Rivers: The regular season is overplayed

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Rivers: The regular season is overplayed

By Rich Levine
CSNNE.com

WALTHAM The Celtics had a 3-1 advantage in their regular season sereis with the Heat, but heading into the Eastern Conference semifinals, that means nothing.

At least according to Doc Rivers.

During the regular season, you dont know how your teams playing, Rivers said before Thursdays practice in Waltham. You dont know if theyre injured. You dont know if theyre tired form travel the regular season is so overplayed. It really is.

But not entirely. Rivers admits that while the Celtics record against Miami wont give them any false confidence, there are certain aspects of those four games that will help Boston in its search for four more wins. In the end, its not the fact that they won three out of four games, but that over those games, they were able to gain a feel for how Miami plays, how they specifically match-up with the Celtics, and what approach and strategy will best equip the Cs to come out on top.

There are things you can get out of it, Rivers said, but for the most part, what you get out of the regular season is that you see a style of play. How they play you, how you play them, and then you put it on the floor.

One issue, of course and as always, is how the Heat will defend Rajon Rondo. In the past, Miami implemented the same defense as many of Bostons other rivals, essentially using either LeBron James or Dwyane Wade to play off Rondo (giving him the jump shot) while using the extra space to wreak havoc elsewhere.

I anticipate that theyre going to go big with the Lebron, Wade and James Jones lineup, Rivers said. Well see one of those guys guarding Rondo, so that means one of them wont be guarding Ray or Paul. So were good with that.

Another is the bench play. Over the course of the season, both Miami and Boston have had issues with the bench. The Celtics criticism didnt come until injuries started to hit; Miamis dealt with it since day one. But regardless of whose bench is most ready when the ball goes up on Sunday, Doc doesnt anticipate it being a difference maker.

They have three pretty good guys, Rivers said, and theyre going to play 40 minutes so I dont think anybody has that big of a bench problem in the playoffs. They have enough guys.

Hes says the same is true for the Celtics. Sure, they need more from Glen Davis, Jeff Green and Delonte West, but it will still come down to the starters. And when it comes down to that, Rivers always feels confident in his team and all theyve built and accomplished over the last four seasons.

The one advantage is that weve been together, he said. When you have a great player passing up an average shot to give it to another great player with a great shot. It shows that your guys trust each other.

That trust is something that was lost a little on the Celtics down the stretch in the regular season, and something that the Heat struggled to grasp for the better part of the last six months. But as this next round of the playoffs kicks off, Rivers believes that both teams are in a better position, and ready to roll in the second round.

They (got better), and we are getting better, he said. We changed so we had to take a step backwards and now were building back up. I think were both better.

Rich Levine can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrlevine33

Young getting on floor more for Celtics, including key fourth-quarter stints

Young getting on floor more for Celtics, including key fourth-quarter stints

SOUTHFIELD, Mich. – For most of his life, basketball has come easy to James Young.
 
So, the idea that in training camp he wasn’t just fighting to get playing time but also to stay in the NBA, was a jarring eye-opener.
 
To Young’s credit, he rose to the challenge and beat out R.J. Hunter for the Celtics' final roster spot.
 
And while Young’s playing time has been sporadic, he has done a much better job of maximizing his opportunities.
 
So, as the Celtics roll into Detroit to face the Pistons, Young finds himself playing his best basketball as a pro, good enough to make coach Brad Stevens not hesitate to put him in the game in the fourth quarter of a close matchup.
 
“It’s exciting to come back home,” Young, who grew up in nearby Rochester Hills, Mich., told CSNNE.com. “A lot of my family will be there. I’m not thinking about me. I’m just trying to do what I can to help the team.”
 
And lately, he’s getting an opportunity to do just that beyond being someone who helps in practice.
 
We saw that in the 107-97 loss at Toronto on Friday. Young came off the bench to play four minutes, 36 seconds in the fourth quarter with only two other Celtics reserves, Marcus Smart (8:39) and Jonas Jerebko (5:10) seeing more action down the stretch.
 
“It means a lot,” Young said. “He’s starting to trust me a little bit more. That’s a good thing. I’m just trying to do little things; rebound, get defensive stops and score when I get a chance.”
 
The fact that his scoring is just starting to take shape helps shed some light on why he has been buried so deep on the Celtics bench.
 
For his first couple seasons, Young seemed a hesitant shooter physically overwhelmed by opponents too strong for him to defend as well as too physical for him to limit their effectiveness.
 
But this season, he has done a better job at holding his own as a defender while making himself an available scoring option who can play off his teammates.
 
Young is averaging just 2.9 points per game this season, but he’s shooting a career-high 48.9 percent from the field and 41.7 percent on 3’s, which is also a career-high.
 
Getting on the floor more often has in many ways provided yet another boost of confidence to Young.
 
“I’m getting used to the flow of the game playing more consistently,” Young said. “I know what to do. It’s slowing up a little more and it’s getting easier.”
 

Blakely: Raptors newcomers show Celtics what they're missing

Blakely: Raptors newcomers show Celtics what they're missing

TORONTO – It’s far too soon to say if the Celtics’ decision to stand pat at the trade deadline was a mistake.
 
But the early returns aren’t encouraging.
 
Their 107-97 loss Friday night to the Toronto Raptors wasn’t because of Kyle Lowry (right wrist), who didn’t even play, or DeMar DeRozan, who played out his mind while scoring a career-high 43 points.
 
The game will be remembered by the new guys Serge Ibaka and P.J. Tucker, both acquired at the trade deadline by the Raptors.
 
Ibaka, who was a bad fit, and on most nights a bad player, in Orlando, looked like the O-K-C Ibaka while scoring 15 points to go with seven rebounds against the Celtics – numbers that were better than his two games combined against the Celtics this season with the Magic when he scored a total of just 12 points while grabbing eight rebounds.
 
And then there was Tucker, who got a crash video course on Raptors playbook just hours before the game, and proceeded to show the kind of toughness at both ends of the floor that has made him one of the league’s more underrated defenders as he finished with a near double-double of nine points and 10 rebounds.
 
It was their first game with their new team, but you would have thought they had been with Toronto all season long with how seamless they seemed to fit in.
 
Ibaka draining jumpers, Tucker causing chaos defensively, while absolutely crushing the Celtics on the boards...their play was a painful reminder of what could have been for the Green team.
 
Both were rumored to have been in the Celtics’ crosshairs prior to the Thursday 3 p.m. trade deadline. The Celtics were lukewarm at best on Ibaka (they didn’t want what would have been a 25-game rental) and just couldn’t quite strike a deal and cross the finish line for Tucker.
 
It’s too soon to hit the panic button and rip Danny Ainge for not getting a minor deal done like adding Tucker or Ibaka.
 
Still, his players have to embrace the truth behind what transpired this trade season.
 
Ainge went big-game hunting, focusing most of the team's efforts on landing a major difference-maker, a la Jimmy Butler or Paul George.
 
When that didn’t work out, he settled for the next best thing, which was to keep this group together.
 
The onus is now on them to prove that trust Ainge has in them, was well-placed.
 
Putting too much stock in the first game after the break is a risky proposition that no one should subscribe to.
 
But in the loss, it revealed many of the concerns and weaknesses of this roster that tend to get magnified in defeat while glossed over when they manage to win despite those flaws.
 
Isaiah Thomas may be the best scorer in the fourth quarter, but he’s human.
 
There will be games when Mr. Fourth Quarter can’t get it done.
 
Friday night was that kind of game for him. He scored just four of his team-high 20 points in the fourth.
 
And as the Raptors blitzed him repeatedly with two and three defenders, his teammates failed to step up when the opportunity was there to make impactful, game-altering plays down the stretch.
 
Watching the Celtics’ defense in the second half was painful.
 
DeRozan got whatever he wanted, when he wanted it.
 
And when he missed, the Raptors controlled the boards, got all the 50/50 balls and repeatedly out-worked Boston.
 
It exposed Boston in a way that’s painful to see, especially when those inflicting the greatest amount of damage could have been in the Celtics huddle and not the one on the other sideline.