Doc doesn't strike me as a sports cliches coach and with all the vets on the team, the Celtics don't strike me as a team that would respond to sports cliches, but Game 2 is ripe for chalkboard material. "Ttheir backs are against the wall." Tonight is a "do-or-die game." It's a "must-win." The Hawks play-by-play Steve Holman has suggested that whoever wins Game 2 will win the series. And with the NBA drawing ire about its officiating, the league saw fit to assign Ed Malloy to Game 2, the ref who booted Garnett in 2010 and Pierce in 2011 out of playoff games. They're without Rondo and probably without Ray. They'll need to give "110 percent" and play "within themselves." They shouldn't look ahead and just "take it one game at a time."
"We've gone down this road before with injuries and we played well [without Rondo] in that stretch," Rivers said of the 13 games his team has played without Rondo this season. "This is a resilient basketball team, that's what we are. That's what we've been all year.
"Sometimes it takes this stuff -- for whatever reason -- to snap us into the right place. So I don't know if we're going to win or lose [Tuesday], but I can guarantee you we'll be ready to play."
I have no doubt that they'll be ready to play tonight. Without Ray and Rondo, Doc will start Avery and Pietrus. Even though that's a move out of necessity rather than choice, it still signifies the team's commitment to one sports cliche that Boston has made religion over the past five seasons: "defense wins championships."
If you look back at this roller coaster season, there have been some unforgivable losses, but after every disappointing effort, Doc has taken them to task and they've bounced back admirably. More specifically, they've bounced back on the defensive end. Let's jump into the DeLorean.
After back-to-back losses to New York and Miami, the Celtics laid an egg in New Orleans. Over the span of three days, they gave up 106, 115, and 97 points respectively. Two days later in the home opener, they held the Pistons to 85 points and had a 22 point lead at the end of three quarters. Later in January, after a five game losing streak to playoff contenders, the Celtics held the Raptors to 73 points on 37% shooting.
But it wasn't until after the All-Star break that Boston really flexed its defensive muscle. After giving up 103 points in Philadelphia, the Celtics came home and absolutely crushed Portland. The following week, after a disappointing loss to the Lakers, they shut down the Clippers. Doc quipped:
"We were angry last night because we didn't get any stops down the stretch (against the Lakers)," Boston coach Doc Rivers said. "This is Lob City, and they enjoy the game. You can see when they play, they have a lot of fun, and we just had to make this game no fun. We talked about it before the game, how this can not be a joyous occasion, and has to be no fun. Our guys went out there and turned the game from a joyous occasion to a competition."
On that same road trip, after ragged performances in Sacramento and Denver, the road-weary Celtics went into Atlanta and held the Hawks to 76 points on their home floor (51 points through three quarters). Most recently, after a disappointing loss to the Bulls where Doc publicly berated the team:
"That's an unacceptable effort for us. I don't say that often. I don't think I've ever said that. That was a crime. It was tough to talk after the game. About what? We gotta be better than that. I don't want to hear us winning crap, not with that effort."
When asked about preparing for the postseason, he became even more frustrated.
"I'm just so pissed at the way we played. Honestly, the playoffs are the furthest thing from my mind right now because (Thursday's) not us. We haven't been that way but we were tonight. I called the two timeouts to remind us to make a run.
"We were cool tonight. We were the cool Boston Celtics tonight. That's what we looked like. You could see it, walking the ball (up court). We couldn't get the ball inbounds? Nobody wanted to work. It was a joke. We were the "cool Celtics." And there's nothing about me that's cool, I can tell you that. You don't play basketball cool."
In the following four games in five nights, the Celtics stomped on Indy, Philly and Miami and gutted out that OT win against the Hawks.
Tonight is going to be ugly. In Doc's own words, it's going to be "no fun." You're not going to see the "cool Boston Celtics." You're going to see Avery Bradley do a Jameer Nelson on Jeff Teague. Joe Johnson is going to develop a healthy hate for the French with Mickael Pietrus draped on him all night. Josh Smith won't have to worry about the head of the snake with his best friend Rondo watching Game 2 in a hotel room, but KG's boa constricting defense will be on him from the tip. This team has proven time and time again its guts and resiliency and if history serves as any indication of what we'll see in Game 2, we can expect this kind of post game reaction:
KG Pumped Up After Comeback Win (via NBA)