Notes: Celtics know Knicks won't go quietly

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Notes: Celtics know Knicks won't go quietly

By A.Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com

WALTHAM The Boston Celtics aren't scoring a ton of style points with NBA pundits and basketball aficionados following victories in Games 1 and 2 over the New York Knicks.

Boston has won both games by a total of five points, which speaks to how this series could just as easily be 2-0 in favor of the Knicks.

Even though the Celtics have the better record, swept the regular-season series and have now won 18 of the last 20 meetings between the teams, Boston players say they're not surprised at how tough the Knicks have been to put away.

Looking back at the four regular-season games, Boston won them by a total of just 26 points, or 6.5 points per game.

"This team is not going to go away," Ray Allen said of the Knicks. "We're not just going to beat this team because they are a lower seed than we are."

Said Rajon Rondo: "Hopefully we can get a couple games, or one game, where we can have a comfortable lead."

Sounds good in theory.

But this is the playoffs where every game, regardless of what happened in the regular season, is a struggle.

That's why Allen hasn't given a second thought as to why the C's haven't been able to put the Knicks away sooner when the two teams face one another.

"We can win every game by one point, and I'm happy," Allen said.

When Rajon Rondo is in full-blown attack mode, it's a thing of beauty. We've seen it to some degree in both playoff games against the New York Knicks. As much as Celtics Nation would love to see that Rondo all the time, both he and his coach know that's just not going to happen.

"It's impossible for 82 games to do that," Rondo said. "Different teams have different schemes."

He's talking about the way teams defend - something that has never been a part of a Mike D'Antoni-coached squad.

"Obviously, their strength is not defense," Rondo said. "It's putting the ball in the hole."

Which for Rondo, looked quite easy in Game 2 when he had a playoff career-high 30 points primarily on lay-ups that came when he beat the Knicks down court.

Rondo said the key to his fast start - he had 12 points in the first quarter - was Boston's ability to hold its own on the boards and Knicks guard Toney Douglas picking up an early foul. Aware that New York was thin at the point-guard position (Anthony Carter was the backup because the team's usual starter, Chauncey Billups, was out with a left knee injury), Rondo was about as aggressive as we've seen him this season.

"We did a pretty good job rebounding and I was trying to take advantage," Rondo said.

One of the advantages Boston felt it had coming into this first-round series with the Knicks was its bench.

Well, things haven't quite worked out like they anticipated.

The Celtics' second unit has been outscored 46-22 by the Knicks' backups, which has put even more pressure on Boston's starters to carry the team.

Rivers isn't worried about his second unit's struggles.

"That's why it's a team game," Rivers said. "Sometimes your bench plays well and your starters don't. It's never going to be perfect. There will be a game in this series where a couple of our starters won't play well, and then somebody on the bench will step up. It's just the nature of the beast."

And while rotations in the playoffs do shrink - we're seeing that with the Celtics already - Rivers reiterated he will not make any significant changes to how he goes about using his reserves.

So far he has gone with a nine-man rotation although only three backups - Glen Davis, Jeff Green and Delonte West - see significant minutes off the bench.

Nenad Krstic is the ninth man, although he has played a total of just eight minutes in the first two games.

Krstic suffered a bone bruise to his right knee at San Antonio on March 31.

And last week, his left knee collided with a teammate in practice which has bothered him some as well.

"He's hurting," Rivers said. "But so is everyone. I don't pay attention to that. I never ask. If they're hurting enough, they'll tell me. That's been my motto."

Rivers also believes deeply in bench play being important always, but especially in the playoffs.

And while his second unit has had its problems, his faith in them remains strong as ever.

"I'm going to play our bench, whether they are playing well or not," Rivers said. "They will play well. They just haven't. They'll come through for us."

A. Sherrod Blakely can be reached atsblakely@comcastsportsnet.com.Follow Sherrod on Twitter at http:twitter.comsherrodbcsn

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."