Monday, May 17, 2010
Practice report: Keep it going
By Chris Forsberg
ORLANDO -- A collection of news and notes after the Boston Celtics held an offday practice Monday afternoon at Amway Arena in advance of Tuesday's Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Orlando Magic:
Celtics captain Paul Pierce started answering a question about building momentum and paused after noting that Boston had won four straight games in the postseason.
"I can't remember the last time we won four games in a row -- it is four games, right?" asked a concerned Pierce. "I can't remember the last time. I don't like to say that, so hopefully we can keep it going."
To jog Pierce's memory, the Celtics put together a four-game streak back in mid-March, topping the Pistons, Knicks, Rockets, and Mavericks. Earlier that month they also put together a streak over the Pistons, Bobcats, 76ers and Wizards -- clearly not a wrecking crew of NBA talent.
From there, you'd have to go all the way back to December to find another streak of similar length as Boston built a 23-5 mark, culminating with a Christmas Day victory in Orlando.
Celtics coach Doc Rivers can't explain why his veteran team has struggled so much to build off its momentum this season, but hopes they've figured it out by now.
"I always worry about [momentum], even when we win one game," said Rivers. "We just haven't been the type of team -- and it's strange because veteran teams usually handle that well -- but we have not. We have not handled it well all year.
"You can always tell [when Boston wins games] because our practices are always louder when we win. So I know [Monday's] practice there will be a lot of talk and a lot of whistle-blowing to get them focused. That's how we are."
Boston certainly has a propensity to take its eye off the prize when things are going well. Heck, the Celtics nearly coughed up a 20-point lead in the fourth quarter of Sunday's Game 1 win.
But with three straight victories to close out Cleveland last round, coupled with a big Game 1 victory over the Magic, the Celtics are quietly playing some of their best basketball of the season. Even if sometimes the NBA world seems more concerned about why the likes of LeBron James and Dwight Howard are underperforming.
The Celtics watched film from Game 1 for less than an hour at their team hotel Monday before trekking to the arena for practice. According to Shelden Williams' Twitter account, the Magic's arena staff turned out the lights on the facility as they were going through their session.
Boston hopes it's not as easy to shut them off. After all the hand-wringing about whether Boston could flip a switch this postseaosn, suddenly that switch seems jammed in the "On" position.
Game 1 cleanup: Avoid double team; Limit dribble penetration
Despite dominating Sunday's Game 1 for the first 36 minutes, the Celtics couldn't get out of their own way over the final 12 minutes, which left plenty of things on Rivers' fine-tune checklist on Monday.
Chief among his concerns were limiting dribble-drive penetration by point guard Jameer Nelson (who slayed the Celtics in the fourth quarter) and re-stressing to his team that they must avoid instinctively double-teaming against the Magic.
"We double-teamed three times and they scored all three times, when we were not supposed to double team," said Rivers. "Then dribble penetration. Jameer killed us off the dribble. We have to do a better job there."
After forcing the Magic to miss nine 3-pointers in the first half, Orlando got a bit of a spark from the outside after the intermission, finishing 5 of 22 from beyond the arc. Nelson, the only Magic player to connect on multiple 3-pointers, registered 20 points on 8-of-18 shooting (2-of-7 beyond the arc) with nine rebounds and two assists.
"We focused on the things we didn't do well," said Kevin Garnett. "We anticipate this team coming out full of energy on Tuesday night, so we have to be ready to go."
Loose balls: KG watches Family Guy; Why Doc loves Orlando
* The Celtics have largely brushed off the suggestion that they might be angry from the national media's focus on what other teams have done wrong, more so than what Boston has done right this postseason. Garnett said it's surely fodder for motivation, but he doesn't put too much stock into it.
Heck, he hardly hears the pundits giving his TV viewing habits.
"A lot of stuff motivates us, but I watch a lot of Family Guy, so I don't really watch your programs," said Garnett. "I don't really hear what you guys say. But, at some point, it gets back to the group. It can motivate us. But it's what's in front us -- we had Miami to beat, we had Cleveland to beat -- those are all motivational subjects. Orlando is no different. Both these teams are very good, that's enough motivation. We saw the way Orlando was lighting people up in the playoffs against Charlotte and Atlanta, that motivated us more [than the pundits]."
* Guests at the nearby Downtown Orlando Marriott awoke to find travel guides supporting Orlando tourism outside their doors this morning. The local bureau might want to line up Rivers for some TV commercials after the area resident gushed about living in these parts.
"It's a great place to live -- the best," said Rivers. "I've lived everywhere, fortunately or unfortunately. And this is the best place for our family, the best place we've been. We made the decision when Jeremiah, my oldest, he had lived in Milwaukee, Chicago, Connecticut, San Antonio, Los Angeles, and then Orlando. That was going into his eighth-grade year and, we figured, he's an army brat now. So, when we got here, after about the third year, we said, 'This is it.' It's a great place for our family and we'll never move. We knew -- this was my third year [as head coach of Orlando] and things were great -- but I knew I wouldn't be coaching here forever. But we'll be here forever. It's a great place for us."
* For even more video from today's practice session, hop over to our YouTube page with more clips. Check out Rasheed Wallace, still sporting that Philadelphia Flyers hat, much to the dismay of Bruins' fans, below: