Celtics vow to increase physicality

Updated: May 29, 2012, 9:42 PM ET
By Brian Windhorst and Chris Forsberg | ESPN.com

MIAMI -- Rajon Rondo's words "hit the deck" were ringing in the ears of Miami Heat players as they prepared for the Boston Celtics' response in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals.

Frustrated with themselves that they allowed Heat stars LeBron James and Dwyane Wade to have their way going to the basket in Monday's Game 1, the Celtics quickly promised to be more physical with the Heat in Wednesday's Game 2. A particular vow from Rondo, who said "nothing dirty but they have to hit the deck, too," got the Heat's attention.

"I expect to be quote, unquote 'put on the deck' or whatever the case may be and then you go to the free throw line," said James, who had 32 points in the Heat's 93-79 Game 1 win. "I don't need to prepare for something I already think is going to happen every game."

"We're men just like they're men; we're not going to let anyone just come and punk us," said Wade, who had 22 points in Game 1. "That is not our mentality, to go out there and make people hit the deck."

The Celtics' response was typical of a team that lost Game 1 of a series -- a desire to change the aggression level or increase physical play is a common response for a team that wants to shift the momentum in its favor. But this is a bit of an atypical problem for Boston, a team known for its defensive toughness and for punishing opponents with fouls near the basket.

Celtics coach Doc Rivers put a heavy emphasis on how the team allowed Miami to convert a whopping 19 layups and said that was simply unacceptable. Rivers wants his team to protect the paint better and be more physical, but made sure to stress he didn't want this series turning chippy.

"It entails not allowing them to have 19 layups," Rivers said when asked how his team needs to be more physical. "But that doesn't mean physical as far as we're going to start fouling and knocking people down. We foul on our own anyway. What we have to do is protect the paint better, play better defense."

In Game 1, the Heat shot a remarkable 21-of-27 in the paint, a number that horrified Rivers. It was magnified by the Heat getting the opposite done at the other end, blocking 11 Celtics shots and holding Boston to 17-of-37 shooting in the paint. Overall, Wade and James combined to shoot 21-of-35 with the majority of those baskets coming within 10 feet of the rim.

"We have to put up more a fight and more of an effort," Kevin Garnett said. "We have to make sure we take them out of their comfort zone."

Rivers thought the easy layups made things difficult for Boston on both ends of the floor on Monday.

"I think if we [protect the paint], our offense will be much better," he said. "Because that means we're getting stops, multiple stops and we're out running. Part of the reason we didn't run much [in Game 1 was] because they scored half the time, or they got offensive rebounds and layups. We have to get multiple stops so we can get Rondo in transition."

The Heat, who recently had players Udonis Haslem and Dexter Pittman suspended for retaliatory hard fouls in their series with the Indiana Pacers, said they expect the Celtics to play more to their normal style as they try to even the series.

"Physical has always been a part of an opponent's game [plan] towards me and teams I've been on," James said. "It's not surprising when I hear it or see it in the game."

The Celtics want to make the Heat earn those points instead of allowing a layup line. If that means delivering a hard foul, so be it.

"It's got to be more physical from our part," Paul Pierce said. "We've got to show better resistance. We thought it was way too easy for them in Game 1 and they looked very comfortable. Hopefully in Game 2 we can make it a little bit more uncomfortable for them. We're a team that really thrives on our physicality, our defense, our half-court grind-it-out style. And now we have to show it."

Chris Forsberg

Celtics reporter, ESPNBoston.com

ALSO SEE