|Rajon Rondo’s drive to the basket was halted by the towering figure of Magic center Dwight Howard in the first half. (Jim Davis/Globe Staff)|
Idea was to put this series to bed
ORLANDO, Fla. — Red never did it. Russell never did it. Tom Heinsohn never did it. Bill Fitch never did it. K.C. Jones never did it. Jimmy Rodgers never did it. Chris Ford never did it. Jim O’Brien never did it.
None of the eight previous Celtics coaches who were fortunate enough to have a team in the NBA playoffs ever spent the night before a postseason road game sleeping in, as they say, his very own bed.
But Doc Rivers did it last week, and he did it again Tuesday evening. Doc Rivers lives in Winter Park, Fla., which is to Orlando as, say, Newton is to Boston. (Talking geography only. I am not prepared to make a valid socioeconomic comparison.)
That established, what kind of a mattress is it, Doc?
“I don’t know,’’ he confesses. “It’s very firm, which is nice. The only difference is that there are two dogs in it.’’
“A German shepherd and some little designer dog. We have one of those, too.’’
All you of the testosterone set know what’s coming next, don’t you? And I might add he came right out with this one without any prompting.
“I refuse to walk it,’’ he declares.
So enough already with the up-close-and-personal saga of Glenn “Doc’’ Rivers, head coach of the Boston Celtics. He didn’t come home to pay the bills, check up on the lawn, or be sociable at all. He came here to put together a game plan for Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals and then, of course, to see if his team could execute well enough against the Orlando Magic at Amway Arena to close out the series and then await the victor of the increasingly intriguing Western Conference finals between the favored Los Angeles Lakers and the feisty Phoenix Suns, who are trying to win their first NBA championship in their 42d year as a member of the World’s Greatest Basketball League.
He knew this much. If his team wasn’t planning on executing better at both ends of the floor than it did in Game 4 Monday evening in Boston, it would surely lose again, and that would create a panic.
He knows all about the Red Sox. He knows all about the Bruins. He knows exactly what would go through the heads of fearful fans.
“The great thing about coaching in Boston is the history,’’ he acknowledges. “The toughest thing about coaching in Boston is the history. There is always something to lean on with the Red Sox. Some of it is good. Some of it is bad. And they’re going to give you both.’’
Exacerbating the situation, of course, is the plight of the Bruins, whose squandering of a 3-0 series lead against the Philadelphia Flyers is a stark reminder that “always’’ and “never’’ (not to mention “seldom’’) are irrelevant concepts once a game actually begins. In the case of hockey, there were two precedents, the 1942 Red Wings and the 1975 Penguins. The Bruins’ contribution to the dialogue was to blow a 3-0 lead, at home, in Game 7. That may be tough to top.
So, yes, Doc Rivers knew very well as a genuine sports fan and minor sports historian how antsy some locals got when his team was not able to get the job done in Game 4. Fortunately, as coach, he was not without a solution to the problem.
He talked about the need for better pick-and-roll defense. He talked about the need for spacing on offense. He talked about how the shoddy overall team defense directly affected the offense, which was locked in a dreary half-court game on a night when his team would spend far too many possessions looking like players in some kiddie soccer game, with everyone hovering within a 5-foot radius of the basketball. He talked about how Orlando won the loose-ball battles, indicating a stronger will to win. He even talked about how lucky his team was it didn’t get whupped, instead of being beaten in the final two minutes of overtime.
“We showed our guys how many wide-open threes Orlando missed,’’ Rivers explains. “They could easily have rolled up 120 points on us.’’
Was his team fatigued, as many have suggested? Were those God-awful possessions — especially the final one of regulation, when, having gotten the ball back with 16 seconds left in a tie game, they failed to get off a shot — the product of accumulated minutes? Now that we were in an every-other-day playing posture for the remainder of this series, did that favor the younger Magic?
“Look,’’ he says. “I was talking with [Celtics vice president of media relations] Jeff Twiss. There’s four tired teams right now. There are 26 rested ones.
“Everybody’s tired. The players are tired. The coaches are tired. I bet even the media’s tired. You guys are traveling, too.
“But I’d rather be one of the four tired teams than one of the 26 rested teams. All I’ve heard the last 24 hours is that we’re old.’’
Old, young, or in between, the fact is the Magic played a much more consistently efficient game at both ends of the floor than the Celtics did in Game 4. The Celtics were lucky to even have a chance to win, and, in the end, the Hoop God smiled favorably on the team that most deserved the victory.
No one knows that better than Glenn “Doc’’ Rivers, who fervently hoped that last night was the last time he’d have to battle for sleeping space with a German shepherd and a little designer dog he refuses to walk until the season is over and he has ridden in another parade.