Mighty C's Face Tough Stretch


Mighty C's Face Tough Stretch

SAN ANTONIO - The Celtics are about to head into a four-game fandango with some Western Conference iron, and it's important to note that their season won't be made or broken by what takes place between now and nightfall Saturday in New Orleans.

But that doesn't mean the Celts aren't excited by the prospect of meetings with the Spurs, Houston, Dallas, and the Hornets.

``We're definitely up for this,'' said Paul Pierce. ``We look at the teams we're playing, and you always want to step up against the elite. These are the elite teams in the NBA and we think we're one of them, so definitely it's a barometer of where we're at. The places we're going and the buildings we're playing in are going to be a playoff-type environment, so we can see where we're at.''

Coach Doc Rivers was therefore correct when he looked at the journey and said, ``The good thing about playing teams like this is that you get up on your own. Listen, whenever you play San Antonio you're fired up. I don't care when it is. The same for these other teams. We'll be ready to play.''

But what if the Celts stumble like a tumbleweed through Texas and get a hangover on Bourbon Street? That's not out of the question, playing on the road with Ray Allen injured and Sam Cassell still working his way into the system. The truth is that even with four losses, the Celtics will still be eligible to win the 2008 NBA championship.

``No matter what happens, we won't change anything about our focus,'' said Rivers. ``You can't do anything different. You treat it just the same. If we win them all or lose them all or split, it doesn't matter. We just have to get through it and then keep working.''

The changes, if any are needed, will come into the picture after the first 82 games end on April 16.

``Once the regular season is over with, you'll go back to the drawing board a little bit and get ready for the first-round opponent,'' said Allen. ``So what we're doing now is really shoring everything up, tying up loose ends that we've been working on.''

But is it possible the Celts could have their confidence shaken with a poor four nights?

``No,'' said Allen. ``That's not going to happen.''

Still, as much as he tries to put this week in perspective, it's fair to believe Allen will do everything he can to come back as early as tonight from his jammed left ankle. In their own world, the Celtics would like to maintain and build on the respect from their peers.

``I'm pretty sure people are expecting us to go in and have a tough time with all four of these teams we're about to play,'' he said. ``We'll be in a hostile environment. It'll test our resolve.''

Before he left Milwaukee to fly here Saturday, Rivers got word of San Antonio's loss to Philadelphia.

``That's (three) games in a row, so we're playing the Spurs in San Antonio with them having lost (three) straight,'' he said. ``It'll be great. They'll have a sense of urgency. We're going to have a sense of urgency. And that's what we want. That's what it should be. Everything is good for us as far as that stuff.

``For us, the whole focus is improving. We're playing some great teams on the road that are desperate, so it'll be interesting to see how we handle that. Sometimes it's difficult if you're not in that same state as they are. Somehow we have to manufacture that to get there.''

While wins might be an issue, intensity shouldn't be a problem for a team that has manufactured the best record in the NBA.

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