|Searching for consistency in an inconsistent series||05.11.10 at 7:44 pm ET|
CLEVELAND — Through four games of this series, neither the Celtics nor the Cavaliers have been able to establish anything that could be easily identified as momentum. There have been two blowouts, two close games and two road wins.
The prevailing thought hours before Game 5 was that no one knows what’s going to happen tonight.
“Rhythm-less,” is how Doc Rivers termed it. “No one’s won two games in a row. I suspect this game tonight, I think both teams are going to play really well and we’re going to have a better understanding.”
Ray Allen, for one, is not surprised that the series has gone the way it has.
“I believe in momentum during the regular season,” Allen said. “Even though we played a day-a-and-a-half ago, the turnaround is so quick. We know what they’re doing. They know what we’re doing. You have to create whatever momentum from one day to the next. You can’t just think that the last game gets you to win the next game. It gets you the loss, really.”
The Celtics have been searching for consistency since the dawn of the new year. Injuries took them out of their comfort zone, but even when the players started returning, getting back into a groove proved difficult.
“We knew who we were,” Rivers said. “We knew our identity. We started off the season with it and then we lost our way.”
It’s now become clear that their decisive first round win over Miami kickstarted the Celtics rejuvenation. Throughout that series, the Celtics won games with their defense, which fed their transition game.
“I hate to say that we bypassed what we did in the regular season,” Allen said. “But once the playoffs came everybody was ready to play. Regardless of who we played, we knew homecourt wasn’t going to sustain us. We have to win in somebody else’s building and here we are.We never talked about it. It was never anything that any of us ever worried about. In the first round we had to just play.”
And now? “I still think that it’s 2-2 and we’ve both won on each other’s court,” Allen said. “It’s a three-game series and now it starts to get really interesting.”
|Ray-Ray: Our predicament is ‘not too bad’||05.09.10 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.”
|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.’
|Celtics focus on starting small||05.07.10 at 7:11 pm ET|
The Celtics believe if they can end up with big results by starting small.
Their game plan is to focus on the little things that, when executed properly, can result in an advantage in the long run. They are also the things that could wind up hurting them if ignored.
‘I think it just boils down to small things,’ Ray Allen said before Game 3. ‘Just building the small things in the game. Don’t worry about whether the ball goes in, but more importantly moving the ball, keeping turnovers to a minimum, and then getting back on defense.’
The Celtics have paid attention to those details so far. They are outrebounding the Cavs, 226-197, picked off 10 more steals, and committed two less turnovers in the first two games of the series.
‘All those that things, they ultimately add up to getting buckets,’ said Allen. ‘But those habits, if we keep those habits, you start small and as the game goes, the game is being played the right way on both ends.’
|Allen prepared for Cavs defense||05.01.10 at 12:30 am ET|
Allen enters the 2010 Eastern Conference Semifinals averaging nearly 20 points in the first round. His next opponent, however, is the same team that shut him down offensively in the past.
The Cavaliers held Allen to just 9.3 points per game in the second round of the 2008 playoffs. He only hit four 3-pointers in the seven-game series and shot less than 35 percent from the field. It was a dramatic drop in offensive production.
‘I was put on defense more, but the way they were guarding me in Cleveland, they jumped me every pick-and-roll,’ Allen explained. ‘The way we played, they weren’t letting me come off pin downs. I think in the regular season I was averaging 22 or 23 against them, so their mindset was, ‘We’re not going to let him get involved. We’re going to take everything away from him.’ They did a good job of that.’
Allen was the Celtics leading scorer against the Cavs this regular season, averaging 22.5 points (48.3% FG, 57.7% 3PG) in four games. He expects the Cavaliers to step up their defense in the playoffs and can anticipate how to counter their attack.
‘I just know during the playoffs, they contribute two guys to me, always, just when I’m coming off pin downs,’ Allen said. ‘I have to make the right play, (Rajon) Rondo has to be in the right position, our bigs have to be in the right position, and we have to capitalize off of that. The only way we can force them away from that kind of defense is if we penalize them for doing that.’
The Celtics often practice beating a double-team during shootaround, Allen explained. They run through various scenarios that leave different players open.
Allen also prepares himself for double team by watching game tape. This allows him to see where his teammates are on the court from a different point of view. In most instances, it is either Kevin Garnett, Kendrick Perkins, or Rondo’s defender who is helping on D, creating opportunities for them to get open.
‘I’ve just got to know where Kevin is, where Perk is, where Rondo’s going to be,’ he said. ‘Rondo’s man always help, Perk’s man always helps, Kevin’s always flashing if he’s not setting a screen. When I come off a pin down, it happens so fast. So right before I come off a screen, I almost have to look and see what exactly they’re doing, and then I know I can throw it back and go, or Perk is rolling and he’s got a layup, Kevin has a jumpshot. So it’s just like a split-second decision.’
|LeBron’s elbow just funny business to C’s||04.29.10 at 10:38 pm ET|
WALTHAM — Gamesmanship is as common this time of year in the NBA as game planning.
With that being said, no one will know for sure just how big a role the banged up right elbow of LeBron James will play in the Celtics-Cavs series.
But the Celtics have their own sense of the seriousness of the injury to King James.
“He’s fine,” coach Doc Rivers said with a big smile. “I tell you what, if he goes three or four games and shoots left-handed only, then I’ll believe that it’s hurting. We’re going to be ready for the LeBron we’ve seen all through the playoffs.”
Of course, James DID shoot a free throw with his left hand in the Game 5 clincher against Chicago on Tuesday night with 7.2 seconds remaining the Cavaliers up, 96-92.
Added Ray Allen, ‘I don’t even pay attention to it. If there’s something wrong with his elbow or any other part of his body, then he won’t play, and we all know that.”
|Finley settled in for the playoffs||04.28.10 at 11:56 pm ET|
Michael Finley had played in over 110 playoff games when he signed with the Celtics in March. Now he is putting his championship-winning experience to good use, both on the court and in the locker room.
‘My role since I’ve been here really hasn’t changed. I can just be a little bit more vocal now that I’ve been here for a while,’ Finley explained. ‘I just didn’t want to come here right away and be the loud mouth of the locker room. But now the guys feel a little more comfortable with me. I’m able to pull guys to the side, tell them different situations, especially in these playoff series that are important, not only to them, but to our team. And they’re listening and they’re being receptive, and that’s been good.’
The 37-year-old is happy to share the veteran wisdom he has accumulated over the last 15 years, and the C’s are just as happy to receive it.
‘Mike is big,’ said Ray Allen. ‘Most people don’t realize the things that he’s saying, just his advice, just some of the things that he says coming out of timeouts, coming to the bench. You can always tell he wants to win. Even though he came here later on in the season, he’s invested now in what we’re doing. So he’s always making sure, ‘Look for this, this is what’s going to go down,’ or, ‘Ray, you need to do this,’ or ‘Paul you need to make sure ‘¦’ So that’s great coming from the bench and you know that he’s fielding us more information so when we go out there, we’re prepared.’
On the court, Finley is fulfilling his role as a reserve who can come in and make timely plays. Even though he averaged less than three points per game in the first round, he shot an efficient 40 percent from both the field and 3-point range.
On the defensive end, he has picked off three steals in 44 minutes (Paul Pierce has three steals in 193 minutes), and is the only Celtic besides Marquis Daniels (who has played just six minutes) who has not committed a single turnover in the postseason.
Finley stays level-headed, regardless of the scoreboard. He has played in enough postseason games to understand how quickly momentum can change. His proven wisdom will be beneficial as the Celtics shift from eliminating the Heat in the first round to battling the Cavaliers in the second.
‘It’s a playoffs series, and what I’ve learned over the years is, every game is different, every series is different,’ Finley said. ‘Once you win one, the next one is even tougher. You’ve just got to stay humble in victory and don’t get too high with the highs and too lows with the lows. Just try to keep an even keel, especially emotionally.’
Latest from Bleacher Report
- Austin Ainge Offers Window to C's Pre-Draft Process
- Trade Possibilities for C's with Draft Approaching
- Latest Buzz Surrounding Jamal Crawford, Kristaps Porzingis, Celtics'...
- Latest NBA Trade Rumors, Buzz
- Ranking Celtics' Biggest NBA Draft Needs
- Buzz Surrounding Ty Lawson, Celtics Draft Plans and More
- Realistic Targets for Celtics to Chase During Offseason