- Chris Forsberg, ESPN Staff Writer
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Unless the Celtics and Spurs meet in this season's NBA Finals, Michael Finley's extensive knowledge of San Antonio's playbook might be rather useless in Boston.
Heck, it might not even hold much value for one night.
Finley, who spent the past three-plus seasons with the Spurs before requesting and receiving his release earlier this month, got thrust into coach mode Saturday as Celtics coaches had him demonstrate one set the Spurs are likely to run when they visit the TD Garden on Sunday night (ESPN, 8 p.m.)
Paul Pierce suggested Celtics advance scout Jamie Young didn't have to worry about his job: "It didn't look like [Finley] knew too many of the plays," joked Pierce.
Fortunately for the Celtics, they brought Finley in for the boost they thought he could provide on the court, believing he had more left in the tank than San Antonio thought.
After averaging 3.7 points per game on 38.1 percent shooting in 25 appearances for the Spurs this season, Finley is contributing 5.8 points per game on 55.1 percent shooting in 11 games for Boston. A bit of a roll of the dice when the Celtics signed him for the prorated veteran's minimum, Finley has cemented himself a coveted spot in Boston's rotation by providing instant offense off the bench.
But that doesn't mean the Celtics didn't mind picking his brain a bit Saturday for a little competitive edge in Sunday's game, particularly as they prepare to likely be without the services of center Kendrick Perkins (left knee tendinitis).
"If [Finley] doesn't know [the playbook], then we're [in trouble]," said Rivers. "He should know it as much as anybody. ... He has to be our best scout [Sunday] -- he should be better than Jamie."
Finley downplayed how much knowledge he could impart to Boston, noting that Young and his staff do such a good job, they might as well have played for the Spurs, too.
"With the advanced scouting we have here, they will have the team ready and prepared with or without me," said Finley. "I can maybe help them a little bit, but my insight can't give them enough to determine the game."
Finley also downplayed the significance of facing his old team, noting that he didn't depart San Antonio with any of the animosity that lingered after stops in Phoenix and Dallas earlier in his career.
"This is a different situation," he said. "When I left my previous two teams -- Phoenix and Dallas -- I was a little bitter, especially when we played them. [Sunday], there's no bitterness. I still have love for those guys and the organization. It'll be a good game -- good to see my old friends."
But even as Finley said all the right things about Sunday's matchup, he couldn't help but admit that a W would be particularly satisfying against a Spurs team that all but phased him out, despite the team's struggles at times this season.
"I still want to beat them, believe me," said Finley. "I don't want to go out and roll over dead for them. It's still my job to go out there and do my best to give my team the best chance to win the ballgame. Although we're friends, I want to destroy them. I still want to beat them. That's not going to change. The fact that we're friends, it's something we can laugh and cheer about before or after the game, but that 48 minutes, it's all about business."
Finley's been all business in Boston, his performance enough to take some of the load off Ray Allen's shoulders, limiting Allen's minutes late in the season.
What's more, Finley's solid play comes at a time when free-agent splashes Marquis Daniels and Rasheed Wallace are struggling to give the second unit a spark. Barring a sudden end to this honeymoon period, it appears Finley has locked up a spot in the postseason rotation, even as Rivers shortens the rotation and bench minutes.
"With Finley it's easy, because he can shoot," said Rivers. "He can shoot today, he can shoot tomorrow, he can shoot the next day. Other teams know that. So when he's on the floor, you're guaranteed one thing: Even if he doesn't make a shot, there's going to be a guy standing next to him."
Rivers has often talked about how fast the 37-year-old Finley has picked up the playbook in Boston. It doesn't matter how much of San Antonio's playbook he can relay before Sunday's game, particularly if he simply keeps playing at this level.
"[Finley] doesn't make a lot of mistakes," said Rivers. "Maybe he's going too slow to make mistakes. But he is solid, a solid player. Off the bench, you really need that."
Chris Forsberg is the Celtics reporter for ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter. ESPNBoston basketball columnist Peter May contributed to this report.
8dEthan Sherwood Strauss