Almost like he'd taken an elbow to the head from Dwight Howard.
Rivers addressed the media Wednesday on a night when his team had been beaten into submission — not just outscored on the basketball court but pulverized by the aggressive, relentless, never-say-die style of basketball that the Magic brought to Amway Arena.
For all the talk of Rajon Rondo controlling the tempo in this series, the man in control Wednesday night was Howard, and he did it his way — by outmuscling everyone, blocking every shot, getting every rebound, and even delivering some knockout elbows.
"I didn't know that was legal," Rivers said. "But anyway, he did. Listen, he's a physical guy, we know that. And you know what? He should be. That's his gift. Honestly, that's his gift. So he's doing what he should do, and we've just got to do a better job of taking the hits, I guess."
The Celtics didn't do too well on Wednesday night. Physical play reigned supreme, and the Celtics succumbed to injuries left and right. A tweaked back for Rasheed Wallace. A shoulder stinger for Paul Pierce. One concussion for Marquis Daniels, and another for Glen Davis, who took a Howard elbow so hard that he lost a tooth and temporarily blacked out on the Amway Arena floor.
"You never want to see a player go down," Howard said after the game. "I just hope he's OK."
Clearly, the physicality has been kicked up a notch in this series. The Magic felt their backs being pushed up against the wall, and rather than die quietly, they decided to push back.
"We're just trying to win," Howard insisted. "Our intent is not to hurt anybody out there. But basketball is a very physical sport, and we're playing against a very physical and tough team in the Boston Celtics."
It's hard to believe that in a game this messy and this physical, the only player ejected was Kendrick Perkins, who did virtually nothing to contribute to the heated tone of Wednesday's game. Perkins was escorted out of the building late in the second quarter, done in by two technicals. One was for an elbow that looked inadvertent, and the other was for arguing a call with official Eddie Rush. Perkins was T'd up despite hardly saying a word to Rush and quickly walking away from him.
Reactions to the two calls were mixed.
"I don't call technical fouls," Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said. "So I don't have any thoughts. But hey, look: I didn't think Dwight deserved the flagrant foul from the last game, and I didn't think Matt Barnes deserved the flagrant foul that they gave to him against Kevin Garnett. So we all have things that we don't like."
But for the Celtics, the two techs on Perk are big trouble. Rivers was just commenting before tipoff Wednesday night that he was mindful of his young center's growing rap sheet. He entered Game 5 with five technicals in this postseason, two off the limit for a one-game suspension. He picked up the last two T's in quick succession in the second quarter, and he's now left praying for a call to be rescinded so that he can play Game 6.
But how is he getting these calls? Does he deserve them, is he catching bad breaks, or is it possible that Perk is getting whistled on his reputation alone?
"I'd love to answer that, but I'll let you guys answer it," Rivers responded. "I would love to answer that. This summer we can have coffee, and I may answer that. But I'm not going to answer it right now. Perk plays hard, he looks mean. He's a great guy. I'll leave it at that."
The Celtics had better hope they have Perk, along with their droves of injured men, back before Friday night. They've still got a series to close out.