Pregame notes: Forget torch, pass the ball

CLEVELAND -- A collection of pregame news and notes before the Boston Celtics visit the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 5 of an Eastern Conference semifinal series at Quicken Loans Arena:

The rundown (a quick look at pregame headlines)

* Passing the torch? Doc worried about passing the ball

* Ray deflects praise about his defense to his teammates

* Doc on 30th anniversary of Dr. J's baseline layup

Passing the torch? Doc worried about passing the ball

With plenty of chatter following Rajon Rondo's otherworldly performance in Game 4, Doc Rivers was asked before Tuesday's Game 5 whether he believed the torch had officially been passed from an aging Big Three to the team's fourth-year point guard.

"That's for y'all, I'm just trying to get them to pass the ball to each other," Rivers said to laughter. "That torch stuff, I'll leave that alone. As long as they keep passing to each other, I'm good."

Since Rivers wouldn't bite, 1/3 of that Big Three was asked whether that torch had been relayed this series, and Ray Allen wasn't convinced it had happened quite yet.

"Not necessarily. If you go back to last year, [Rondo] played well in the Chicago series," said Allen, pointing to a first-round playoff series in which Rondo averaged a shade below a triple-double during a seven-game thriller chock full of overtimes. "He's been playing well, but he's just continuing to commit to what he's been doing over the last year and a half."

Rivers also shrugged off all the chatter about LeBron James potentially guarding Rondo in Game 5, noting that the Celtics have both anticipated such a move and will not do anything overly reactionary to counter it.

"We are who we are," said Rivers. "We're not going to change. Rondo is going to have the ball, he's going to bring the ball up, he's going to get us into our offense. It doesn't matter who he's guarded by. That's what we have to do. Paul [Pierce], Ray, and Kevin [Garnett], you're not teaching old dogs new tricks. We are who we are. We're not going to apologize for that, and we're not going to change what we're doing."

Ray deflects praise about his defense to his teammates

Rivers and his torch talk might not have even been the best one-liner of the pregame. While discussing the praise he's received for his defensive efforts against James, Allen elicited some chuckles with his thoughts on the matter.

"It's a team effort," said Allen. "People have been saying that I was doing a good job [on James] and [Tony Allen has] been doing a good job. I got a whole network behind me, I'm like Verizon."

Allen did join the shrug-your-shoulders parade when asked about the early foul trouble both him and Paul Pierce have found themselves in trying to guard James.

"I watched some of those calls I had and I don’t know how to avoid that," said Allen. "A lot of them, I was getting out of the way. I just think, ultimately, have to stand your ground, keep those holes, keep them plugged."

Doc on 30th anniversary of Dr. J's baseline layup

On the 30th anniversary of Julius Erving's improbable swooping baseline layup against the Lakers in the 1980 NBA Finals (embedded above), Rivers, whose nickname stems from wearing a Dr. J jersey to a Marquette summer basketball camp, was asked his memories of the play.

"I remember watching the play, I'm assuming it was tape delayed, since most of the games where back then," said Rivers. "It was an amazing play. It was fun to watch on TV today, they showed all the different angles, and it made you appreciate it more than you did then, watching all those angles."

Rivers was then asked about any iconic moments he'd seen during his playing or coaching days, to which he got in a nice jab at the Cavaliers.

"I think, as a coach, probably P.J. Brown's jump shot [in Game 7 of the 2008 Eastern Conference semifinals], since we're in Cleveland," Rivers said through laughter. "I thought that would be nice."

Brown famously scored 10 points in that game, hitting a monster jumper in the final two minutes of a 97-92 triumph, then told reporters after the game that it might have been the "biggest shot of my career."

As for a iconic moment from Rivers' playing days: "I don't know, hell, any play that [Hawks teammate] Dominique [Wilkins] made. He was a human highlight machine. The dunk he had against Bob Laineer is the best play I've ever seen."