BOSTON Even the most die-hard Boston Celtics fans would not have predicted the C's would beat the Los Angeles Lakers so decisively on Thursday night.
Of the many factors that contributed to the 116-95 win, one of the most overlooked ones was history.
No, not the longtime rivalry that exists between these two proud, championship-driven franchises.
We're talking about a more recent history in the context of the many lessons learned during the team's latest winning streak.
"In the Orlando game, they came out in the third (quarter) and made a run," said Rivers, whose team eventually beat the Magic, 97-84. "In the Clipper game, they almost won the game."
In both instances, the C's controlled the action most of the night and seemed on their way to an easy win only for things to tighten up before pulling away down the stretch.
"We got to show them you don't sit on a lead with your offense," Rivers said. "You sit on a lead with your defense."
And the Celtics' defense is getting the job in ways that don't always directly show up on the end-of-game stat sheets, either.
"You make them use 20 seconds every time down defensively," Rivers said. "Even if your offense goes stale, you can still win the game."
That's exactly what the Celtics did in the third quarter on Thursday when they outscored the Lakers, 37-25.
The roof just kind of caved in on us and it gave them a lot of transition points and easy baskets," said Lakers guard Kobe Bryant. "They were hot. I cant really remember them missing a shot in the third quarterthey just played really well.
Added Rivers: "We just kept defending, kept defending and finally the game broke through for us."
Although defense has been the sermon of choice for Rivers to preach every day, it has only been since January that the Celtic players took Rivers' words and put them into action consistently.
"That's how we have to be, in order to be a really good team," Boston's Chris Wilcox told CSNNE.com. "Everybody just keep going out there, do your job and play hard, we'll be alright. We'll be alright."