CORAL GABLES, Fla. — Less than 24 hours removed from an aesthetically bad loss to the Heat in Game 1, much of the talk around the Celtics concerned Paul Pierce’s ejection and flagrant fouls that were and were not called. But at a certain point in the questioning, both Pierce and Doc Rivers wanted to shift the focus ahead to Game 2 tomorrow night.
“Honestly it’s over,” said Rivers. “I could care less. We’re far more concerned about preparing for Game 2 than we are whether the league’s going to take away a flagrant or give a flagrant. It will have no impact on Game 2.”
Said Pierce of his ejection, “I’m in the midst of a playoff series, so of course it’s going to be on my mind. But I didn’t lose any sleep over it.”
The Celtics shouldn’t lose sleep over one loss in Miami. They would have of course preferred the win, but they can wrest home court back from the Heat with a win on Tuesday. One way to do that, according to Rivers, is to pull the first punch.
“I thought overall they hit first the entire game,” said Rivers. “I’m talking legally, their picks, their cuts, their actions. I thought they played the game with a better force than we played the game with. That’s something that shouldn’t happen.”
There’s bound to be a debate all series long over which team is more physical, if the Celtics used to be more physical with Kendrick Perkins and Tony Allen, and if the Heat are really physical or just cheap shot artists. That debate is unlikely to be solved in this forum. If the Celtics win, they’ll be seen as the tougher team. If the Heat win, it’s them. Rivers had an interesting answer when asked if his team can play a physical style of basketball.
“We’re just built like we are,” said Rivers. “I don’t even know if anybody’s physical these days, to be honest. We play the way we play. We don’t apologize for that. I just think we didn’t do a very good job of that last night.
“I think both teams will compete extremely hard, and at times we will accidentally run into each other. I don’t think it’s going to get out of hand or anything like that. Miami wanted to show us that they’re physical. That’s cool with us. We just wanted to play the way we play. I honestly don’t know if that’s physical or not. That’s for everybody else to say. We’re going to play our style, and somebody’s style’s going to win. That will be what’s determined at the end of the game.”
Rivers said he expects the Heat to play the way they played in Game 1. He just wants his team to play their game.
“That’s fine by us,” Rivers said of Miami’s rough play. “We don’t mind that. That makes the game enjoyable. But we didn’t handle it very well. We play the way we play. I never thought we established that.”
The coach was uninterested in looking for any broader meaning in the Game 1 loss.
“Miami won the first game and now we’re in Game 2,” said Rivers. “Each game is an individual game. It doesn’t matter, the fact that they’re at home. The way I look at it, any time you play you should win. They held serve and all that good stuff, but I don’t believe in that.”
— Rivers noticed a few mechanical fixes the Celtics can make in Game 2.
“I thought we were pretty easy to guard last night,” he said. “We were pretty much a one-option team. We had the most ‘randoms’ of the year, meaning we didn’t even get into sets. We just ran our random offense, and you want that to be at 25 to 30 percent. You don’t want that to be at 37 percent. That’s not us.”
On guarding James Jones, Rivers said, “We don’t give up threes, period. He made five, right? And he had seven open ones. So that’s seven too many, as far as we’re concerned. The fact that he took seven threes without taking one dribble, when you think about it. That’s poor defense. You’ve still got to make them. And that’s where you give James all the credit. But to give a shooter seven threes, and he never had to put the ball on the floor one time, that’s tough for any of us to handle … You can’t give great shooters spot-up jump shots.”
And on the Heat’s style of defense, Rivers had this to say.
“They’re different. They’re just more athletic than us defensively. We’re both great defensive teams. I think we do it entirely different. We literally can’t cover the ground that they cover. I haven’t seen the Ray Allen track down the point guard on the fast break and pin the shot on the glass yet this year. I don’t think we’re going to see that. But we do get back as a team. We showed it on film. We didn’t do that as well.”