04.05.10 at 4:55 pm ET|
WALTHAM — Doc Rivers believes LeBron James has it right when it comes to attitudes of opposing players on the court.
No friends allowed.
Rivers reacted Monday and said he embraces the bitter feelings between the Celtics and Cavaliers. He just added that he doesn’t want to see it spill over to the officials.
“I like the hatred,” Rivers said. “I think that’s good. I do think the two teams don’t like each other, for whatever reason. I don’t ever think that’s a bad thing, personally. I think that’s a good thing. I just don’t want to see that officiated. I think going into games, people know that. Just line them up and let them play.”
When told that James endorses a more fierce mentality between teams, Rivers said that’s good for the league.
Rivers has maintained for years that the dynamic between NBA players has changed forever with the evolution of basketball camps such as Nike and AAU, where players get to know each other at a young age – usually in high school.
“I’m all for it,” Rivers said. “I love it. He’s the new leader. I think we should all listen to LeBron, if that’s what he’s saying. I really believe that. I said many times, the AAU thing has changed the game in that way. Everyone knows each other. I don’t understand how everybody is still friends. It drives me nuts. That’s just the way it is.
“I used to fight that my first couple of years here and in Orlando. Even in Orlando, I went so far as if you shake a guy’s hand before a game, I was going to fine you. Then I realized they know each other, they’re friends, so I gave in.”
|James took lessons learned from battles with Pierce||04.04.10 at 11:58 pm ET|
The matchup between Paul Pierce and LeBron James is one of the most competitive battles in the NBA. But before James was dominating the scoreboard, he was trying to learn from his veteran counterpart.
“When I first came into the league, he was a seasoned vet and I was a rookie just trying to learn the curve and things like that,” James said prior to the Celtics 117-113 win over the Cavaliers. “Over the years, he’s still been an All-Star, he’s still been competitive. I’m just trying to develop my game to be one of the best three’s (small forwards) in the league, to be on Paul Pierce’s level and all these other guys‘ level.”
On Sunday, James outscored Pierce, 42-16 (20 of his points came in the fourth quarter alone). It’s a far cry from their first regular-season matchup seven years ago. On Nov. 13, 2003, James — as a rookie — scored 10 points in a 91-82 loss to the Celtics. In that one, Pierce, who was entering his sixth season, led the C’s with 19 points.
“You learn, the game itself teaches you game after game after game,” James said. “But you learn when you go against the best, you see why they are considered the best at that time or still now because of the work they put into it. They never took a night off.”
James is averaging 29.9 points this season (30.6 in his last five contests) and has scored more than 20 points in all but one game since the All-Star Break. He wrapped up his regular season matchup with the Celtics averaging 36.5 points in four games.
“I’ve been able to be recognized as one of the best three’s that we have in this league,” James added, “So it’s always fun to go against the best guys in the league, and Paul continues to be that since I was a rookie.”
|Pierce on C’s turmoil: We ‘talk things out’||at 12:18 am ET|
WALTHAM — Paul Pierce made a admission on Saturday following practice.
The Celtics had some words amongst each other about what was happening on their home court in three straight losses – or more to the point, what wasn’t. And that turmoil was evident several times on Friday as Rajon Rondo had animated discussions with Shelden Williams and Pierce during the fourth quarter as the Celtics were trying to get their defensive house in order.
The team’s ability to defend the simple pick-and-roll was exposed as an apparent weakness on Friday as Aaron Brooks, Kyle Lowry and Luis Scola went to town late in the fourth quarter as the Rockets battled back to force overtime and then erased a five-point hole in OT to score the last 10 points of overtime in the 119-114 Rockets win.
“I think we’re breaking down in just one area,” Pierce said. “And it needs to get better. We have to be better on the pick and roll.”
In other words, when the opposing player passes the ball, a fundamental rule in basketball defense 101 is that the passer becomes the most dangerous potential scorer on the court.
“I think we trust each other,” Pierce said. “It’s just about going out there and doing it and trusting the coaching staff. The good thing about us after a game like [Friday] or the game before, we sit in the locker room and we talk about it. We were in the training room, talking about what we need to do better and what we need to do as a team. That’s a positive sign, how during a tough stretch like this, we stick together and talk things out.”
And that talk continued from Friday night post-game to Saturday pre-film study as Pierce said the team had an animated and frank discussion of the mistakes being made, with everyone in green taking some responsibility.
Now with LeBron James, Antawn Jamison and the NBA-leading Cavaliers coming to town Sunday, the Celtics are just hoping their film study and practice on Saturday is enough to pass the huge test.
He didn’t want to get into it after Friday’s loss, but Celtics coach Doc Rivers gave several examples on Saturday of the problems that led to his team’s meltdown.
There was the lack of respect given to 3-point sharpshooter Chase Budinger, after several reminders from the coaching staff to get in his face and stick with him on defense. They failed.
There was the shot taken by Nate Robinson at the end of the second quarter, leading to a three-point swing that gave Houston a four-point lead instead of one. And there was Pierce dribbling out the clock before halftime without getting off a shot.
All of that said, Saturday was a time to look forward to preparing for the Cleveland Cavaliers, a team that beat them by 20 on the same court on Feb. 26. Looking back on Friday’s loss on film was not what Doc ordered on Saturday.