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Rivers says he will not alter team’s plan

Heat may have ace; Celtics holding firm

By Frank Dell’Apa
Globe Staff / June 5, 2012
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MIAMI - The Celtics are very aware of the Heat’s aces. But they are uncertain when, or if, the Heat will play Chris Bosh, the one they have up their sleeve.

It could be in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals Tuesday night. If there was ever a time to throw all your cards on the table, now is it.

“We have [prepared] every game,’’ Celtics coach Doc Rivers said Monday. “So we don’t have to do anything different. We’ve prepared every game like Bosh is going to play and, eventually, he will - maybe [Tuesday].’’

The series has taken on some of the characteristics of a game of wits, with Rivers and Miami coach Erik Spoelstra playing different hands nearly every game. The Heat pulled out several unexpected combinations in the last two games, taking the Celtics by surprise in the second half of a 93-91 overtime loss in Game 4 Sunday.

Bosh could be the wild card of this series, should he recover from an abdominal strain. So far, the Celtics’ tactics have been based on having a significant inside matchup advantage with Kevin Garnett, who is averaging 20.5 points and 10.8 rebounds.

“I don’t know how much different it will be,’’ Rivers said. “Kevin will try to post up whoever they throw out there. [Bosh] is just another body, a talented player, and he poses his own problems.

“He helps because of all the trapping we’re doing. It’s more difficult when Bosh is on floor. His value is he stretches the floor. He’s a great shooter, he’s long.’’

The Celtics’ defense is finely tuned. The Celtics have been able to limit the jump-shooting threat of Shane Battier and Udonis Haslem by sending defenders at them while Garnett remains in help mode.

Rivers talked of “getting a hand, or a finger tip, on the ball’’ against Battier and Haslem.

“Bosh is taller and you can’t do that,’’ Rivers said. “He will make it difficult, no doubt.’’

Bosh, who is 6 feet, 11 inches, would cause Garnett to become more of a one-on-one defender. Bosh could also add an element of energy in a series that has been physically draining for both teams.

“I don’t think it hampers them or us,’’ Rivers said of the series format. “The only guy I worry about is Kevin. [Rajon] Rondo, [Dwyane] Wade, LeBron [James], they can play forever, I really believe that. Kevin is the only guy I am really concerned with.

“After the game, I went right to Kevin’s minutes, and I told the coaches I don’t like this. Twice in this series, it’s hard to avoid in overtime games, he played a lot of minutes and, four games in eight days, that’s a lot of minutes for him.’’

Garnett is averaging 38 minutes per game against Miami.

The Celtics have mostly failed to find an answer for James, who basically held himself to fewer than 30 points for the first time in the series by fouling out in Game 4.

James committed his sixth foul by making contact with Mickael Pietrus trying to post him up. And Celtics captain Paul Pierce was disqualified for the second time in the series and third time in the playoffs.

“Paul has guarded [James] almost too much,’’ Rivers said. “That’s why he fouled out two of four games - that’s too much for us. Pietrus especially has done a terrific job. Guarding LeBron is hard because he comes at you in so many ways. It’s difficult to stop him.’’

But the Celtics have used savvy and size to limit Wade, bringing Marquis Daniels and Pietrus off the bench. Daniels defended Wade in the final 21 seconds of Game 4, Wade missing a potential game-deciding 3-pointer.

“He’s explosive,’’ Rivers said of Wade. “He’s so explosive and he’s going to get shots. We know that. We’re hoping he gets shots over longer people. We tell them don’t foul him, make him make shots over extended arms. They have the height advantage and we’re hoping that’s in our favor.

“He keeps attacking. He’s been better in second halves, and we have to find a way of slowing him down. Defensively, he’s disruptive. And LeBron has guarded everybody, he’s guarded the ‘1,’ ‘2,’ ‘3,’ ‘5.’ The only guy he hasn’t guarded is me. It’s pretty impressive.’’

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

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