Rivers takes coaching to different level with self-ejection

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Rivers takes coaching to different level with self-ejection

THE CELTICS LOCKER ROOM HALFTIME OF TUESDAYS PRESEASON LOSS TO THE NETS.

Doc Rivers: All right, guys. Not a bad half. Love the defense. Love the

(Suddenly, Ty Lue busts into the room wearing a fake mustache and a way-too-tight No. 55 NBA official uniform.)

Rivers: What the hell . . . Bill Kennedy?!

Lue (as Kennedy): Thats right, Rivers! And Ive heard just about enough of your garbage tonight. Youre out of here! Muahahaha!

(Celtics security chief Patrick Lynch escorts Rivers out of the locker room as Kennedy disappears into a cloud of smoke.)

AND . . . SCENE.

Im not sure if thats how it went down, but its a lot more fun to pretend. And either way, Operation Bill Kennedy (as Im calling it) has provided an interesting twist on the Celtics pre-season.

If you missed it, last night against the Nets, Rivers threw a curveball at his coaching staff and ejected himself at halftime. It left assistant Armond Hill in charge, and the rest of the crew scrambling to fill in the holes. At the time, some speculated that Doc just felt like watching the presidential debate, but even if thats the case, the exercise made sense, and serves as just another example of the next-level coaching approach that Rivers is bringing to the Celtics.

Call it one of the luxuries of being the longest-tenured coach in the Eastern Conference, of having a roster with three or four players who could coach the team themselves if it came down to it. Call it whatever you want, but last night was another reminder of why while many teams are forced to use the pre-season as a time to sort out routine and essential aspects of NBA life the Celtics arent one of those teams.

For the Celtics, the pre-season is a time to experiment, to leave no stone unturned, to test the limits of reality and make sure everyone in the organization not just the players is ready for anything, at anytime.

After all, we all know that Rivers has a way with the refs. He might be one of the nicest guys in the world off the court, but the guy can be down right brutal with the officials. Of course, with his increased respect around the league, hes probably able to get away with more than most coaches, but at the same time you know that that increased respect will only result in Rivers further pushing the envelope in terms of what he can get away with and more often than not, exceeding those limits.

Ill always remember a particular game against the 76ers back in December of 2009. Rivers was ejected (by Kennedy, of course), leaving very capable assistant Tom Thibodeau in charge. However, Thibodeau froze, and didnt make a substitution over the final 16 minutes as the Celtics (20-4 at the time) choked away the game against a Sixers team that at the time was one of the worst in the league. Im sure Rivers remembers that game, too.

So while most teams will use these few weeks to learn more about who deserves playing time and what rotations work best, Doc Rivers can and will use it for the little things like making sure the mistakes of a random loss three years ago don't repeat themselves . . . or watching the presidential debate.

Either way, the C's are better off.

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

Highlights: Boston Celtics 112, Miami Heat 108

Highlights: Boston Celtics 112, Miami Heat 108

Highlights as the Boston Celtics are able to hold off the Miami Heat and get the win 112-108 at the TD Garden.

Win vs. Heat puts Celtics in virtual tie with Cavs for first place in East

Win vs. Heat puts Celtics in virtual tie with Cavs for first place in East

BOSTON – Location, location, location.

The Boston Celtics are seemingly where they want to be following their 112-108 win Sunday night over Miami, a victory that put the Celtics (48-26, .649 winning percentage) in a virtual tie with defending NBA champ Cleveland (47-25, .652).

But position means very little without purposeful play, something the Celtics are gradually doing more of than not.

And because of that, they find themselves one strong finish to the season away from going into the playoffs with the top overall record in the East for the first time since 2008 – the year they brought home Banner 17.

While few anticipate the Celtics will advance to the NBA Finals, they have at least positioned themselves to have a shot at making a good run during the postseason if they can secure home court advantage throughout the Eastern Conference playoffs.

The last time the top overall top seed in the East failed to make it past the first round was in 2012 when the Chicago Bulls were eliminated by the eighth-seeded Philadelphia 76ers, a series that was marred by injuries to Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah that created a much smoother pathway for the upstart Sixers to move on to the second round where they were defeated by Boston in seven games.

And while the players have tried to downplay the significance of landing the top seed in the East, there’s no question it’s something that they know all too well is within their reach.

Cleveland has a much tougher schedule to close out the season, one that includes a matchup at San Antonio on Monday night, a Spurs team that’s fighting for the top spot out West as well with Golden State.

The Celtics players have talked often about wanting to be in the best position possible going into the playoffs.

Having the top seed?

Yup.

That’ll do it.

And while Celtics players were aware of where the team was in relation to Cleveland, being tied for the top spot with the Cavs isn’t something that Boston is getting too giddy about right now.

“We hear it, but that wasn’t our focus (against Miami),” said Boston’s Marcus Smart. “Our focus was to come in, get another game, keep that momentum going before we start the playoffs.”

Celtics head coach Brad Stevens said not a word was spoken in the locker room after Sunday’s win about the team now being in a virtual tie with the Cavs.

“I think – I talked about this earlier – obviously the guys, because they get … most of them to be honest, because they’re asked so much, some of them obviously have already said they watch it pretty closely,” Stevens said. “But I’ve tried to say, ‘Hey, it’s about playing as well as we can …”

That and location, location, location.