Notes: LaFrentz Gets Spot Start; Putting the "D" in Davis

It's a question NBA coaches ask themselves whenever Dallas comes to town: Who is going to cover Dirk Nowitzki?

The Celtics faced that dilemma Monday night. In terms of options, the intial outlook had to be bleak. Mark Blount, Al Jefferson and Kendrick Perkins all lack the mobility to stay with him, and Paul Pierce gives up plenty of size to Nowitzki.

Enter Raef LaFrentz. He got the start tonight, but based on Doc Rivers pregame comments, it was probably a one-night only move for now. Rivers said that he wanted Raef to spread the floor against the Mavs defense, but it seemed to have as much to do with the logistics of covering Nowitzki as would anything else.

That said, with the game on the line, Paul Pierce matched up with Nowitzki and kept him away from the ball, which forced the Mavs to go to Jerry Stackhouse, who hit the game-winning baseline jumper with Ricky Davis in his face.

As for LaFrentz, Rivers said he's "up and down" as far as accepting his role coming off the bench.

"I still think that in the long run, that's a better role for him," said Rivers. "I think, health wise, he can give you that 25-straight, hard minutes. I think it will be the perfect role for him when he settles into it, but he's not settled into it yet."

More important to Rivers, though, is that LaFrentz regains the confidence in his outside shot; he doesn't want to see LaFrentz pass up open threes.

Said Rivers: "He gets so down on missing shots when he's open, you almost feel like he feels that he's letting us down."

Rivers stressed that LaFrentz missing a few threes won't hinder the offense, because scoring isn't the Celtics problem. But he said he will get down on LaFrentz if he stops trying to take them.

Doc looking for more D from Davis

Rivers continues to talk about cutting down Ricky Davis' minutes so that he will have the energy to be active on the defensive end. But talking about it and doing it are two different things, and truth be told, it's tough to want to take Davis off the floor when you look at the numbers that make him a legitimate All-Star candidate.

"I'm trying to get him down to about 35, but honestly, I don't count when he's in there," said Rivers.

Davis had another solid all around game Monday night, scoring 17 points off 7-13 shooting, handing out eight assists and grabbing four rebounds. But perhaps more important is that Davis notched just a single turnover, and that the Celtics as a team committed only nine turnovers, an impressive mark for a team that was averaging 16.8 turnovers a game coming into Monday's tilt.

Rivers is pleased with what Davis brings to the table on the offensive end, but he talked at length Monday night about how Davis could be - and should be - the Celtics' best defender.

"With his athletic ability, he should be our best defensive player and he's not. That's the area that he has to improve on, keeping the ball in front of him," said Rivers.

Defending on the ball is one thing, but Davis has a habit of focusing too much on the ball when his man doesn't have it, and as a result, as given up too many lay-ups to his own man because he never saw him cutting to the hoop.

Rivers has hope though, as he says that the team got on Davis about his passing during the summer, and rebounding at the beginning of the year, and Davis has responded in both categories.

"I'm pretty tough on Ricky. I'm not going to let up on him, and he knows that," said Rivers. "But I just think that Ricky has the talent to be a special player some day, and the fact that he's not says that he has a lot of work to do."

Perking Up Again

Kendrick Perkins won plenty of backers with his storied 12-point, 19-rebound effort against the 76ers at the Garden back in early December. Much has been written about his progress over the past three years, and he really seemed to be coming on of late, but then he played just nine minutes over the course of two games, and notched a single second of action against the Atlanta Hawks.

So what happened to Perk?

"With the teams going small, Charlotte and Atlanta, we told him ahead of time that would probably happen," said Rivers. "We also told him that when teams go with a normal lineup he'll get his minutes, and [the Washington game] may have been his best game since the 19 rebounds game."

Perkins played a season-high 32 minutes against the Wizards Saturday night, grabbing 11 boards and blocking three shots in the losing effort. In Monday's loss, Perkins registered eight points, six rebounds and a block in just under 18 minutes.

Noteworthy

Gerald Green reported to the Fayetteville Patriots Monday, and Rivers had a call into coach Mike Brown but as of gametime Monday, he had yet to speak with him about Green's situation. Rivers said that Brown had left him a message asking what Green needs to work on and if there were any specific Celtics plays or sets that the team could run for Green to help him prepare....Tony Allen turned his ankle in the first half, but played though it. Rivers was unsure if Allen would be able to go Tuesday night against the Hawks in Atlanta....Al Jefferson said last week that the biggest adjustment he had to make when entering the starting lineup was "paying more attention to defense"...Before Monday's game, Rivers was reminiscing about his playing days against the Celtics, and talked about how annoying it was to see Red Auerbach light his trademark victory cigar. "That was your goal, not to stop Larry Bird, but not to see that cigar." When asked, Rivers said he celebrates a win with a Diet Pepsi.

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