Doc: 'The key is to keep our focus'

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Doc: 'The key is to keep our focus'

PHILADELPHIA Conventional wisdom would lead one to believe that the Boston Celtics, having already regained home-court advantage with their Game 3 blowout win, already have what they came for.
A win in Game 4 would be nice, but not necessary.
For all the game-planning Doc Rivers and his staff will do between now and Friday night's Game 4 matchup, flushing that kind of mentality out of his players will be his biggest challenge.
"We won the first one and now we have another one," Rivers said. "The key is to keep our focus and play the way we played, with the same energy and not play like, 'You won one. Now you can relax.' "
That'll be easier said than done, especially against a Sixers team that will play a desperate brand of basketball knowing a Game 4 loss would make a Game 5 trip to Boston nothing more than a coronation of what many believed was true before the series started -- Boston is better and will make short work of a good, but still growing, Sixers team.
Anyone who witnessed the C's beatdown of the Sixers on Wednesday came away with no doubt as to which team was better.
Even Rajon Rondo, who tends to keep his feelings and thoughts close to the vest, made it clear that Game 3 was indeed a statement-type game for the Celtics after two down-to-the-wire finishes in Games 1 and 2 in Boston.
Celtics guard Ray Allen acknowledged the C's came into Game 3 with something to prove.
"We won Game 1, but there was almost a sense that we stole it from them," Allen said. "And in Game 2, we kicked ourselves because we feel we should have won that one. After those two games, the Sixers are looking at it like, 'Hey, we're supposed to be up 2-0' and we're going to our home floor.' Game 3 was evident if we played convincingly the way we did last night, in the first two games, there would have been a different feeling around the series but it's not. We have to take Game Three and produce that same feeling, that same effect in Game Four."
But as much as the C's want to build off of what they did well in Game 3, the reality is that Game 4 will be different.
The Sixers are only down 2-1, but they know another loss will put them in a predicament that they are highly unlikely to rebound from.
So as much as the Celtics want to replicate the success they had in Game 3, Friday night's Game 4 battle will be a much tougher challenge than Game 3.
There was a heightened sense of urgency heading into Game 3 on the part of the Celtics, the kind of urgency that's difficult to produce again so quickly when the circumstances this time around are so different.
Had the Celtics lost Game 3, they would be the desperate team heading into Game 4, knowing another loss would make it next to impossible for them to move on to the next round.
In so many ways, that must-win mentality brought out the best in the Celtics.
Kevin Garnett continued his dominance of this series with 27 points and 14 rebounds. Rajon Rondo (23 points, 14 assists) once again proved to be a big-game performer. The C's even found a defibrillator for their seemingly dead-to-the-world bench that had produced very little offensively aside from Allen's contributions.
Mickael Pietrus, returning to the Sixers' home floor for the first time since suffering a Grade-3 concussion on March 23, had a huge game off the bench with 13 points on 4-for-8 shooting.
"That's huge for us," said Paul Pierce. "When you got guys like him coming in, Ryan Hollins, Keyon Dooling. Everybody has to contribute for us to win. It takes a lot of pressure off us when our bench can come in and contribute as well as defensively."
The C's will look for all that and then some in Game 4, hoping the end result will be the same as Game 3.
But as hard as it may be to look past the Game 3 beating, Rivers knows that game, as good as it was for his team, won't do them a bit of good on Friday.
"You have to win the series," Rivers said. "That's the point here. You have to take one game at a time. You can't look at what you done, if you lost or won. That last game is over."
And if the C's win on Friday, you can say the same for this series.

Ainge: Winning more important than All-Star bids

Ainge: Winning more important than All-Star bids

BOSTON -- When it comes to NBA awards and accolades, players in contention often try to play it cool when asked about whether they are deserving.
 
And then there’s Boston’s Isaiah Thomas, who gives a definitive response whenever the question about whether he should be an All-Star starter is raised.
 
We’ll find out later today if Thomas will in fact be named as a starter for the Eastern Conference All-Star team when the East and West starters are announced. 
 
“It’s a little bit refreshing in that he is open about it,” Danny Ainge said on 98.5 the Sports Hub’s Toucher & Rich show this morning. “But every player wants to be acknowledged by their fan base, by other players in the league, coaches. You come into the league and as a young player you want to earn the respect of your peers and then you want to get paid and then you want to be an All-Star; maybe that’s the wrong order; and then nothing more important than winning.
 
Ainge added, “Isaiah is having a great year. He’s talked a lot about it. At some point in his career, he’ll talk about the most important thing and that’s winning championships.”
 
Ainge pointed to when Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen were all Celtics, there was no mistaking that winning came before anything else.
 
But where those guys were in their careers in terms of individual achievements and just age, were major factors in their focus being so deeply rooted in winning.
 
“Along the way they all want to win, but when you get to the point where Paul, Ray and KG were in their 30s, they didn’t care about any of that other stuff because they had it all, already,” Ainge said. “They had multiple All-Star games, they had big contracts, winning became the only thing that mattered.”
 
In other Celtics-related news, Ainge said that there’s no timetable for when Avery Bradley (right Achilles strain) will return to the floor. He has missed five of the last six games with the injury which includes last night’s loss to the New York Knicks which was a game in which the 6-foot-2 Bradley was a last-minute scratch from the lineup