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Celtics notebook

Perkins keeps goal in sharp focus

By Frank Dell’Apa
Globe Staff / May 13, 2010

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WALTHAM — Kendrick Perkins is keeping the focus on the Celtics for tonight’s Game 6 meeting with Cleveland at TD Garden.

“I don’t know if they’re psyched out or what,’’ Perkins said of the Cavaliers. “I just know we’re doing it as a team. I’m not really worried about what’s going on with them.

“We kept saying we’re waiting for the playoffs to get here, so we could do what we got to do. We didn’t end the regular season too good, but once the playoffs got here, we locked in.

“It’s like a Game 7 coming up. We don’t want to go back to Cleveland. I think we’ve got to just come out with the right focus, right mind-set, just play our game.

“We’ve just got great veterans. I think Doc [Rivers] does a great job keeping us focused, taking it one game at a time, not looking towards the future, so I think we’ve just got to come out and take care of business. We can’t worry about the results, we’ve just come out and play basketball.’’

Kevin Garnett missed last year’s playoffs and one game (suspension) against Miami in the first round this season. The Celtics squandered a 3-2 advantage against Orlando in the second round last season.

“Totally different team, though — we didn’t have KG last year,’’ Perkins said. “We were on the road, up, 3-2. I just think when it gets like Game 5, Game 6, Game 7, those games are important but you’ve got to embrace the moment and take it one game at a time.

“Last year we didn’t have KG, so I know the spirit is going to be there this year. Just having him for the focus for the locker room, once he gets to the game, it’s quiet, everybody’s going to get focused because he’s focused.

“One thing about KG is he leads by example, so guys kind of have to follow, whether it’s Paul [Pierce], Rasheed [Wallace], he leads by example. Just the leadership. KG brings that intensity to the game. His energy level is high. Forget his skills, he’s a man of great focus, and he demands from his teammates to go hard.’’

King-sized defense
Rivers on stopping LeBron James: “For three games, he basically had a highway to the basket. Our thought was we’ve got to get bodies in front of him. We obviously didn’t want to foul him, but just no layup — there were just too many of them. It gives his team so much juice when he gets there. I thought, overall, the communication and help was as good as it can get.

“Let’s be honest, LeBron’s a great player and he missed some shots he normally makes. And we showed that on film, too. He had five to nine shots, that if we give him those [tonight], he’s going to make those. So we can’t live on all the things we did [in Game 5].

“He just had a game where he continued to miss, but he continued to shoot. The great players, the reason they’re great, is because they’re mental. They believe if they miss nine in a row the odds are actually greater on their side. The average player misses three in a row, he may not take another shot the rest of the game. The LeBrons and the Kobe [Bryants], they really do.’’

Pierce was credited with setting the defensive tone on James and also on the boards.

“I just told Paul to be aggressive,’’ Rivers said. “We made the big point with the team, the whole hero ball, hero basketball thing, we don’t need to do that. We just need to continue to play our game, move the ball, and trust that we’re going to get you the ball.

“But when we do go to you, we want you to be aggressive, and I thought Paul did that. If Paul’s rebounds are high, he’s had a good game most of the time, he’s had an impact on the game.

“Obviously, I wanted him to shoot better in the other games. What I didn’t like was that his rebound numbers were low, and when that’s low, that means low energy.

“I think Paul is the best or one of the best at his position in the league rebounding. When he rebounds, it makes us really good.’’

Mr. Tibs
Rivers on Celtics assistant coach Tom Thibodeau: “He’s the best defensive coach, I think, in the league. I don’t know if there’s a better one. And our guys buy into it, and I think that’s very important. If they don’t buy into it, it’s not going to work. And we have a group of guys who are willing to buy into what we want them to do, what ‘Tibs’ wants them to do. If the best player buys in, everybody follows. Kevin bought in on Day 1. And what choice do you have? You have to follow.’’

Frank Dell’Apa can be reached at f_dellapa@globe.com.

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