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Celtics notebook

Game 3 outcome rests totally on defense

Email|Print|Single Page| Text size + By Christopher L. Gasper
Globe Staff / May 24, 2008

The Celtics shot 48.6 percent, had 19 assists, and got 75 points from the Big Three, yet still lost Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals to the Pistons Thursday night. That's why coach Doc Rivers was stating the case yesterday that his team's chances tonight in Game 3 at The Palace of Auburn Hills rest heavily on how it plays defense.

Rivers felt the Celtics' defense declined in Game 2, and that was the difference.

"That game came down to one team getting a couple of stops and the other team not," said Rivers. "I think that's how the series will be played. It's still going to come down to the end of the game making stops."

Rivers said his team has to make crisper rotations defensively and be more solid than it was in Game 2.

Kevin Garnett, the NBA's Defensive Player of the Year, agreed.

"I thought we were a step slow in rotations. I thought, responsibility-wise, we slipped a couple of times," said Garnett. "When we needed stops, we just couldn't get that one stop to get us over the hump."

Rivers pointed out that it takes total team defense to stop the Pistons because they play total team offense. Unlike the Celtics' previous series against the Hawks and Cavaliers, in which Joe Johnson and LeBron James were the defensive focal points, respectively, Boston can't afford to focus on locking down one player because the Pistons find offense from a variety of sources. Case in point, the 15-point performance of Antonio McDyess in Game 2.

"The difference between here and other series is all five guys can shoot," said Rivers. "It's never three vs. five against Detroit, it's always five vs. five."

A little R&R

The Celtics didn't practice before heading to Detroit. Following Game 2, Rivers spoke of a fatigue factor. Game 2 was the Celtics' 10th game in 18 days.

However, Rivers said that win or lose, he had planned to give the team a breather yesterday.

"Sometimes you need a mental break. We're taking one, and we'll be fresh [tonight]," said Rivers. "I don't like to use the fatigue card. I did think before the game that Game 2 could be a fatigue game, but I don't think it's physical fatigue, but yes, from watching the film, there was some mental fatigue."

Raising his game

Ray Allen's 25 points in Game 2 represented his highest output of the playoffs, and 3 more points than he had scored in his last three playoff games combined. Allen had hit one of his last 10 3-pointers before shooting 2 for 4 from beyond the arc in Game 2.

"I thought Ray had an excellent night. I think, confidence-wise, this is what he probably needed," said Garnett. "I know Paul [ Pierce] and myself kept encouraging him, so it was good to see him have a nice game. I thought he was aggressive."

Allen said he doesn't think his outburst is going to affect the way Detroit defends him.

"Regardless of whether they thought I was shooting the ball well or not, you don't want to give somebody who is capable open or free reign," said Allen. "You have to jump out and make sure that you keep them from waking up.

"I don't think they look at it from the standpoint of, 'We have to watch out for him now.' They've always known that they have to keep an eye on me. I'm sure they've gone through my plays and Paul's plays and anything that we run for KG, so they're aware of what's going on."

View from the bench

Sam Cassell recorded his fourth straight Did Not Play - coach's decision in Game 2. Yesterday, Rivers said the coaching staff is constantly evaluating who does and doesn't play, but didn't declare if he was going to play Cassell. "We're always thinking about it. It's not like you stick and stay with one lineup throughout," said Rivers. "If you watch the playoffs, that's how it is. You go with the most effective way to help you win a game. What's always key is if the players can handle it. We have a group of players that handles it. That's been the key to our success, the egos are out of the way. They understand that we're trying to win games." . . . Fouls continue to be an issue for the Celtics. Detroit has gone to the line 59 times in the first two games, making 47 free throws. The Celtics, who have outfouled the Pistons, 43-39, have shot 36 of 46 from the line. "This cannot be a gamble series," Rivers said. "I think most of the fouls were led to by bad switches, bad gambles. Other players try to make up for them and it leads to a foul. I think we got away with it in Game 1, and in Game 2 they took advantage of it." . . . Allen said he was appreciative of the way the Garden crowds supported him through his shooting slump. "The fans have been great," he said. "I've enjoyed playing here on this floor because they've always been so encouraging of me."

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