Game 4 Take: Bill Russell

Bill Russell was the cornerstone of the Boston Celtics' dynasty of the 1960s, an uncanny shotblocker who revolutionized NBA defensive concepts. A five-time NBA Most Valuable Player and a 12-time All-Star, the angular center amassed 21,620 career rebounds, an average of 22.5 per game, and led the league in rebounding four times. He had 51 boards in one game, 49 in two others, and a dozen consecutive seasons of 1,000 or more rebounds. His many individual accolades were well deserved, but they were only products of Russell's philosophy of team play.
Read Russell's complete bio
Posted by Bill Russell on June 13, 2008, 10:00 p.m. ET

Celtics 97, Lakers 91 (F)
Paul Pierce scored a game-high 20 points on Thursday as Boston rallied from a 24-point deficit and beat the Los Angeles Lakers 97-91.
Comeback Kids: Pierce and Allen
Celtics stars Paul Pierce and Ray Allen teamed up to engineer the biggest comeback in Finals history.
Postgame Presser: Doc Rivers
Celtics coach Doc Rivers talks about his team's remarkable comeback win in Game 4.
Postgame Presser: Paul Pierce
Celtics swingman Paul Pierce meets the media after Boston's Game 4 win.

Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty Images
The Celtics' defense, spearheaded by Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, stymied Kobe Bryant en route to a Game 4 win in Los Angeles.

Root of the C's Historic Comeback -- Defense
Every night it seems that either the Celtics or the Lakers get a big lead and then has a difficult time holding onto it. But I think to the Celtics advantage is that all year long they’ve been a good defensive team and with my background I obviously think that’s the best way to do it. The guys are playing with intensity, but they’re basically playing the same way they played all year. If you get behind, the only way you can catch up is defense. You can’t match baskets or outshoot another team and hope to catch up, especially a good offensive team. So the guys are playing good.

My Explanation of Good Defense
Good defense sometimes does not result in a turnover or blocked shot or steal or anything. Good defense will get the offensive team out of a rhythm and one of the keys to shooting is rhythm. That is why you see guys with open shots not make them. Well, good defense makes you shoot before you want to shoot or after you want to shoot, not when you want to shoot. Defense can sometimes be deceptive and you’ll say, well, they’re not shooting well and they had open shots. Well those shots aren’t open. A guy is standing there by himself, but he has to shoot the ball before the defense gets there or fake and shoot after he leaves. So he isn’t shooting when he wants to shoot and that will throw your rhythm off. What looks like a good shot is not really a good shot. That’s what happened in Game 4.

The Greatest Celtics Comeback Ever?
I don’t know if it was the greatest comeback ever – I haven’t seen all the games [cackles]. It is a great comeback, of course. For one game in the Finals, it’s probably as good as it gets.

Great Celtic Comebacks When I Played
We came back from 2-0 in the ’69 Finals against the Lakers, but we had a better one when we came back from 3-1 to Philadelphia in the Eastern Conference Finals in 1968. We won three straight, including two in Philadelphia. In ’69, though, the key was that I never said we were behind. You’re never behind until you lose a home game. If you’ve got four road games, you only have to win one of them. The last game was the easiest game of the series for us. We had figured out how to play the Lakers and we changed some things in the way we had been playing. If we had played the way we’d been playing, they would have beaten us. We had a versatile offense as well as defense. As a coach I realized that while they were a good team, they were not fast enough afoot. What I told my guys was, they’re a good basketball team, but how are they at track and field because we’re going to run tonight [cackles].

The Difficulty of The Closeout Game
In a closeout game, the pressure is on the team that is ahead because if you’re ahead 3-1 and you lose one or two games, then they say, you should have closed them out. So the pressure basically falls on the guys that are ahead. Game 5 would be one of those games for the Celtics because you’ve got a security that if you do lose, you’ve still got two more games. Well, that can give you a false sense of security and make you not be as tenacious as you need to be.

My Promise to Kevin Garnett
Earlier this season I sat down with Kevin Garnett and told him that I expect him to win a couple of championships here in Boston because of the way he plays, but if that doesn’t happen, then I’ll give him one of my rings because he plays like a true Celtic and a true champion. But the other night, I said, I sure hope you win so I can be sure I can keep my rings [cackles].

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April 18
2009 NBA Playoffs begin

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