boston.com Sports Sportsin partnership with NESN your connection to The Boston Globe

Celtics must stay focused

WALTHAM -- Celtics assistant coach Dave Wohl does not consider himself a mind reader. But he has a good idea what the Pacers are thinking in the wake of Saturday night's 20-point blowout loss in Game 1.

During the 1984-85 season, Wohl served as a Lakers assistant under Pat Riley and witnessed the infamous Memorial Day Massacre from the losing bench. The Celtics defeated the Lakers, 148-114, in Game 1 of the NBA Finals, then proceeded to lose the series, including Game 2 at home.

"The next morning [after the loss], Pat and the coaches got together and he decided we would watch film," said Wohl. "Pat said a few words. [Assistant] Bill Bertka talked about how this wasn't just about us, but about Jerry West and Gail Goodrich and all those other Laker teams that had fallen short. And then we just watched the film.

"I remember Kareem [Abdul-Jabbar] had played so poorly in the first game. He watched the film and, at the end, he just said, `OK,' meaning, `OK, I know what I gotta do and I hope you guys know what you gotta do.' And he came out the next game and he had 30 and 17 and the whole series changed with that game."

The Memorial Day Massacre and the end result of the 1985 Finals serve as a cautionary tale for the current Celtics. Perhaps, more than making adjustments at practice, coach Doc Rivers needed to make sure a sense of urgency and a high level of intensity carry over to Game 2 tonight at the FleetCenter.

Anyone who has watched Rivers pace the sideline during the late stages of a rout, as he did during Game 1, knows he is the right man to deliver such a message. Regardless of the score, Rivers never lets up, saying just as much with his actions (taking a timeout when the Boston lead drops to 20 points) as with his words.

Judging from the way the Celtics responded to questions about Game 2, it sounds like they are prepared mentally and physically for the challenge.

"We just can't get overconfident," said Paul Pierce. "We have to understand this is a seven-game series. We won this game. It was pretty lopsided, but this series is a long way from over. We know it. We understand that it's a long series. We haven't won the championship. Shoot, it's just one game. You can't expect to have a perfect day every night. It's going to be tougher for us than we think. We don't expect to go out there and win by 20 every night. They're a veteran team. They're going to give us their best punch. It's just one game."

Pierce repeated "it's just one game" a few more times, making it the Celtics' new unofficial mantra. It also could work as something of a rallying cry for the Pacers. Indiana played about as poor a game as could be imagined. Actually, that may provide hope. According to Wohl, the Lakers played so uncharacteristically poorly in Game 1 of the '85 Finals, they knew their performance could only improve.

"The day after the game, the one thing I felt better about was that we had seen Boston play the best it could and it was the worst we could play," said Wohl. "I think Indiana is probably in that situation. You know Indiana is not going to play that badly again. You know they will try and take things away from us. [With the Lakers], you knew the next game we had a chance to get back in it if we just played closer to what our normal game was."

Clearly, Boston must tone down some of the cockiness that had players thinking of a sweep during Game 1. Given a season-long history of inconsistency, the Celtics would be smart not to look too far ahead. They know Jermaine O'Neal (7 points) and Reggie Miller (7) will not struggle throughout the series as they did in Game 1. They know that Marcus Banks and Al Jefferson will not always compete like playoff-seasoned professionals, that the bench won't always be able to save the starters after a slow start.

The Celtics have been most inconsistent when it comes to defense, often relying too much on an offense that averaged 101.3 points per game (102.0 since the reacquisition of Antoine Walker) and shot 47 percent. That was what made their Game 1 victory impressive. Boston did not allow early struggles on offense to dictate how it played defense.

On offense, the Celtics stayed patient. On defense, they stayed aggressive and were rewarded with 14 steals and a poor shooting night by almost everyone in the Pacers lineup (35 percent).

"We have to be ready for them [tonight]," said Rivers. "They're going to be better. And we have to be better. We have to start the game better and we have to finish the game better. We have to be a better team to beat Indiana. As well as we played, for us to win, we have to play better. It's going to take the same effort and more, and not thinking that what you did the first night was good enough.

"It's never enough in the playoffs."


SEARCH GLOBE ARCHIVES
   
Today (free)
Yesterday (free)
Past 30 days
Last 12 months