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Celtics Notebook

Track meet would be bad

Fast-paced games are quite a hurdle

By Julian Benbow
Globe Staff / May 2, 2011

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MIAMI — Doc Rivers posed the question to his players as soon as they got back from their time off following the Knicks series.

“If we had an Olympics [between the Heat and the Celtics],’’ he asked, “who’s going to win?’’

The responses were nearly unanimous.

“Everybody said Miami except for [Rajon] Rondo,’’ Rivers said. “If he could run in all the events we may have a chance.’’

The point couldn’t have been clearer. With Dwyane Wade and LeBron James alone, the Heat could outrun family sedans and also jump over them.

They’re a nightmare on fast breaks. They’ve hooked up on a full-court alley-oop. They could turn a game of basketball into a game of Ultimate Frisbee at will.

“We have to play the way we play,’’ Rivers told his players. “We can’t get into that.’’

But that’s exactly the type of game the Celtics found themselves in yesterday.

The Heat turned Boston’s 14 turnovers into 26 points.

“They don’t force a lot of turnovers, but when you turn the ball over it’s a guaranteed basket,’’ Rivers said. “It was a guaranteed basket when LeBron James was by himself in Cleveland and Dwyane Wade was by himself in Miami on a turnover. Now they are together.’’

Rondo and Paul Pierce combined for nine turnovers.

“You can’t turn the ball over against those guys,’’ said Glen Davis. “They’re going to turn turnovers into points, turn them into fouls, turn them into open shots. They’re an athletic team. We’ve just got to play within ourselves and make sure we don’t make the same mistakes in Game 2.’’

Kind words Before it was official, Rivers sent a text message to Tom Thibodeau, congratulating his former lead assistant on being named Coach of the Year in his first season with the Bulls.

Thibodeau became just the seventh coach to win the award in his first season. Rivers did it with the Magic in 2000, taking them to the playoffs with four undrafted free agents.

Rivers joked, “It’s the kiss of death.’’

“He came in and did his job,’’ Rivers added. “No. 1, he was so prepared for it, but more importantly I thought he followed through on what he came to do. A lot of times you come in there and you have these thoughts and then the first time you hit some adversity you kind of change up and you go another direction.

“One of the things I kept saying was stay in his beliefs. I know when you play the Bulls you can see his beliefs through the team. And that’s one of the marks of a great team.’’

Not Green’s day Through three quarters, Jeff Green had missed five of his six shots, scored just 5 points, and hadn’t grabbed a rebound. But forced to play 10 minutes in the fourth quarter after Pierce’s ejection, Green scored 5 points, knocking down a 3-pointer that made it 76-65 as the Celtics were still trying to rally.

Green, however, finished minus-9 for the game. He and Davis (minus-21) were a combined 5 for 13 from the floor.

“I didn’t do well enough,’’ Green said. “Our defense needs to pick it up. We can’t be satisfied. We have to continue to move forward and get better.’’

Shaq possible Shaquille O’Neal was in street clothes yet again yesterday, but Rivers said if O’Neal doesn’t play tomorrow in Game 2, he likely will return for Game 3 in Boston on Saturday.

“He’s getting very close,’’ Rivers said. “Honestly, we had to actually make a decision today. So that’s better than what we had to do in the past. Maybe the next game, if not I would say for sure Game 3.’’

O’Neal was expected to be healthy enough to play by the start of the postseason. He played five minutes April 3 against Detroit before aggravating his injured right calf.

“He’s tried to do some stuff,’’ Rivers said. “But he keeps getting sore afterward, so we’re just going to wait.’’

Local knowledge Carlos Arroyo, who began the season with the Heat, was active for the Celtics, more for his ability to help strategically than on the floor.

“He knows this team,’’ Rivers said. “He was in their training camp, he was in their practices, he knows their personnel. So I just thought he may be able to help us in some way.’’

Julian Benbow can be reached at jbenbow@globe.com.

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