|Celtics need to walk a fine line||05.21.10 at 6:16 pm ET|
WALTHAM — Doc Rivers has told his team time and time again about ‘Old School’ NBA, especially as it relates to the playoffs.
But Saturday night, when his team takes to the floor against the desperate Orlando Magic, he doesn’t want his team to get caught up in what is likely to be a physical game with Dwight Howard and the Magic. He also doesn’t want his team to get pushed around either as the Magic try to come in and physically prove to the Celtics they haven’t checked out of the Eastern Conference finals, despite losing the first two games on home court.
“They should be feisty and we should be, too,” Rivers said following a high-spirited Friday practice, their final before Game 3. ” It’s the playoffs. It’s Game 3 and we’re trying to defend our home turf, now and they’re trying to take it away. There’s every reason it should be feisty and it will be and we should be feisty, too.
“Obviously, you want to always keep your head but that doesn’t mean to back down. That means you want to play with composure, play with intensity and you’ve got to play hard.”
Paul Pierce and Kendrick Perkins agreed with Rivers, saying they are expecting a ‘feisty’ Orlando Magic team for Game 3 Saturday night at TD Garden. The Celtics lead the Eastern Conference finals 2-0 and can take an overwhelming 3-0 lead with a win, a deficit no team has ever overcome in NBA playoff history.
“It could get feisty in there. You have to expect it,” said Pierce, who was still bearing a pair of scratch marks on his forehead above his left eye after being decked by Dwight Howard in the second quarter of Game 2 on Tuesday night.
“Doc always say the bigger man walks away,” added big man Kendrick Perkins, who will once again be assigned to Howard. “You just have to go out there and play, play Celtics basketball.”
|Pierce happy Superman not grounded||05.20.10 at 2:56 pm ET|
WALTHAM — Paul Pierce said he was happy to hear that Dwight Howard was not getting suspended for Game 3 after his flagrant 1 foul in the second quarter of Game 2 that resulted in a pair of scratch marks on Pierce’s forehead above his left eye.
“My reaction to him not getting suspended is a good reaction because we want the team’s best,” Pierce said. “In order to be the best, you want to get their best. If they lose Dwight Howard, obviously they’re still a good team but that’s not the best team they put on the floor. We just want their best.”
The NBA announced Wednesday that Howard would not be disciplined for the hard foul that resulted in Pierce hitting the deck hard just before halftime on Tuesday night.
|The Magic were the team to beat all along||05.15.10 at 8:02 pm ET|
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.’
|No Magic lessons in last year||05.13.10 at 8:43 pm ET|
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.”
|Rondo has seen it all before||05.10.10 at 9:17 pm ET|
Even more, Rondo took the chance to show he can play history teacher, too.
‘It’s happened before,” Rondo said in recalling the 2008 NBA Finals. “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 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. But [Anthony] Parker, is 6-7, 6-6, he’s not LeBron but he’s similar. He’s not a first-team All Defense but he’s a good defender.
‘It really doesn’t matter about the matchups. Obviously, a big thing in the playoffs is the matchups, but for me, I don’t really care who’s guarding me. I’m still going to run our offense and our system. We run our sets on offense through Paul, Ray and Kevin.’
But Rondo isn’t as worried about who guards him Tuesday as he is the final result. A win and Rondo and the Celtics could clinch on home court Thursday night.
‘Each game you say is the most important game of the series, which is true,” he said. “Game 5 is the biggest game for us right now. There can be a momentum swing. The series has been up and down. I think each game is won, loss, won, loss so hopefully we can change it up and get two wins in a row.
‘The pressure is on them now and also on us. So there’s no one-way street now as far as to where the pressure is. I’m fairly confident we can go into Cleveland and get a win. We definitely have to be focused.’
As for getting Paul Pierce started, Rondo said he’ll do what he can but he knows his captain won’t force things.
‘We don’t want to sacrifice the entire offense or the team just to get Paul involved,” he said. “Paul is just an unselfish player so he’s not complaining about shots or that he’s only scoring 11 or 12 points. As long as we’re winning, he knows it’s a team sport. He’s very unselfish. It’s about sacrifices. Yesterday, I think Ray [Allen] got 21 shots up and myself. Maybe Paul gets 22 shots and maybe Ray and I only shoots four. It varies each game. If a guy has it going, you keep going to him.’
|Turnaround Tony||05.09.10 at 9:29 pm ET|
While everyone will rightfully point to Rajon Rondo’s historic triple-double performance in Game 4 on Sunday against Cleveland as the spark the Celtics needed, it was Tony Allen’s all-around court presence that might have made the biggest difference at the biggest moments of the game.
Allen ‘ as is his style ‘ came in full speed off the bench, running interference on LeBron James and flying down the court with the greatest of ease, taking passes from Rondo and dunking the ball to energize the Celtics and the TD Garden crowd in a crucial 97-87 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers.
With the game tied at 70 late in the third quarter, Allen was smart enough to follow Rondo in transition. As Rondo drew James to the basket, that left Allen wide open. With a half-circle behind-his-back pass, Rondo fed Allen for a dunk and the Garden exploded.
‘Ya, that’s what you call an energy play from Rondo,” Allen said. “I mean he had energy all night. I don’t know what his stat-line was like but I know it was big and we fed off of his energy all night.”
Early in the fourth quarter, Allen had the chance to return the favor when he drew James to the basket, only to find a trailing Rondo behind him for another easy basket.
“It’s just one of those things where I got out in transition and we figured if we could get out quick, we could get some easy baskets,” Allen said.
Then there was just the simple matter of winning a game the Celtics absolutely needed, especially after the worst home-court playoff loss in Celtics history on Friday.
‘Nobody wants to apart of history from a losing effort, losing by 30 in your home court,” Allen said. “Everybody was looking at film yesterday and was down on themselves. I think today they came out and just wanted to turn that negative energy that we had last game into something big today. I think that we did a good job of that.
‘We all do a great job of listening to [defensive coach] Tom Thibodeau, Doc [Rivers] do a good job of drawing up plays, but most importantly we hang our hats on defense. I think that’s why we were big today.’
From the moment the season began, Doc Rivers told the Allen off the bench that his playing time will be dictated by two things – his defense and his energy.
Both have been in high gear at the best time of year for the Celtics so far.
‘Most definitely, I think once I get a few chip in baskets, they give me a little energy but for the most part I am a defender first on that court,” Allen said. “I need to do that in order for me to stay out there.’
With Paul Pierce saddled with five fouls and Ray Allen using all six of his, it was up to Allen off the bench to assume responsibility for helping to hold LeBron in check. And with just 22 points in 43 minutes, Allen and the Celtics accomplished their goal.
‘My plan for that was to listen to [defensive coach] Tom Thibodeau and call out those sets before hand and him looking at that formation, and I was just ready to roll. He did a good job just telling me the formation.
‘Basically all I have to say is that our whole concept is feeding off of our defense. Our team concept is slow to the ball and get it out to the shooters. I was just trying to be active on our team defense and I took advantage of that today and I was fortunate enough to convert that in the fourth quarter,’ Allen said.
If the Celtics can get more of that in the next week from Tony Allen, they might just need him later in May, too.
|Ray-Ray: Our predicament is ‘not too bad’||at 4:56 pm ET|
Ray Allen has always been extraordinary when it came to putting things in proper perspective – especially when the spotlight is brightest.
Everyone watching the Celtics on Friday night couldn’t believe they got blown out of their own building and were trailing by as many as 35, suffering their worst-ever home court playoff loss.
But Allen, before Game 4 Sunday, played it cool, just like he was taking a potential game-winning three-point shot.
“You go into Game 3, it’s almost Game 1 for both teams because you haven’t playing four days so you can’t take anything from the first two games and think there’s going to be too many similarities,” Allen said, attempting to explain the overwhelmingly poor performance.
“You’re almost starting fresh, everybody has a couple of days off, sitting around watching games and just relaxing. It’s like your first game of the playoffs so to speak.”
Allen certainly looked like he was taking his own words to heart in the first half of Game 4 Sunday when he got out in transition with Rajon Rondo and spotted up for open look after open look, drilling a couple of key 3-pointers. He even got into it with LeBron James, late in the second quarter, showing an emotional spark rarely seen.
Maybe it was the fact the Celtics found themselves in a virtual must-win situation, down 2-1, with Game 5 Tuesday in Cleveland. Or maybe he was just trying to provide an emotional jump-start to his teammates.
But Allen believes in not making the game any bigger than life. He sees a 2-1 deficit entirely manageable if the Celtics play their game, get to the basket and attack.
“Really hard to put a finger on it,” Allen said. “You have to deal with the predicament we’re in, which is really not too bad.”
Doc Rivers had a slightly different but still similar take on the dire need to win Game 4 at home and what happened in Game 3.
“If we had lost by three or lost by 40 or won by three or 40, it has to be the each mindset to begin each game,” the Celtics coach said. “I thought they came in to Game 3 with the right one and I didn’t think we did. And I think in Games 1 and 2, you can say we did. I don’t know if they didn’t but I know we did.
“I really don’t care about their mindset really, honestly. There’s going to be a game in this series where both teams are going to play great and we’re going to have to find a way of winning that game.”