Celtics Joke About Physical Play Against Howard
It's a premise that Howard, his teammates, and Magic coach Stan Van Gundy have talked about numerous times.
"That's a joke to me,'' said Rivers, whose Celtics will face Howard Thursday night in a nationally-televised game in Orlando. "I actually giggle at that when I hear it. Clearly, those people are looking at it only one way. He gives out far more punishment than he gets. I can guarantee you that.''
The Celtics this season have done a better job than anyone in controlling Howard offensively. In two previous games against Boston, Howard was limited to nine and five points, respectively. The teams split the two games, although Howard combined for 35 rebounds.
"I literally get a kick out of all those Howard people saying everyone is being too physical with him,'' Rivers said. "The guy hits more than anyone in the league. If he's going to give it out, then ...? If you're going to run into guys, power into guys, I guess you do it one way, then they can't do it back? Come on.''
The Magic/Celtics has developed into a heated series recently, stemming from last spring's seven-game playoff series. The Celtics, defending NBA champs, were eliminated by the Magic, 4-3, in the second round.
Even in defeat, they did a good job against Howard, limiting him to 16.4 points per game. He averaged 25.4 points in the conference final against Cleveland and 24 points in the first round against Philadelphia.
The Celtics were without All-Star Kevin Garnett last spring. This season, they embarrassed the Magic in Orlando on Christmas Day, 86-77. The Magic won in Boston, 83-78.
The Celtics are one of the few teams who play Howard without using too many double-teams against him, preferring to stay close to the 3-point shooters on the perimeter.
"We have big guys who are really good defenders,'' Rivers said. "We don't do anything different against him. We don't have any `Howard rules.'''
The Celtics usually start with center Kendrick Perkins against Howard, then switch to Garnett at power forward and Rasheed Wallace in reserve.
The Magic's Howard premise peaked back in December after a series of games in which teams were committing hard intentional fouls against Howard to prevent him from easy dunks. In two consecutive games, Howard was hit hard around the neck and the head. One of those was a flagrant foul by Indiana's Troy Murphy.
Rivers, though, isn't the first one to scoff at the Magic's contention. Both Miami center Jermaine O'Neal and Perkins earlier this season echoed Rivers comments.
"A lot of guys are physical (with me),'' Howard said after practice Wednesday. "Only certain guys (Perkins) get away with physical play.''