The rundown (a quick look at postgame headlines)
Sunday rotation could be Boston's playoff rotation
Celtics coach Doc Rivers unveiled a bit of a different rotation Sunday, bringing Tony Allen off the bench early as the backup point guard to Rajon Rondo, and bringing his starters back at earlier intervals and playing them longer than we've previously seen during the regular season.
Rivers seemed to suggest that's what we're likely to see once the postseason arrives.
"I told the guys that was the rotation that we’ll use, that’s pretty much our playoff rotation, and, minute-wise, the only concern there was conditioning, and I don’t know if that played a factor in it or not.”
Notably absent was Marquis Daniels and Nate Robinson, who never shed their warm-ups Sunday. To their credit, both players were active in supporting their teammates throughout the game, but Boston utilized a five-man bench of Allen, Glen Davis, Shelden Williams, Rasheed Wallace, and Michael Finley. Williams logged a little more than two minutes as the Celtics let Wallace cool off on the pine after a second-half technical foul, but it appears his role will be limited to situations of foul trouble with the bigs.
Allen logged 18:43 and, in a very short time, has made himself the sixth man that neither Daniels or Robinson could cement themselves as recently.
“[Allen] just plays hard," said Rivers. "He’s our best defensive player. He’s just bought in completely to the team and the way the team plays. He’s no longer trying to score; scoring just happens. He’s trying to be the best defensive player on our team, and I think he’s figured out --‘That’s how I’m going to play.’ He gives our team energy. He really does.”
Allen proved to be a bit of a firecracker Sunday, jawing at LeBron James after Cleveland's superstar missed a potential go-ahead 3-pointer in the final moments. James soon found himself in the middle of Boston's huddle at the start of a timeout and referees rushed to separate him.
"They were just exchanging pleasantries," said Ray Allen. "It's funny if you ask me. The referees ran over there and, any time the referees run over, that makes it bigger than it is. All TA said was, 'I stopped you... you missed.' [James] was trying to say, 'Whatever TA, whatever TA.' And TA was like, 'I did my job.' That's all it was."
Asked if he was surprised by Tony Allen's chatter, James said, "It’s a good win for them, it’s a really good win for them coming off a three-game skid, it’s a really good win for them. It could have been a really good win for us also, but they played well. I just enjoy the game of basketball and enjoy competition, that’s why I was out there smiling."
Pierce & KG on finding composure vs. Cavs
The Celtics weren't happy to let a 17-point lead evaporate in the fourth quarter, especially as emotions spilled over. But captain Paul Pierce was happy to see the team pull it together late when it could have let the game slip away.
“I thought that both teams were up and down," said Pierce. "You saw both teams get technicals. It is something that we are going to learn from. There are going to be a lot of tight games in the playoffs where we are going to have to keep our composure. I mean we are going to get technicals and get riled up, but let’s do it early in the game instead of late, because if it comes down to a one- or two-point game, that could be the difference. We want to do a better job at that and learn from it. These are good games for us to learn from because it is a playoff atmosphere, playing against a team with the best record in the NBA. We could just take a page from this game and say, 'You know, when you get this type of situation, we cant give them points like that."
Garnett liked the atmosphere around the game and inside the Garden.
“A lot of energy in the building today," said Garnett. "It’s Easter, it’s a beautiful day out, 1 o’clock game. It had all the makings of a playoff atmosphere. The [Red] Sox open today, so the city was loud today. I could feel it when I came into the city, even though it was 8 o’clock when we all got here. I could just feel it, especially when you jump out there... We anticipate, we all just looked at each other and just knew that. Plus, we needed the game. I really felt like we had this three-game slide, it’s not our character. Definitely not sitting well with anybody in the locker room. Every time that we play Cleveland, it’s a dogfight, so today was nothing different."
King's court: Quotes of note from, and about, James
A handful of notable postgame quotes from or about LeBron James:
Cleveland coach Mike Brown on James' final 3-pointer: “LeBron is a great player and we’re lucky to have him. Guys in order to be great, have to have a lot of confidence, and you have to have confidence to take big shots, and at times take some risks. In that situation, we’re on the road. We’ve expended a lot of energy to get back in the game and take the lead. If he felt he had a clean look at it, I thought he had a clean look at it from watching it on the TV going in, fire away. Knowing we had another time out, we still had a chance to take one more crack at it if we missed, especially in transition when teams don’t necessarily have their floor balance. Fire away.” LeBron finished 0 for 9 from beyond the arc, but scored 42 points on 14-of-31 shooting.
James on the amount of talk during the game: "We don’t like them, they don’t like us, so I wasn’t surprised at all.” Asked about that remark, Ray Allen noted, "Yeah, just like we didn’t like Detroit. That’s just how the game goes."
James on where the animosity with Boston comes from: "Where does it come from? It comes from a tough seven-game series that we had; it comes from them wanting to be really great; them winning the championship, us wanting to win the championship and having to come through Boston to try to win it. The regular-season battles that we have had, the battles between me and Paul. The competition, that’s what’s good about this game, I think this game has lost a little bit of that in the years, all the talking, teams not liking each other. That’s the same thing I kind of figured out last year when I walked off the court in Orlando, people were mad I didn’t shake hands, why should I be happy? Why should I be happy, I’m not happy. I’m disgusted that I lost. I move on to the next season. That’s what this game has lost, it’s lost what its had in the 80’s and early 90’s, where teams really didn’t like each other.”
LeBron on seeing the Celtics in the playoffs: "It doesn’t matter for me, whoever we see in the first round, second round, conference finals -- if we continue to win, in the playoffs, you don’t need to find an edge in the playoffs. The edge is the playoffs. That’s the real season. The regular season is great, the matchups that you play, the teams that you get the opportunity to play... But I think we all know the playoffs is where its at. That’s where [the media] wear your best suits, you wear your best dress, and I wear my best suit and I’m ready to play. We all know the playoffs are where it’s at.”