Rivers: Two good days of practice

Updated: May 21, 2010, 5:30 PM ET
By Chris Forsberg | ESPNBoston.com

WALTHAM, Mass. -- The Boston Celtics might as well have been pumping Luther Vandross' "Here and Now" through their practice facility Friday, because that's all the team cares to discuss at the moment.

Oh, you'd like to look ahead to a potential Celtics-Lakers clash in the NBA Finals? Not happening. You want to flash back to 2008 and wonder how that team stacks up against the 2010 version? Put your question on layaway for at least two more weeks.

"You guys ask me these questions about 2008, there's no comparison in the teams," said captain Paul Pierce. "You guys want to make them similar, make them different, make them better. That's a completely different year. New players are trying to develop our own identity. Whatever happened then, it's not the same, man. We're trying to develop our own identity by winning a championship.

"There's definitely similarities in some of the players, but we added new players, and the road is a lot different. You talk about comparisons, it's different. The only way to talk about this is if we win a championship, then you can ask me. Then I'll be able to tell you better."

Pierce indulged in the tiniest of comparisons, but only to stress how difficult it's been for Boston to get to this point, up 2-0 in the Eastern Conference finals with Game 3 against the Orlando Magic on Saturday night in Boston.

"It's a little more challenging, going on the road so much in the second and third round," he said. "We played the three hottest teams coming into the playoffs, so it's definitely more challenging. Even though we went seven games [with Atlanta in the first round of 2008], mentally it's a lot tougher."

Celtics coach Doc Rivers likewise tried to steer clear of comparisons, but admitted the road to this point has indeed been different.

"This one seems to have gone quicker, in some ways, because the Miami series went so quick for us," said Rivers. "The preparation time, more than anything else, but it's not that big of a difference. There's been more rest in between games, because in 2008 we went seven [games vs. Atlanta] and seven [games vs. Cleveland]. We were leaving a series and going into another. The prep time was shorter."

Rivers said the abundance of time this postseason is probably a bad thing for his assistants. "I'm probably driving my staff crazy," he said. "Because the more film you watch, the more things you see, and you gotta kinda cut off the temptation to change."

Locked in on the Magic and Game 3, the Celtics continued to stress Friday that they are avoiding the pitfalls that plagued them the last time they enjoyed three full off days and summarily got trounced by the Cavaliers 124-95 in Game 3 of a conference semifinal series two weeks ago at the TD Garden.

"[Practice] has been really good for us, you can see the sweat on my jersey," joked Pierce. "It was a good practice to come in, sharpen up. This is not a team to rest on its laurels. We got a 2-0 lead with homecourt, but we don't look at it like that. We look at this as a must-win game."

Whether players and coaches are simply recycling cliches remains to be seen, but they do appear genuine in their insistence that they remained honed in on the task at hand.

"We definitely did learn some things from what we've been through," said Pierce. "We didn't take practice for granted, we made sure we stayed sharp the last two days. We have a 2-0 lead, but we still gotta win four games."

Rivers acknowledged the past two days have been solid practice sessions, but said that's no guarantee for gameday success.

"They have been good practices, so that won't be an excuse," said Rivers. "We had a shorter practice [Thursday] and a little longer [Friday]. I think we'll be ready.

"Their focus is better. I hope they learned their lesson. [Losing 124-95 to Cleveland is] something they should remember."

The Celtics know that Orlando must come out swinging in order to try to avoid an 0-3 hole.

"They're going to come out with a lot of fight," said Kendrick Perkins. "We will too, though."

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

Chris Forsberg

Celtics reporter, ESPNBoston.com

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