Finishing off the Hawks won't be easy for Celts

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Finishing off the Hawks won't be easy for Celts

BOSTON The Boston-Atlanta playoff series is over.

The Hawks are done.

Doc Rivers understands how easily this mindset can be adopted -- at least outside of his locker room -- following the Boston Celtics' 101-79 romp of the Atlanta Hawks on Sunday in a game that gave the C's a 3-1 edge in the best-of-seven series.

But as slim as Atlanta's chances are at a comeback in the series, closing out the Hawks -- at home or at Atlanta's Philips Arena on Tuesday -- won't be easy for the Celtics.

"You better believe that we're coming," said Hawks center Al Horford, who made his playoff debut this year on Sunday in scoring 12 points to go with five rebounds. "We're bringing it at home. We're looking forward to it."

Only eight teams in NBA history have led a playoff series three games to one, and failed to move on to the next round. The last team to do so was Phoenix, which rallied from a 3-1 series deficit to defeat the Los Angeles Lakers in 2006.

One of those eight teams was coached by Rivers, whose Orlando Magic squad in 2003 -- led by current Atlanta forward Tracy McGrady -- had a 3-1 series lead over Detroit and wound up losing the final three games and the series.

So as much as the Celtics relish the opportunity to close out the Hawks on Tuesday, Rivers and his players speak more about the need to have a great sense of urgency on the C's part heading into Game 5 which is expected to be the toughest game of the series thus far.

"You don't want to give a team any confidence," said Celtics forward Paul Pierce. "You got to go down to Atlanta with the right mindset. You don't want to bring it back to Boston because anything could happen. The NBA is a weird league; one game could give a team confidence."

Said Rivers: "You've got to take them one at a time."

Rivers saw first-hand how going away from that, can blow up in your face.

After that 2003 Orlando team beat Detroit in Game 4 to take a commanding 3-1 series lead, McGrady started talking about what it would be like playing in the second round shortly after the Game 4 victory.

Word quickly got back to the Pistons, who used it as a rallying cry of sorts that was part of their surge towards advancing in that series and ultimately moving on to the Eastern Conference finals.

These Boston Celtics are a veteran, battle-tested group that understands as well as anybody, the power of words and how they can quickly be transformed into motivation.

"We definitely want to try and finish the series out in Atlanta," said C's guard Rajon Rondo. "We don't want to come back here and play because obviously we need our rest. It's gonna be a good fight. But at the end of the day we want to try and get a win."

And while Rondo is always confident that the C's can emerge victorious, he by no means is taking a Boston win in Game 5 as a given.

"They are NBA players so there is a chance we could lose Game 5," Rondo admitted. "But it's not in our mind. We're gonna go down there and try to take care of business. If we do play the right way like we did (in Game 4), I think we have a great chance of winning the game."

Approaching Game 5 as nothing more than another chance to win, has to be the Celtics' approach going in.

As Rivers can attest, anything deviating from that has the potential for a horrific slump of the likes that this proud franchise has never experienced.

"Go out and play your best, and if you win it, then you move on," Rivers said. "But never look at the finish line; never even talk about the finish line. You talk about the next game, and just playing well."

With Thomas drawing attention, Stevens turns to Rozier in big moment

With Thomas drawing attention, Stevens turns to Rozier in big moment

BOSTON – Prior to Saturday’s game, Terry Rozier talked to CSNNE.com about the importance of staying ready always, because “you never know when your name or number is going to be called.”

Like when trailing by three points in the fourth quarter with less than 10 seconds to play?

Yes, Rozier was on the floor in that scenario and the second-year guard delivered when his team needed it.

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But Rozier’s fourth quarter heroics which forced overtime against Portland, did not provide that much-needed jolt that Boston needed as the Blazers managed to fend off the Celtics in overtime, 127-123.

For Rozier’s part, he had 15 points on 6-for-13 shooting.

The 15 points scored for Rozier was the most for him since he tallied 16 in a 30-point Celtics win at Orlando on Dec. 7.

But more than the points, the decision by head coach Brad Stevens to draw up a play for him in that moment, a time when most of what Boston does revolves around the shooting of Isaiah Thomas who has been among the top-3 scorers in the fourth quarter most of this season, was surprising to many.

And at that point in the game, Thomas already had 13 fourth-quarter points.

Stevens confirmed after the game that the last shot in the fourth was indeed for Rozier, but Thomas’ presence on the floor was important to its execution.

“He (Thomas) also draws a lot of attention,” Stevens said. “So I think you just weigh kind of … what kind of shot you’re going to get, depending on who it is.”

Rozier had initially screened for Thomas, and Thomas came back and screened for him.

“I was open as soon as I caught … and I let it fly,” Rozier said. “Coach drew up a play for me and it felt good to see the ball go in.”

Being on the floor at that time, win or lose, was a victory of sorts for Rozier.

He has seen first-hand how quickly the tide can change in the NBA for a young player.

After a strong summer league showing and a solid training camp, Rozier had earned himself a firm spot in the team’s regular rotation.

But a series of not-so-great games coupled with Gerald Green’s breakout night on Christmas Day, led to his playing time since then becoming more sporadic.

Rozier, in an interview with CSNNE.com, acknowledged it hasn’t been easy going from playing regular minutes to not being sure how much court time, if any, he would receive.

But he says the veterans on the team have been good about keeping his spirits up, and one in particular – Avery Bradley – has been especially helpful.

Like Rozier, Bradley’s first couple of years saw his playing time go from non-existent to inconsistent. But Bradley stayed the course and listened to the team’s veterans who continued to tell him that his hard work would pay off sooner or later.

Those same words of wisdom Bradley received in his early days, he passes on to Rozier.

“It’s big,” Rozier told CSNNE.com. “He (Bradley) tells me things like that. I felt I was ready for this (inconsistent minutes) after all that he told me. It’s big to have a guy like him that has been through it all with a championship team, been around this organization for a while; have him talk to you is big. It’s always good. That’s why I stay positive, and be ready.”

Which is part of the reason why Stevens didn’t hesitate to call up a play for the second-year guard despite him being a 33.3 percent shooter from 3-point range this season – that ranks eighth on this team, mind you.

“He’s a really good shooter,” Stevens said of Rozier. “I think with more opportunity that will show itself true, but he made some big ones in the fourth quarter. We went to him a few different times out of time-outs, and felt good about him making that one.”

And to know that Stevens will turn to him not just to spell Thomas or one of the team’s other guards, but to actually make a game-altering play in the final seconds … that’s major.

“It helps tremendously,” said Rozier who added that his confidence is through “the roof. It makes me want to do everything. You know defense, all of that. It’s great, especially to have a guy like Brad trust you."