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Celtics Notebook

Playing that pick-up game

James notices foe looks ‘bored’

Paul Pierce (34) gets tied up with the Cavaliers’ Antawn Jamison on a drive to the basket in the third quarter. Paul Pierce (34) gets tied up with the Cavaliers’ Antawn Jamison on a drive to the basket in the third quarter. (Mark Duncan/Associated Press)
By Julian Benbow
Globe Staff / March 15, 2010

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CLEVELAND — Keeping an eye on the Celtics from a distance, LeBron James spotted the obvious. Good enough to beat the Lakers one night and bad enough to lose to the Nets on another, the Celtics, the Cavaliers superstar told the Cleveland Plain Dealer, have looked uninterested in the regular season.

“To me, the Celtics look bored,’’ he told the newspaper. “I’m not saying they’ve tanked the regular season, I’m just saying an experienced team like Boston has so much talent, they know how to win in the playoffs. Just looking at them, they look like they’re ready for a new challenge.’’

Though he wasn’t saying anything the Celtics hadn’t said — Kendrick Perkins admitted as much the day after the Celtics were blown out by the Cavaliers at the Garden Feb. 25 — James softened his statement before the Cavaliers’ 104-93 victory yesterday, but only slightly.

“It’s a veteran ball club, they know what it takes to win,’’ James said. “They’re going to do what it takes to win. They’ve got guys that have been through everything . . . It’s a good team.’’

Since the 20-point loss to Cleveland in Boston, the Celtics have dropped games to the Nets, the Bucks, and the Grizzlies, and nearly let the Wizards and Bobcats steal games on their home floor. Chasing their second title in three seasons, these Celtics are sometimes compared with the title team that won 66 games in 2007-08 and was focused like a laser for 82 games — but is that accurate?

“We brought it every game,’’ said Leon Powe, a key reserve on that 2008 team who signed with Cleveland in the offseason. “We stressed the bench as key. We stressed the starters starting us off on the right foot. If the offense wasn’t on, you’ve still got to go out there and dig deep on defense. That’s what we relied on the year we won it.

“I can’t put [their being bored] in perspective, but it’s probably because we won the championship that year. Maybe some people are satisfied [on the 2009-10 Celtics], maybe some people are not. It can go either way. But you don’t expect it from a veteran team. That’s what you don’t expect it from.’’

Pulses quicken
Intentionally or not, as the person responsible for ending Shaquille O’Neal’s regular season, the Celtics’ Glen Davis was a marked man from the moment he walked into Quicken Loans Arena.

After being caught on camera tugging at O’Neal’s thumb after having slammed it trying to block a shot in the Feb. 25 game, Davis explained his side of the incident, which led to surgery for Cleveland’s 300-pound center and will cost him eight weeks.

“I wasn’t really paying attention. I didn’t know that his thumb was hurting or anything. He made no indication that his thumb was hurting. I was just playing basketball,’’ he said.

“I’m trying to be a defensive agitator, meaning just messing with him, stuff like that. But I never thought in my mind that his thumb was hurt. I didn’t know that his thumb was hurt until he called a timeout and was like, ‘My thumb’s broke.’ I was walking out of the huddle, I was like, ‘Man!’ ’’

Boos followed Davis around the arena yesterday and only got louder every time he was whistled for a foul. At one point he bit on an Antawn Jamison head fake so badly he flew into the forward and sent him to the floor. Later in the game, trying to make sure Anderson Varejao didn’t get to a loose ball, Davis gave Varejao a hip check, though he wasn’t whistled for it.

“If I cross the line, I’ll get a tech,’’ Davis said. “My job is to play hard, be an energy guy, get loose balls, go out there and try to be a factor. I don’t try to [go over the line] intentionally. I’m a big guy. When I foul I have to foul to make sure guys don’t make a layup or get an and-one.

“I just try to play the game the way it’s supposed be played. I’m not trying to hurt nobody.’’

Pullback on controls
After suggesting that he would sit Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett at points in the final weeks of the season, coach Doc Rivers pulled back slightly, saying, “If we need to do it, we’ll do it. Who knows when it’ll happen and if it’ll happen. We’re just working on getting them right, getting them great for when it’s time to play.’’

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