|Perkins: ‘Without [Rondo], we’d be dead’||05.08.10 at 5:04 pm ET|
WALTHAM — Between Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, and Kevin Garnett alone, it has never been easy to pinpoint the best player on the Celtics. Throw the development of Rajon Rondo into the mix this season, and the task is even tougher.
It’s easy, though, for Kendrick Perkins. Not only does he consider Rondo to be the C’s top player, he also considers him their lifeline.
‘I think right now, he’s the best player on our team,’ Perkins told WEEI.com following practice on Saturday. ‘Without Rondo, nothing goes. Pretty much we’ve got to play him the whole game because he just runs the whole team. Without him, we’d be dead.’
Rondo is playing a team-high 41 minutes per game in the Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Cavaliers. His numbers have consistently improved from the regular season throughout the playoffs. In the first three games against the Cavs, he leads with team with 19.3 points and 13.0 assists, more than five points and three assists better than the regular season. He is also shooting 56.8 percent from the field and averaging 5.0 rebounds, more boards than Allen and Pierce.
‘I think he stepped up,’ said Perkins. ‘He’s been more focused than ever, in my opinion, and he’s been doing a great job of leading us.’
|Paul Pierce/Kendrick Perkins press conference||05.07.10 at 11:16 pm ET|
|Doc Rivers press conference||at 11:10 pm ET|
|Celtics mantra for Game 2: Attack||05.02.10 at 4:32 pm ET|
CLEVELAND — Many times in the NBA, the post-game reactions to what just occurred need to be tempered by what you see on the film later. Emotions are high, everyone is looking for that one key moment that changed everything (hello, Mo Williams), but after careful consideration the real truths start to emerge.
“I thought we settled,” Doc Rivers said. “I said it after the game. Usually after the game you say stuff and then you watch the film and half of it is true, half of it is what you thought you saw. But it’s pretty much what we saw. We bailed out on a lot of shots, quick shots. We didn’t make a lot of next passes, we didn’t attack. We had guys flying at us in the air and we’re still trying to shoot jump shots instead of putting the ball back on the floor. That’s not even an adjustment. That’s what we should do anyway.”
The obvious follow-up question to all that was whether the Celtics were tired at the end of the game after Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo all logged between 38 and 45 minutes of time.
“It had nothing to do with fatigue,” Rivers said. “We settled. It happens.”
It wasn’t that the shots the Celtics took were necessarily bad ones either. Pierce had an open 3 that could have tied the game, but it didn’t fall. Garnett missed a number of shots in the lane, including a follow off an offensive rebound that he can make 99 times out of 100. But, the shots could have been better.
“I think the jumpers that we did get we’re good looks and that I’ll take,” Pierce said. “Doc talks about when the jumpers aren’t falling, you got to take the ball to the bucket. That’s part of the game. I was a little disappointed only going to the free throw line twice. I think I’ve got to be a little more aggressive in the paint. I’ll still take the shots that I took but I have to mix it up a little bit more.”
Pierce started off hot, making four of his five shots in the first quarter, but he was 1-for-12 after that.
What was particularly troubling to Rivers was that the Celtics didn’t handle the Cavs counter-attack very well. Yes, Williams lit up the crowd with a dunk, his first in a game with the Cavs, and yes he then went on a scoring binge, but the Celtics never had an answer for the run.
“We didn’t handle it well,” Rivers said. “We were walking, we didn’t get into our sets so it was easy to get us out of stuff. It was more because frustration was high. It happened, but it can’t happen, especially in a playoff game.”
As they prepared for Game 2, there was little talk of adjustments. Simply more effort and that was as evident Sunday afternoon as it was late Saturday evening.
|Pierce: ‘I’m a natural born scorer’||04.30.10 at 8:39 pm ET|
James, after all, has become just the 10th player in NBA history to win back-to-back regular season MVP awards and will be crowned King before Game 2 Monday night.
‘I think if you ask players, and ask players to be honest, just based on what he’s achieved individually and as a team, it should be unanimous,’ Pierce said.
But Pierce made a point to remind everyone on Friday before Game 1 that he still has confidence in his own ability to score from anywhere on the court.
“I think I’m comfortable doing anything,” Pierce said. “I don’t limit myself to just being a shooter, or just driving. I’m a natural born scorer. I think I can do it all over the court. If the shot is there, I’ll take it.”
Still, inquiring minds still wanted to know Friday just how Pierce – who figures to draw a good deal of the assignment of guarding James – plans to guard the newly-minted two-time NBA MVP.
‘We just have to be aware of him constantly. You can’t give him anything. You have to challenge his shot. He does everything so well. We all know that once he gets into a groove shooting, he can shoot the ball. We all know how he is attacking the basket.’
“Just going against the best, regardless if it’s LeBron,” Pierce said. “It’s just going against the best teams. I just look at it over the years, I get to play against the top teams, I always get to show my best on the big stage. Obviously, playing against the MVP brings out the best in the best players in the league.”
|Rivers on LeBron’s MVP: He deserves it||at 2:53 pm ET|
“He deserves it,” Doc Rivers said. “He earned it all year, so congratulations. I don’t think after Kobe [Bryant], and [Kevin] Durant and Dwight Howard, who doesn’t get enough credit for what he does with that team, there weren’t a lot of other choices.”
James is scheduled to be awarded the trophy by David Stern before Game 2.
“I hope it’s a distraction for them,” Rivers said. “It won’t be a distraction for us. None of us are getting it. Hopefully he won’t give a long speech and we can go and play basketball.”
The glamour matchup in this series is James and Paul Pierce, but Rivers suspects that James won’t simply be guarding Pierce.
“Paul’s going to be Paul,” Rivers said. “We’re not going to be going away from Paul because LeBron is guarding him. Paul’s our offensive guy so we’re going to still go to him. I don’t think LeBron will be guarding Paul but half the time. I think LeBron will be guarding Rondo and others.”
|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.’