Celtics players got the message

By Julian Benbow
Globe Staff / February 21, 2011

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LOS ANGELES — Even during All-Star weekend, the Staples Center crowd sent boos to the Celtics.

Ray Allen heard them, if only slightly. Rajon Rondo got a chorus of them. Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett were showered with them. And that was just during the introductions.

When the four clocked in together for the East squad midway through the first quarter of the Western Conference’s 148-143 victory, the celebrity-studded crowd rained boos on them and the Celtics’ stars didn’t expect any other kind of reception.

“Do you know how many buildings we walk in and we get booed,’’ said Allen. “That’s just par for the course.’’

On the bench, coach Doc Rivers, his staff, and the Celtics players got a nice chuckle out of it.

“The fact that it was in LA, you knew it wasn’t going to be a rousing ovation,’’ Rivers said. “That was fine. Our guys expected it. It was fun. Our guy got a good laugh out of it.’’

Rivers made good on his promise to play the four Celtics at the same time, checking them in with the Magic’s Dwight Howard with 6:37 left in the first quarter.

But for most of the night the Celtics made themselves scarce. Pierce (6 points) played 11 minutes, Garnett played eight minutes, Allen 17 and Rondo 20.

“A lot of us didn’t want to play a whole ton of minutes,’’ Rondo said.

Pierce was one of them.

“[Rivers] asked us how much we wanted to play,’’ Pierce said. “I told him I didn’t really want to play too much. I wanted to rest my foot, my hand, and stuff. But it was good to get out there and get up and down the court.’’

Even though four of them played, they were without their fifth wheel and it messed up the chemistry.

“It was kind of half plays,’’ Pierce said. “I think it’s hard when you don’t have that fifth guy that knows what to do.

Allen added: “It was weird because there was a time when the ball was thrown out of bounds. We know what plays we want to run, and I’ll look at Rondo and I’ll call something or he’ll call something. But this time, I’ll look and I’ll look but I can’t call anything because nobody knows where to go. So you just get the ball in.’’

Rivers also played his foursome with Chris Bosh. Between Bosh and Howard, Pierce said Bosh made a better fit.

“Chris Bosh was pretty good with us,’’ Pierce said. “He really made some shots.’’

No change wantedAsked if the All-Star Game should carry additional weight — suggesting something similar to Major League Baseball’s All-Star game, which determines home-field advantage in the World Series — Kobe Bryant was incredulous.

“Just discount the 82 regular-season games based on one game?’’ Bryant said. “I think it’s fine the way it is. It’s a showcase. You can’t take it over the top with the seriousness and all that. It’s a showcase for us to come out and perform and compete. Obviously, the competition picks up in the fourth quarter. It’s just fun. It doesn’t have to be overly dramatic.’’

The Lakers won Game 7 of last year’s Finals on their home floor at Staples Center.

He steered clearBlake Griffin was just testing his limits.

The Clippers star was going over the parameters for Saturday night’s slam dunk contest with some league representatives, and they told him there were no rules.

“No rules?’’ he asked, just to be sure.

No rules, they told him.

“So I could jump over a car?’’ he asked, joking.

Yes, they told him.

“Oh,’’ he said. “Maybe I have to do it now.’’

Next thing you know, he was calling up a Kia car dealer and a gospel choir. He was the overwhelming favorite entering the contest, and he lived up to the hype by having a car parked in the free throw lane and leaping over it while catching an alley-oop that Clippers teammate Baron Davis threw through the sunroof. Griffin hung on the rim after flushing a two-handed dunk, then landed on the hood of the car for full effect.

The dunk scored a 50 and he beat the Wizards’ JaVale McGee, who wowed the crowd by dunking two and three balls at a time.

Griffin competed in the rookie/sophomore game Friday night, then the dunk contest, and last night he became the 44th rookie in NBA history to play in the All-Star Game and had 8 points and five rebounds. He dedicated it all to his friend and former high school teammate Wilson Holloway, a University of Tulsa football player who recently died of complications from Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

“You know, you hear a lot of stuff building up to it, so I think that the toughest thing, and we were all talking about that before the contest, all of the guys that were in it,’’ Griffin said. “Everybody wants us to do these things that are impossible. People are like, ‘Do it between the legs twice!’ Obviously, I can’t do that. There’s a little pressure on us to really put on a show, but I thought those guys did a great job.’’

On scheduleAt 40-14, the Celtics are eight wins better than they were a year ago at the break. But Pierce pointed out that as much as they have improved, winning more consistently at TD Garden (25-5) and weathering a season-long flurry of injuries, there’s work to do.

“I’m not surprised we’ve been able to win as many games as we’ve been able to win, I’m surprised we’re at the top of the East actually with all the injuries,’’ Pierce said. “Last year, this record wouldn’t be good enough to be at the top of the East, but [fortunately] it is because Miami’s still getting their thing together.’’

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