Celtics coach Doc Rivers made his weekly appearance on the Dennis & Callahan show Thursday morning. The Celtics and Knicks will play Game 1 of their first-round playoff matchup on Sunday night. Rivers knows that this Knicks team -- winners of seven of the last nine -- is going to be a tough out, in no small measure due to the tandem of Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire.
"Our help defense has to be unbelievable," said Rivers. "They can be very difficult. What makes the Knicks tougher now than before the trade, before the trade you could really focus on one guy, which was Stoudamire. Now you have to really have to pay attention to two other guys in Billups and Carmelo. And that's going to require help defense. They are really tough single-cover guys."
Since the Kendrick Perkins trade, many have questioned if the Celtics have the kind of defense that can win a championship. Rivers, however, pointed to statistics when asked if this team is weaker defensively than it was before the deal.
"Our numbers are better than last year," said Rivers. "It says that when we play our defense I would say in some ways we are better than last year."
As for the Perkins trade, the Celtics' rocky finish to the regular season has again raised the question: Was the the right move? Rivers -- who said Thursday that "everyone was on board" when the deal was made -- isn't ready to answer the question yet.
"I don't know guys, it was a tough deal when we did it, we know that," said Rivers. "Listen, I think we'll wait and see if it was the right move or not."
Jeff Green was part of the Perkins trade, and Rivers expects Green to play an integral role for the Celtics in the postseason.
"I'm counting on Jeff, a lot. And Jeff will be good in the playoffs, I really believe that. … I'm counting on him being ready."
As for the status of Shaquille O'Neal, Rivers isn't sure if he'll be ready for Sunday night.
"Shaq remains to be seen. He hasn't practiced yet. He'll do some stuff today [Thursday]. … Hopefully he can get on the floor in the next few days. I'm hoping Game 1, but I don't know yet because we haven't gone through a couple of practices."
The final question for Rivers focused on the idea that he might need to give a pregame speech before Game 1. With a veteran-laden team still smarting from losing in Game 7 of the finals last season, Rivers doesn't think any such speech will be necessary.
"I don't think I have to say much," said Rivers. "I have to prepare them. We'll be prepared, we'll be ready. And if you want to motivate them, show them Game 7 from last year."
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