reporting from boston — — The Celtics are a never-say-die tribe of ballplayers, but their stubbornness comes in strange ways.
Some nights, they're akin to the Lernaean Hydra, the mythological Greek creature that sprouted two heads for every one that got sliced off.
But they're resilient all right. They lost Game 1 in the NBA Finals and won Game 2. They lost Game 3 and won Game 4. Now, they're tied with the Lakers at two games apiece as both head into Sunday's Game 5 here.
"That's been their MO of late, at least," Celtics Coach Doc Rivers said Friday.
When the Celtics' Big Three — Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce — gets going, they're difficult for any team to beat. But as that hasn't been the case lately (or at all during these playoffs) the Celtics have been tough to beat in other ways.
In Thursday's Game 4 win, for example, the Celtics had one of the league's more unstable group of reserve players gathered on the court in the second half — Nate Robinson, Rasheed Wallace, Glen "Big Baby" Davis and Tony Allen — and it worked.
"We have a hell of a collection on the bench when you think about it. Rasheed, Nate, Baby and Tony, they've had their critics," Rivers said, "and in some ways they've earned that too. But they just keep plugging along."
Speaking of Robinson and Davis, a rambunctious duo that combined for 30 points, including 15 in the fourth quarter, and who Robinson said were like "Shrek and Donkey," Rivers said their loose attitude helped more than hurt.
"You know, just watching Baby and Nate in the postgame interview, you wouldn't have thought they were in a world championship the way they were acting," Rivers said. "That's just who they are. And sometimes that's really good and sometimes it's really bad. But when you're down, I think it's good, because they don't care, they're just going to play anyway."
As are the Celtics.
Question of time?
Rivers doesn't see the Celtics window for a title closing anytime soon, even though some contracts are up and his older players are well into their thirties.
"Hopefully we sign Ray Allen back — I think I can say that. If not, I just got fined," Rivers said, laughing. "I think Kevin is going to be better next year because of a year away from surgery."
Brotherhood of coaches
If sports are like religion in Boston, as Pierce said before Game 1, then the coaches must be considered high and mighty. More interesting, though, is that the coaches of the pro teams in Boston are not holier than thou when it comes to one another.
"The fellowship of the coaches is terrific," Rivers said. "We all share texts and calls tighter, so it's really a neat thing. I don't know if you can get that in any other city."
Rivers was speaking of the Red Sox, Patriots, Bruins and Celtics, and he added that he's pretty close with all of them, but that "Me and Tito [Red Sox Manager Terry Francona] exchange the most."
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