|Doc on alert for letdown||05.18.10 at 7:55 pm ET|
ORLANDO — It has been suggested that the Celtics should be thrilled to go back to Boston with a split, which they have already earned with their Game 1 victory. That’s not their mindset, obviously, but that doesn’t mean that Doc Rivers isn’t aware of the possibility.
“You can talk about it, but you don’t know until the game starts,” Rivers said prior to Game 2. “You’ll know early, at least I will. That doesn’t mean you can’t try to get them out of it during the game, if possible. But it something that is always on your mind of you win a game or a couple of games because it is human nature. That’s something we all fight.”
The Celtics haven’t always handled prosperity well this season. They have won four straight games in the playoffs and they only had two such streaks since mid-December. But this is obviously a whole new set of circumstances.
|Legler on D&C: Sheed’s ‘D’ key for C’s||at 10:15 am ET|
ESPN NBA analyst Tim Legler joined the Dennis & Callahan show Tuesday morning to talk about the Celtics-Magic series. To hear the interview, click on the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.
Legler pointed to the much-maligned Rasheed Wallace as the pivotal figure in the C’s Game 1 victory. “You have to have guys that not only physically are capable of playing Dwight Howard in single coverage as much as you can, you have to have guys that are emotionally ready for it and want the challenge. Boston’s got a few guys like that,” Legler said. “I thought Rasheed Wallace was the key to their victory in Game 1. I thought he got in the head of Dwight Howard. I thought his nastiness, his edge was something Dwight Howard wasn’t prepared for, ready for. Rasheed, you think of him as a 7-foot 3-point shooter and a finesse player, but that’s not the case on the defensive end of the floor. He has been, in the 15 years he’s been in the league, he’s been one of the pre-eminent post defenders we’ve had. He loves the challenge.
“His versatility defensively I thought was the key to the first game, and it will be the key to the series moving forward. If [Kendrick] Perkins and Rasheed can play [Howard] that successfully one-on-one and you stay out on the 3-point shooters, Orlando’s in big trouble.”
Legler said the pressure is on Orlando’s big man to come up big. “Dwight Howard has to do more,” Legler said. “He has to be a guy who can knock down a face-up jump shot once in a while. I’ve never seen him even take one, much less make one. He doesn’t have enough ability to go to a sky hook or go to a turnaround jump shot in the post. He’s a guy that simply has to overpower you and he has to catch the ball in great position to be able to do that, and the Boston Celtics are determined not to let that happen. … What is his efficiency going to be when he catches the ball? It wasn’t there in Game 1. It’s going to have to get a lot better.”
Legler said the Celtics’ balance makes them difficult to defend, but he points to Ray Allen as the player the Magic should focus on stopping. Said Legler: “Ray Allen, to me, is the barometer for the Celtics. He always has been. He’s a guy, his activity offensively, when he’s running off those screens and he’s getting clean looks, or he’s getting looks in transition, that loosens up everything. … Ray Allen, to me, is a guy that you’ve got to get under control and make sure he’s not getting up in the mid-20s. Because when he’s there, the Celtics rarely lose.”
Asked for his prediction about where LeBron James will sign as a free agent, Legler said he would rank the favorites as Chicago, New York and Cleveland.
|Celtics have room for improvement||05.17.10 at 1:28 pm ET|
ORLANDO — The important thing is that they got the win, but the Celtics know that if they are going to head home with two games in their back pocket that they have work to do. First and foremost, is cleaning up on the boards.
The Celtics allowed 15 offensive rebounds in Game 1 against the Magic and they know that can’t continue.
“That’s real disturbing,” Paul Pierce said. “That’s something we gave up mostly in the second half.”
Pierce is sort of right on that count — the Celtics allowed eight of the 15 in the second half — but the problem became more noticeable in the fourth quarter when the Magic made their run. As is often the case, a decent number of the Magic’s second-chance points came off dribble penetration and freelancing from their defensive system.
“It wasn’t their bigs in some places, it was their guards,” Doc Rivers said. “[Matt] Barnes hurt us a couple of times. We double teamed three times and they scored all three times where we were not supposed to double team, and then the dribble penetration. [J.J.] Redick killed us off the dribble.”
By Rivers count the Celtics double-teamed on three occasions, and they got burned each time.
“It’s instinct,” Rivers said. “We had a horrible one, where we doubled Dwight [Howard]. Dwight was five feet off the block and we went and doubled him and Jason Williams was standing by himself behind the 3. That’s just an instinct and we do allow that, but we have to be smarter against this team. They kill you when you double them. If you double team this team they’ll hurt you.”
The Celtics also want to figure out their pick and roll coverage. Jameer Nelson burned them in the second half when they went under the screen. He’s too good a shooter to allow him open looks.
“We’ve got to figure out a way to stop Jameer Nelson in the pick and roll,” Pierce said. “He really got hot in the second half. We’re far from being where we want to be.”
|Jeff Van Gundy on D&C: Magic’s Carter the key||at 9:32 am ET|
Jeff Van Gundy, who provides analysis for NBA games on ESPN and ABC, joined the Dennis & Callahan show Monday morning to talk about the Celtics’ victory over the Magic on Sunday in the opening game of the Eastern Conference finals. To hear the interview, click on the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.
Van Gundy was asked how the Celtics are able to limit Dwight Howard and the Magic offense while other teams struggle against Orlando. “Different personnel, different intensity and different plan — I just think it’s that simple,” said Van Gundy, whose brother Stan coaches the Magic. “From a personnel standpoint, they’re big and they’re strong. They stay one-on-one, from a plan standpoint. And the Celtics’ intensity is just at a different level defensively than most teams in this league.”
Howard is the marquee player in this series, but his inability to score on post moves showed he still has a way to go. “He’s improved some offensively, but I just don’t think he’s ever going to be the guy that you can play through and win a championship,” Van Gundy said. “And that’s why Vince Carter, to me, is the most important player in this series. Because if he doesn’t have a big series for Orlando, I don’t think they can win not only the series, I don’t think it will be a competitive series.”
Van Gundy also talked about the Celtics’ win over Cavaliers. “The only thing that shocked me about the Cleveland series was the margin of defeat,” he said. “I was shocked in Cleveland that they were able to win by such big amounts.”
Added Van Gundy: ”What impressed me the most was they got absolutely hammered at home in Game 3 against Cleveland. To me, you don’t really know about a team’s chemistry until you withstand losing in a beatdown. And they got beaten down in that game. But instead of pointing the fingers at strategy of coaches or this or that, what you saw in Game 4 was Celtic intensity, Celtic defensive pride, and Rondo’s great game. And then from there, they’ve been off and running again. When you get your character and your chemistry tested like that and you respond, you have the opportunity to win it all.”
|Ray Allen on respect: Who cares?||05.16.10 at 3:06 pm ET|
ORLANDO — There’s been a lot of talk about respect lately. The Magic feel like they don’t get any, and the Celtics could claim a gripe in that their win over the Cavaliers has been overshadowed by LeBron-mania.
Ray Allen, like the rest of the Celtics veterans, isn’t worried about it.
“That’s the bottom line, it’s like, who cares?” Allen said before Game 1 of the Conference Finals. ” At the end of the day, you win that fourth game in the Finals and you’re in the back of the building until 4 a.m. that’s when all the talk is in your direction. Again, we have one goal. It’s not for people to talk about us, it’s to be the last team standing.”
Allen is old enough, and mature enough, to also understand that of course LeBron James is going to get the lion’s share of the media attention since his pending free agency has been the talk of the basketball world since he signed his last contract.
“In the NBA it’s probably one of the biggest storylines of the year and will be on into the summer,” Allen said. “We’re still here playing so everyone has to watch us and talk about us. I don’t need to force somebody to watch me and tell me I’m great or this team is great. It will take care of itself.”
As for the Magic, the Celtics don’t need to be told that they are the defending conference championships. Doc Rivers alluded to it before the Cavs series even started and he made the point again Sunday.
“Our goal was not to beat Cleveland,” Rivers said. “Our goal was to try to get to the Finals. We’ve stated from Day One that the team you have to beat to get to the Finals is Orlando. Everyone else crowned Cleveland. We didn’t. Orlando was the best team in the East last year. I don’t know why everyone forgets that.”
Respect will be paid one way or another in this series and for these two teams it will be earned on the court.
|The Magic were the team to beat all along||05.15.10 at 8:02 pm ET|
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.
“Like 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.
“You’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.
“It 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.
“When 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.
“This 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.
“They’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.
“Obviously, 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.
“Hopefully, 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.”
“We 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.”
|Better safe than sorry with Perk||at 6:30 pm ET|
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.