Chris Forsberg / ESPN Boston
The Celtics squeezed in a rare practice before Sunday's tilt with the Cavaliers.WALTHAM, Mass. -- A collection of news and notes after the Boston Celtics held a rare practice Saturday at the Sports Authority Training Center at HealthPoint:
The rundown (a quick look at the practice headlines)
First official practice a success for Finley
The Celtics engaged in a short, but spirited practice Saturday in advance of Sunday's showdown against the Cavaliers in Cleveland. About the most important reason for the session was to get newly acquired Michael Finley a chance to familiarize himself with the playbook in a non-game situation.
"Michael so far, and I don't want to jinx it, has been as good as I've ever had at picking stuff up," said Rivers, whose troops had officially practiced just once in Waltham since a session on Feb. 8.
"We ran a play today where [the ball-handler is] supposed to look for a big to slip and, guys who have been here haven't thrown that pass yet, but the first time [Finley] ran it, Shelden [Williams] got a layup. Maybe he's been in the league a long time, but his timing is really good."
Finley's made a quick impression, connecting on 10-of-14 shots, including 3-of-4 3-pointers, for 24 points in his first three games with Boston. He's averaging nearly double his season scoring average in Boston. Even still, Finley is still learning, as Rivers realized when Boston went to run an inbounds play Friday night and the 15th-year veteran had a look of bewilderment on his face.
"I'm my own worse critic, but I'm still a step slow to react on offensive sets," said Finley. "I'll continue to study film and the tapes they've given me. By the time the playoffs roll around, I'll be comfortable."
Finley does admit that he's already very comfortable in his new surroundings, even if he's learning on the fly.
"It's been smoother than I would have thought," said Finley. "With a different team, a different organization, a switch in conferences -- I had all those things going against me -- but these guys welcomed me with open arms and that's made the transition easier.
"It's good to be playing again, playing on a championship-caliber team -- a team that was already set, they don’t have to wait on me. I'm just trying to fit in, get some good looks at the basket. Guys are finding me, coaches are putting me in position to be effective, and I'm just making the most of it."
Going small with Finley and first unit?
Finley sneaked in a little work with the first unit (see the photo at the top of this entry) late in the session, giving the team a small look by essentially replacing Kendrick Perkins in the starting lineup (Kevin Garnett being the only big on the floor). Rivers suggested it was commonplace to work guys in different roles at the end of practice, even if the Celtics would seemingly be well-served to go with a small look at times if an opponent like the Cavaliers did the same.
"We always use different lineups, you never know with foul trouble when you might need to go small, "said Rivers. "We do it probably every practice, one or two different guys, because you never know what the rotation might be when you start a game in foul trouble."
Rivers noted that Cleveland does have the ability to go small with LeBron James at the 4, but suggested Boston could stay big against a lineup like that.
Measuring stick game? Perk sees it both ways
In one breath, Kendrick Perkins admitted he's eager to see how the Celtics stack up against the Eastern Conference-leading Cavaliers Sunday. But asked if it was a role reversal for Boston to be using Cleveland as a measuring stick (as opposed to the other way around, as in recent seasons), Perkins did what he does best -- he got defensive.
"In a way, but they still haven't won anything," said Perkins. "They're just the best team in the league. They haven't done anything we haven't done. They're just the best team in the league."
The Celtics went through the Cavaliers while producing championship No. 17 in 2008.
As the playoffs near, do coaches hide their playbooks?
As part of their final 18 games of the 2009-10 regular season, the Celtics play the Cavaliers and Bucks two times apiece, and also travel to meet the Raptors. That's a trio of teams they could potentially see again in the postseason. So do coaches start holding back on plays with eyes towards the playoffs?
"No, hell, I don't even have enough plays in with all these news guys," joked Rivers. "Not this early. I think everyone, right now, is still playing. It will be interesting, that last week [of the regular season], we play Milwaukee twice and Toronto, so then it gets interesting. I hope we [have to consider limiting the playbook], that means we've played well enough to do something like that."