Underdog role gets their attention

Times Staff Writer

BOSTON -- The Boston Celtics blitzed through the regular season and haven’t trailed in a playoff series. Still, they find themselves cast as the underdogs against the Lakers.

Why, exactly?

Oh yeah, they dominated an Eastern Conference marked by lightweights and needed 20 out of a maximum 21 games to reach the Finals.

“They do care,” Celtics Coach Doc Rivers said of his team being put in the role of outsiders in this series. “You can use it, but at the end of the day, you’ve got to play basketball. Whether they pick you or don’t, you still have to play basketball. But you can actually use it. Guys take it personal, they do. They understand that eight out of 10, nine out of 10 people picked the Lakers. Whatever.


“Like I told them at the start of the year, the questions will never stop. They’ll never stop about [Rajon] Rondo, they’ll never stop about me, they’ll never stop about Kevin [Garnett], they’ll never stop about Paul [Pierce], they’ll never stop about our team, and you can’t take it personally.”

Tony Allen activated

The Celtics activated guard Tony Allen, who has been dealing with a strained right Achilles’ tendon, for Game 1.

Allen played hard-nosed defense in two regular-season games against Kobe Bryant, but has played little in the playoffs and did not play Thursday.

“We’re still not sure how much he can give us, and if we need him, we’ll use him,” Rivers said.

Move over, Sox

Not much can bump the Red Sox from top billing around here. This series did.

The Red Sox moved their game Thursday against the Tampa Bay Rays up an hour, so fans could also catch Game 1 of the Finals.

“Beat L.A.” chants have been heard on occasion over the past few days at Fenway Park.

High praise

Pierce has played alongside Kenny Anderson and Gary Payton. Still, he made a noteworthy declaration about Rondo, who has largely been viewed as the question mark among the Celtics’ starters.

“Rajon is the best point guard I’ve ever played with in the NBA,” Pierce said.