Commentary

Keeping the killer instinct

With three days off, the Celtics can't let the 2-0 hype hinder their focus

Updated: May 20, 2010, 9:21 AM ET
By Chris Forsberg | ESPNBoston.com

BOSTON -- If Doc Rivers had his way, the Celtics' charter Wednesday morning out of Orlando would have flown straight to San Francisco instead of Boston.

With three full days off and some 90 hours to kill before Saturday's Game 3 at the TD Garden, Rivers knows his biggest challenge could be keeping his team focused, while maintaining the momentum Boston built with two victories on the road to open the Eastern Conference finals.

"I wish we could take them to Alcatraz for four days and be on the island all by ourselves," Rivers said. "That's not going to happen. Going home, it's great in a lot of ways. But in other ways, it's tough. Everywhere they go, they're going to hear how great they are.

"We haven't done anything -- you need four wins; we have two. That's it. Orlando hasn't had a chance to play in our place. So we have to just keep playing basketball."

Fortunately for Rivers, it appears his players are on the same page this time around. Maybe they've learned from recent history.

The Celtics "enjoyed" a pair of three-day weekends leading up to Games 1 and 3 of the conference semifinals against the Cavaliers and suffered two of their three playoff losses in those contests.

Boston absolutely must pack the sort of killer instinct it displayed in Game 2 for the trip home, which is easier said than done considering the Celtics have played far better on the road all season long.

For some reason the Celtics haven't been able to maintain a businesslike demeanor at the TD Garden, but they understand Game 3 will be a chance to truly bury the Magic.

Rasheed  Wallace
Doug Benc/Getty ImagesCan Rasheed Wallace, who was all smiles after the Celtics' Game 2 victory over the Magic on Tuesday night, keep his focus during the three-day layoff?

Celtics forward Glen Davis said he's on board and he's hoping to shut himself off from the hype and hoopla over the next three days.

"We don't want to get complacent," Davis said. "We want to be focused and understand what we want to accomplish. That's what we have to do, go home and take advantage of home-court.

"[The extended break is] tough, but at the same time, we understand what we're looking for, what we're trying to accomplish. We're not worried about what [the media] says, what the Magic say. I don't even watch TV right now. I just want to be focused on the journey, focus on winning a championship, focus on a lot of positive things. That's what we're trying to do," Davis said.

"We're going to take this opportunity to go home, get some rest, and make sure that we come into Game 3 knowing that we're trying to finish them," he added.

The statistics are working against Rivers' desire for focus. Boston already made a bit of franchise history by winning the first two games of a best-of-seven series on the road. That's something no Celtics team has ever done, and Boston failed in 14 previous attempts.

The Celtics are riding a five-game playoff winning streak, matching their longest spurt since winning the first five games of the 1987 playoffs. What's more, Boston has won four straight road playoff games for the first time since 1974 and can match the franchise record of five (spanning the 1968 and 1969 postseasons) with a win in a potential Game 5.

Or would it be Game 1 of the NBA Finals? Boston controls that destiny with its play at home.

The Celtics are 32-0 when winning the first two games of a best-of-seven series, while the Magic are 0-5 when losing a pair at the start. The stats favor complacency and Rivers is channeling a Kevin Garnett-like intensity to defend against it.

Ironically, the three-day break is likely to help the youngest players on Boston's roster more than anyone else. Kendrick Perkins, whose sore knees Rivers admitted remain "really bad," can get extra treatment, while point guard Rajon Rondo might finally get a chance to catch his breath after logging 42.5 frenetic minutes per game this postseason.

Davis I don't even watch TV right now. I just want to be focused on the journey, focus on winning a championship, focus on a lot of positive things. That's what we're trying to do.

-- Celtics forward Glen Davis

Yet, with a team that got just a smidgen older when Garnett celebrated his 34th birthday Wednesday, you'd think an extended break would be welcomed all around. It'd give these old-timers a chance to slather on the Bengay and indulge in their nursing-home stretches.

Instead, Rivers sounded like he's dealing with a bunch of fraternity brothers pepped up on Red Bull in anticipation of a Vegas trip. He was lamenting how loud and boisterous practices can be when his team wins just one game. Now they've won five straight over the best competition in the East. His team stands to be downright insufferable.

And Rivers recognizes there's only so long they'll listen to him.

"I think [the break] helps everyone, except coaches," Rivers said. "There's only so much we can say ... and there's only so much guys will listen to."

As boisterous as Rivers' charges were in the moments immediately following the Game 2 triumph, Boston players said all the right things in the locker room and at the interview podium.

Noted Garnett: "Now it is time for us to take care of home, and the focus is on Game 3."

Added Ray Allen: "It definitely feels good, but we haven't won anything. We still have work to do."

For their part, the Magic are rallying around the idea that a Game 3 victory drastically alters the complexion of this series. They know it's not going to be a particularly fun break, with the scrutiny of two home losses bearing down on them. But the Magic hope that only pushes them to be sharper when play resumes.

"It's not over, it can be done," said Jameer Nelson. "Take it one game at a time, like they came in here and beat us on our home floor. We can do the same."

Added Rashard Lewis: "We have to go up there and win two games. Anything's possible. KG said that when they won a championship, he said anything's possible, so hopefully we can scream that too."

If the Celtics tune out Rivers this week, perhaps they'll still listen to their captain, who remains locked in on the task at hand.

"The feeling of the team right now is just focus," said Paul Pierce, who implored his teammates to be greedy heading back to Boston. "The only thing we did was win two games. In order to get to the NBA Finals, you have to win four. This is a team that doesn't take that stuff for granted or get overjoyed for two wins.

"This is a great Orlando Magic team," he added. "They've proven it all year long. They definitely have the talent. You can't take these wins for granted.

"So we've still got to put on our hardhat, even though we're going home, because home isn't necessarily a place we played well pretty much all year," Pierce said. "We have to keep our same intensity and really take it up to another level at home."

Chris Forsberg is the Celtics reporter for ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter.

Chris Forsberg

Celtics reporter, ESPNBoston.com

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