Rivers Talks D
January 11, 2005
The coach of the Celtics is talking defense a lot these days. It's one topic Doc Rivers won't avoid - but it's a concept his players have had a tendency to avoid. "In the end, you have to play defense," said Rivers before last night's 119-101 victory over Orlando. Rivers raised a few eyebrows Saturday night in Chicago when he left his second unit on the floor for much of the fourth quarter in a very winnable game against the Bulls. The Celtics lost, and Rivers said he was not happy with the defensive performance of his starters.
"It's not an issue," he said of the playing situation in Chicago. "It's a fact. It's just the way it has to be. And it's not just defense. It's effort. It's competing every night, not some of the time." Save for his first season in Orlando, Rivers's teams have historically been short on the defensive end. He knew that was unlikely to change this season when he tried to change the offense. Nevertheless, he remains convinced the Celtics can run and be much better defensively. Heading into last night's game, the Celtics ranked 28th in points allowed (a stat Rivers dismisses because of the style of play) and were 17th in defensive field goal percentage (a stat Rivers feels is a better measure of a team's defense). Earlier in the season, the Celtics were among the top half-dozen teams in field goal defense. What has happened? "You fall in love with your offense,"said Rivers. "A team that hasn't been running starts to run and gets caught up with that. But as good as the offense is, there's going to be a time when it fails you. Those are the nights you have to grind it out with defense."
In Rivers's first two seasons with Orlando, the Magic ranked ninth in field goal defense. (That first year, he had Ben Wallace and lot of scrappers on the last year of contracts.) In his last two full seasons, Orlando fell to 22d and 25th. The Magic were never higher than 16th in points allowed in four years under Rivers, but the team also averaged 42.5 victories a year and made the playoffs three times.
He's back again
Old friend Tony Battie made his first Boston appearance as a member of the Magic. What did he think? "Whatever I said last year when I came here with Cleveland, use that," he cracked. "Actually, I guess that means I'm two teams removed from the Celtics. But it's a business, I know that. I had a great few years here, and I know it's not much, but it was great to be a part of a team that got the Celtics back into the playoff picture. We didn't put up a banner, but we did all right." Battie has started 18 or Orlando's 33 games. He was traded to Orlando over the summer with two second-round picks for Drew Gooden, Steven Hunter, and Anderson Varejao. Gooden and Varejao have played well for the Cavs, while Hunter was waived and since surfaced in Phoenix as a sub . . . The Magic are close to becoming the second NBA team to pass last year's win total by the end of January. Orlando won only 21 games last season and has 18 this season. The rampaging Suns already topped last year's 29-win submission. The Magic, however, have a brutal week ahead with games at Minnesota, Detroit, and Indiana before returning home for a game against the Pistons.
Swinging a deal
At halftime, the Magic announced that they had acquired Doug Christie from Sacramento for Cuttino Mobley in a trade of guards. The Kings also received forward Michael Bradley, who is on the injured list with a strained right hamstring. Mobley was replaced in Orlando's starting lineup by Stacey Augmon . . . The Celtics collected more than $20,000 in donations for tsunami relief at their previous four home games. The Shamrock Foundation, the Celtics' charitable arm, will match the total. Paul Pierce and Gary Payton pledged $1,000 for every assist in games against the Pistons and Bulls over the weekend. The two combined for 10 against the Pistons and six against the Bulls, a total of $16,000 . . . Congratulations to longtime Celtics' media relations/communications czar Jeffrey Twiss, who turns 50 today. The Celtics sent around a birthday card/poster before the game, signed by players and friends.