NEW YORK -- Celtics coach Doc Rivers bumped into Knicks star Amare Stoudemire leaving the TD Garden after Tuesday's Game 2 and told New York's star big man that he had to play through the pain of back spasms.
"It's tough, it really is," admitted Rivers. "Spasms, you'd rather have something else at times because you don't know when and where [they'll strike]. One time you leap and feel great; One time you don't. It just comes. You can get through it, and I think he will. This atmosphere will absolutely help him, the adrenaline. But once you have a bad back, you have a bad back."
Rivers said neither Stoudemire's back, nor the knee injury that will sideline guard Chauncey Billups again will affect how the Celtics approach Game 3.
"We were pretty sure [Billups] was not playing," said Rivers. "We were ready either way. It doesn't change our game plan, honestly. We're going to play the same regardless of who plays."
Rivers said tinkering with Boston's game plan based on opposing personnel would only throw his team further off rhythm. And right now, despite a 2-0 series lead, Boston is desperately trying to get back on beat after stumbling to the finish line at the end of the regular season (then needing some late-game heroics to emerge with two wins in Boston to start the playoffs).
Two more quick pregame notes:
* Rivers on what he expects in the first playoff game at Madison Square Garden in seven years: "It’ll be loud. There will be a lot of energy in the building. That’s good for everyone, honestly. I think players love the atmosphere, not just our team. If you really want to bother us, tell no one to come, that will freak us out. The fact that there will be a lot of New York fans, caring about the Knicks, that's good."
* It wouldn't be a Rivers media confab without a Shaquille O'Neal question. Asked by the New York press about O'Neal, he basically reiterated his stance from this morning's shootaround.
"I don’t know know what his status is," said Rivers. "Listen, he’s on the road, which means he’s getting better. He’s closer. I don’t know if he’ll play Sunday [in Game 4] or not, we’ll probably find out a little bit more [Saturday]. He’s working and he’s doing everythig he can, that's all I can say. Whatever is required to get on the floor, he’s doing that and then probably doing more than that."