- Chris Forsberg, ESPN Staff Writer
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The rundown (a quick look at postgame headlines)
After three-day break, Celtics maintain their focus
From the moment Game 2 ended, the Celtics preached maintaining their focus and keeping their eyes on the prize. It was almost impossible to believe them.
Two weeks ago, the team spouted that same spiel before getting run out of its own gym in a near 30-point loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 3 of the conference semifinals. The loss threatened Boston's season, but the team rebounded to win its next five games, including the first two of the conference finals against the Magic.
Another letdown seemed possible Saturday and, sure enough, fans were treated to another laugher. Fortunately for the Garden faithful, this time around it was Boston handing out the whooping to a Magic squad that lacked any sort of desperation.
"We learned a pretty good lesson the last time, when we lost by 1,000 to Cleveland," said Celtics coach Doc Rivers. "So, it wasn't hard to get them to, at least, see that. That doesn't mean they were going to come out and play well. I thought they all talked about it, we talked about it on the first day of practice when we got back, what happened [before]. So, like I said, it doesn't guarantee anything. But we did have a pretty good working model on what not to do.
"Now we have to do it again. We have to resist the temptation of looking forward and we have to play."
Celtics captain Paul Pierce admitted Boston studied all the pitfalls after losing to Cleveland in Game 3 to ensure they wouldn't happen again.
"We used it as a reference," said Pierce. "Every game is played different. Just because it happened in the last Game 3 doesn’t mean it’s going to happen this Game 3. It just kept us on our toes, really. That’s what I think the difference was in the last two days of practice. You look at that compared to the last couple of days before we played Cleveland in Game 3, [when] coach said we had our worst practice.
"We saw the focus, saw the urgency, and, at this point, we’re just too close to where we want to be.”
These focused Celtics led by 15 at the end of the first quarter, 17 at halftime and 28 after three. The game was never really close and Gino was on the JumboTron little more than midway through the fourth quarter.
Maybe most impressive for Boston was the defensive intensity that carried over from the victories in Games 1 and 2 in Orlando.
"We had two good days of practice," said Kevin Garnett. "We worked on a lot of different stuff, a lot of different schemes. I think our two best days since we've been in the playoffs. We worked on a lot of different stuff. And tonight we just applied it. It's that simple. I think everybody was on one string. When the guy was supposed to be there, he was there. There wasn't a lot of talking. There was a lot of reacting. Guys were constantly communicating to each other. And it showed."
With the NBA Finals in sight, Boston seems as locked in as ever.
"The bottom line is we played hard," said Rajon Rondo. "We played very hard tonight. Simple as that."
Loose balls: Rondo hype; All business, no pleasure
* Van Gundy throws himself under the bus: Asked about the most disappointing aspect of Orlando's loss, Magic coach Stan Van Gundy pointed to his own performance, saying, "The most disappointing, to me, was that I didn't have our team better ready to play. That was what was disappointing to me. My job. I mean, it starts with me. It's my job. I'm the coach of this team. It starts with me. I'm not happy with where I had our team tonight, anything about what I did, my plan, any adjustments, anything."
* Dwight Howard on a 3-0 deficit: "I'm not surprised. I just think that right now we've got to find ourselves. The last three games, we haven't played like the Orlando Magic. It seemed like tonight, our bodies were here, but our minds were not. Our hearts were not. ... I don't know what happened. I think we've got to come out and keep fighting, stay aggressive and not give up. I won't give up. I want to stay on my teammates and not let them give up either."
* KG on Rondo's diving steal: Garnett heaped some lofty praise on Rondo when talking about his highlight-reel diving steal. "My reaction was just like everybody else's -- pure grit, pure hustle play. I told him after the game when he was in the back, I told him that was probably the play of the playoffs to me. That was just pure hustle. Pure hustle, pure basketball, pure 'I‑want‑it‑more‑than‑you' type of play. And I thought it was a foul too. But that's just me."
As for Rondo's growing superstardom, Garnett added, "I said this about Shorty, man, he's in a zone. He's just showing the world what he's made of. The future is scary."
* No fun zone: Don't invite Ray Allen to your next celebration. Asked if Saturday's laugher was fun, he smiled and said: “It wasn’t fun at all. At the same time, it was fun, but it was work, for us it is work and we were putting in that work. The fun is when we can sit here now, relax, and take pride in what we did tonight. It requires so much energy, so much focus, so much attention, the win for us is what we can enjoy at the end of the day. But it goes back to tomorrow, where we go back at it again, taking care of our bodies and focusing on the things that we didn’t do so great and look at some of the things that we did well.”