BOSTONDespite a disappointing loss Friday night in Torontofor which Doc Rivers reamed his veteran club for an uncharacteristic lack of effortrumors of the Celtics demise have been greatly exaggerated. After a rough start to the season, with lone All-Star Paul Pierce on the shelf due to injury, Boston has bounced back, winning nine out of its last 10 games prior to back-to-back losses to the Lakers and Raptors.
Theyre playing tough. I dont know what they did tonight, but the Laker game, I thought they played a great game, said Tom Thibodeau, whos just a tad familiar with the team his Bulls will face Sunday afternoon. Theyre clicking on all cylinders. Pierce is healthy, Rondos back, Garnett is looking real good, Ray Allen is having a fantastic year and their bench, I think, is getting acclimated. With a shortened camp, they had a lot of new players, so thats going to take a little bit of time, but theyre playing extremely well right now, so weve got to be ready when we get up there.
Still, Thibodeau, who could be without the services of superstar Derrick Rose for the matinee affair, wants his team to approach facing his former employer the same way theyve approached the inferior competition theyve demolished by more than 20 points in each of their past four contests.
You dont change. Your preparation is exactly the same and I was concerned about Charlotte. Charlotte played a very tough game up in Boston, he continued Friday night, after Chicagos rout over the Bobcats. Every team is capable of beating you. I dont think you change the way you approach things. You want your approach to be the same. Thats how you build consistency.
As far as his players, Thibodeau shouldnt have a problem motivating them for a showdown.
Theyre a very good team. Theyve been a very good team for a long time and in the course of a season, we like challenges and they present a very good challenge, Carlos Boozer explained. Theyre a very good team, championship-caliber group of guys and were trying to get to where theyve been before, so its always good to play against teams that have reached the mountaintop.
Joakim Noah, who participated in the epic Bulls-Celtics 2009 first-round playoff series, concurred.
Its a great environment to play in. its always a battle and were excited for the challenge, he said. Some games are easier to get up for than others.
You feel a certain way when you wake up. Its just easier to get out of bed for some reason, Noah continued. Its the whole package. I dont really know what it is, but its just a feeling that you get when you get in that building. Its the fans, its the history. Its exciting stuff.