With Kobe Bryant looking to improve on his 9-for-26 shooting in Game 1 of the NBA Finals, Ray Allen seemed to brace himself yesterday for what many expect will be a double-barreled response by Bryant in Game 2 tonight at TD Banknorth Garden.
But Allen, a great scorer who this season has been called upon to be a solid defender, knows the Celtics will have to adhere to the same principles that made them the best defensive team in the league.
"I think defensively, from my perspective, it's been somewhat of a team ideal," he said. "I've always been a pretty good team defender. The schemes that we use, the schemes that I've used my whole career, if you have one weak link, you all know the team defense is going to suffer throughout any games, throughout any season.
"I think here we have five guys at any time on the floor who are accountable, so it makes the job somewhat easier. You don't just point the finger and say it's on you; it's on all of us. One person makes a mistake, you don't compound it. We all key into each other.
"Even some of the teams that I've been successful on, it's the same thing. You don't look at any great individual defenders, you look at guys that really cover for each other, don't make excuses, and go out there and work as hard as you can on the defensive end."
Asked how Allen has developed as a defender this season, captain Paul Pierce said, "Well, in past years I never thought of Ray as a great defender, but when you look at the top scorers in the league, you never think of any of the top scorers in the league as great defenders, because they're so great offensively.
"I think since being here he's shown he's been more than a capable defender due to some of the assignments that he's had," Pierce added, referencing Allen's matchups with Atlanta's Joe Johnson and Detroit's Rip Hamilton earlier this postseason.
"He knows in order for us to win, we have to play defense, and he's drawn the challenge of guarding Kobe, he's drawn the challenge of guarding Joe Johnson, and he's stepped up that part of his play, regardless of what he's done on the offensive end.
"He's come to play this year defensively."
Kendrick Perkins figured he was just playing the percentages in Game 1 Thursday night when he told coach Doc Rivers he was "about 60 percent" after spraining his left ankle. Rivers laughed afterward at how Perkins came up with such a figure.
"It's just how I was feeling," Perkins said yesterday. "I had no other way to put it to him. It was either that or on a scale of 1 to 10."
So what was it on a scale of 1 to 10?
"It was probably like a 6 or 7," he replied, drawing laughter from the media at his courtside podium.
Perkins said he felt much improved yesterday. "I feel like 75-80 percent right now," he said. "So there's still aching in it right now, but it's all right."
Change not good?
Don't count Rivers as a fan of the 2-3-2 format. In the previous three rounds, the 2-2-1-1-1 format enabled the Celtics to enjoy home court in Games 5 and 7. "Game 5 is taken away from you in this format," Rivers said. "We've had three huge Game 5s in the first three rounds. All of them have been at home. So that part of it changed. But home court is important in every game, it doesn't matter if it's Game 1 or Game 2. All your home-court games are vital and key, so it doesn't change the urgency that way." . . . Lakers coach Phil Jackson, who scoffed at the seriousness of Pierce's injury in Game 1, was asked if Boston fans had made his life any more difficult because of his skepticism. "No," he said. "I hope they take that in good stead." . . . Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, denied by the New York Giants in his bid to bring Boston another championship, said he and his teammates were living vicariously through the Celtics. "They're fun to watch," Brady told reporters in Foxborough yesterday. "I think it's been fun to watch. It's been fun to watch the city really rally around the team. They went from not a very good team two years ago to the best team in the league this year. There are a lot of guys [on the Patriots] who have played basketball, so a lot of guys follow them pretty closely." Asked if he listed basketball on his sporting résumé, Brady replied, "Oh, yeah, I played in high school." What position? "I was a ball hog. I was a ball-hogging forward who couldn't jump. I was a big 2. I didn't pass much."