|Celtics take credit where credit is due||05.23.10 at 3:41 pm ET|
‘I believe we deserve all the credit,’ Ray Allen said following practice on Sunday. ‘It’s only two teams playing. We’re putting them in the situation that they’re in, and we’re adjusting and trying to find the ways that we can confuse them as much as we can, and make it tough defensively on them and offensively. They’re not going out there and doing it to themselves.’
Following their Game 3 loss, the Magic conceded they have been outhustled and outplayed the entire series. Players were baffled by their collapse, saying they have not seen the real Magic team yet. Others said they are beating themselves.
But the Celtics are not paying attention to the downtrodden morale of their opponent.
‘None of my concern,’ said Kevin Garnett. ‘That’s them. That’s how they think. Nothing more, nothing less than that. I can’t really be worried with what they’re thinking over there and how they’re playing or what’s going through their head.’
The Celtics have made it this far by staying honed in on each other the entire postseason. Some questioned whether or not they would even survive the first round, let alone make it to the NBA Finals. Now that they are just 48 minutes away from advancing, they are focused on the confidence they have in one another, not the uncertainty felt by the Magic.
‘I didn’t have any doubts in this team,’ said Paul Pierce. ‘I never doubted us because I felt once we got to the playoffs, guys would be able to settle in a little more, travel wouldn’t be as much, we could really focus in on the team, and really do our scouting report. And I think just looking at a seven-game series, I always thought it’d be tough to beat us four times.’
The Heat and Cavaliers have already found out just how tough it is. The Celtics hope to teach the Magic the same lesson on Monday night.
|Happily humble Celtics reminded of task||05.20.10 at 4:39 pm ET|
WALTHAM — Everyone wanted to know the answer to one question on Thursday in Waltham. No, it wasn’t whether Paul Pierce’s tweet was real or not as everyone suspected it wasn’t his doing in the wake of Game 2.
The question everyone wanted the answer to was: Are the Celtics overconfident? After all, the Celtics are coming into Game 3 against Orlando at home after winning the first two games of the series on the road, something they have never accomplished in their glorious history.
As always, the introspective Ray Allen provided some interesting insight to the team’s psyche.
“Always, that’s human nature,” Allen said when asked if he understood the concern of overconfidence. “You think you have everything in the bag. You think you don’t have to put as much effort out there to do your job or get the same result that you got before. The same overpreparation, the same focus, the same mental approach we’ve taken to the whole playoffs has to continue.
“The only ‘over’ I want to be is prepared. It’s important that everybody does their job and knows we’ve done our job to get into this situation.”
Kevin Garnett said all the matters is what happens on the court – not when the microphones are on off of it.
“In my estimation, confidence is about what you go out and do versus talking about it,” Garnett said. “We haven’t really done anything but won two games. Now, it’s up to us to defend our home court. It’s important that we stay humble and understand that this is a long process and this is seven games.”
And the reason for the question was Paul Pierce proclaiming to a national TV audience following Boston’s Game 2 win in Orlando that the Celtics were coming home to “close it out.”
“I didn’t like it,” Rivers said. “I don’t mind the confidence part, that’s good, but we want to be humble and we haven’t achieved anything. I think that’s what he was trying to say but it just came out at the end. I wish they’d have taken the mic away the last couple of words but up until then, he was pretty good. We do have to go home and our fans will help us but we have to do it on the floor.
Rivers did not speak to Pierce individually since then but rather the entire team about the appropriate attitude going into Game 3 Saturday night in Boston.
“I talked to the team about it,” Rivers added. “He was part of the team. Unfortunately, I talked to the team, in the locker room, right after the game.”
‘We’ve done nothing’ is clearly the mantra these Celtics have adopted for the 2010 run to a title.
“We’ve done nothing,” Rivers repeated from his comments earlier Thursday to Dennis and Callahan. “We really haven’t. We’ve won two games. We’re up, 2-0. Again, we just have to keep playing. Orlando is the favorite for a reason. They were playing better than everybody in the playoffs for a reason and we can’t take our eye off of that.”
Rivers said it’s hard to keep the players from feeling good about themselves. And actually, he said, they have earned that right.
“You don’t guard against it,” Rivers said. “You just keep focusing on execution and improving and getting ready. And each game is a single game. That’s been our speech through this playoff series, all of the series. Each game is a single game. Game 1 was an individual game. Game 2 was and Game 3 will be as well.”
Rivers is a big fan of the NFL. And Bill Belichick would be happy with the nugget he threw at his team on Thursday.
“As I told our guys, we have yet to beat Orlando on our home court this year and that’s something we have to have a focus on,” Rivers said of Orlando’s two wins in Boston this regular season.
“It won’t be easy but we earned this position and we should be happy with that. We earned getting up, 2-0 but we haven’t had the opportunity to defend our home court. We did our job there but we haven’t done our job at home. And as far as we’re concerned, until we do that, nothing has happened in this series.”
|Legler on D&C: Sheed’s ‘D’ key for C’s||05.18.10 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.
|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.
|Barnes or Carter, Celtics aren’t changing||at 2:58 pm ET|
This opens up a number of interesting questions such as: Does Van Gundy think Allen is a bigger threat than Pierce? Would the Celtics switch up their coverages? Then there’s the issue of Barnes’ health. He has been struggling with back spasms.
On the latter, Van Gundy said that Barnes is feeling better and will be ready to play. As for the other? “We’ll see,” Van Gundy said before Game 1.
The Celtics are unconcerned. They’re not going to change up their assignments.
“We’re not changing.,” Doc Rivers said. “We’re going the same way we’re going to go. Whenever there’s a switch like in the last series when [Anthony] Parker guarded [Rajon] Rondo, you’re always concerned about the cross matchup in transition because the guy you’re guarding is not in front of you. You have to resist the temptation to cross the court and try to find your guy and leave a guy open. That actually works both ways.”
Interesting, because Allen thinks this could play in the Celtics advantage.
“I would think that they’d be more worried about Carter getting back on defense, so maybe the cross matchup would probably work better in our favor,” Allen said. “If I’m guarding Vince he’d have to run back in transition on me. I’ve noticed throughout the year, Vince would be on one side running back with me and then the other man will run all the way back across the floor.”
Once again, the key for the Celtics is getting out on the break.
“Transition is big,” Allen said. “You get the rebound, push it up and Paul and I just run, they have to make a decision because sometimes you can’t get back to your guy. It does make you think.”
|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.’
|Celts ready for the unexpected||05.13.10 at 7:31 pm ET|
The talk this morning was of the Cleveland Cavaliers possibly making some kind of a lineup switch for Game 6. Cavs coach Mike Brown has been searching for the right combination of players since the series started and it’s fair to say after five games that he still has not settled on a set rotation.
Brown has already strayed from the early-series script by playing Zydrunas Ilgauskus ahead of J.J. Hickson in Game 5 and Daniel Gibson, who hasn’t played at all.
“When Gibson came in, when Ilgauskus came in, everyone’s antenna did go up a little bit because we knew what those guys do,” Ray Allen said before Game 6. “Those guys are good offensive players so everyone was on alert. For us, we know each other. [It’s] not as much of a surprise as it is when you see a guy go in, you adjust.”
The Celtics rolled with the adjustments just fine in Game 5 and part of that is that they are so set in their ways. The other part of that is preparation.
“We have to prepare for everything; big lineup, small lineup,” Doc Rivers said. “Fortunately or unfortunately for them, they have the ability to do a lot of different things because of their personnel. We can’t. We are who we are and we’re not going to change, and in some ways that makes it easier.”
Still, Rivers doesn’t think that the Cavs will change all that drastically in Game 6.
“They’re a solid basketball team,” he said. “They’re not going to change a lot. We wouldn’t be shocked to see Varejao maybe in the starting lineup or them going with size early. But they didn’t get this record by doing a lot of changing.”
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