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Irish Coffee: Celtics failing first quarter

03.24.11 at 2:30 pm ET
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Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee …

The Celtics are 4-5 since March 9, and in seven of those games they’ve trailed at the end of the first quarter. As Celtics Hub pointed out in a nice breakdown, the C’s have averaged 18.8 points in the first quarter during that stretch – 5.4 fewer than their season average of 24.2.

Playing from behind is never a good thing. After all, the Celtics are 34-8 after winning the first quarter and 16-12 after losing it. That’s absolutely significant. So, what’s the problem?

Considering the Big Four plays the large majority of the first-quarter minutes, this is on them. Are Rajon Rondo‘s struggles at fault? Should Paul Pierce and Ray Allen — the team’s top two scorers — be getting more touches in the first 12 minutes? Yes, yes and yes.

If I had 10,000 hours to dedicate to this particular blog, I’d calculate the average first-quarter field-goal attempts, points and assists for Rondo, Pierce, Allen and Kevin Garnett. But I don’t. So, the most recent quarter-by-quarter breakdown by 82games.com — from the 2008-09 season — will have to do. And that’s not a bad year to pick, considering the Big Four had one season under their belt together and were coming off an NBA title run.

The Big Four averaged 20.9 points on 16.5 field-goal attempts and 5.2 assists as a group in the first quarter during that 2008-09 season, according to 82games.com. Over the last nine games, they’ve produced 12.4 points on 12.9 field-goal attempts and 4.3 assists in the opening 12 minutes. Something’s not clicking. That’s 8.5 fewer points, and considering the Celtics have lost their last five games by an average of 7.2 points — there’s your difference.

Garnett’s first-quarter production has remained fairly consistent over the last five games, so he escapes this finger-pointing session. Meanwhile, Pierce and Allen have seen the most significant dropoff in first-quarter production. In the past, they’ve averaged a combined 11.7 points on 8.7 field goals in the first quarter over the course of an entire season, but those numbers have dropped to 6.3 points on 6.0 field goals to start the last nine games.

And whose job is it to get those guys more touches? Yup, Rondo. In the 5-4 stretch, he’s attempting almost the same amount of first-quarter field goals, but his shooting and assist numbers are way down. As a result, Pierce has assumed more of a distributive role early — throwing a wrench into the whole system.

In essence, even if Rondo isn’t knocking down shots, he still needs to be creating them for Pierce and Allen. Those guys score. That’s what they do. Let them do it in the first quarter, and the Celtics won’t be playing from behind for the remainder of the game.

MIKE KRZYZEWSKI TURNED DOWN CELTICS

Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski turned down the Celtics job in 1990. What might have been ... (AP)

Both the Lakers and Celtics may be without a head coach at season’s end, as Phil Jackson is expected to retire and Doc Rivers‘ future remains uncertain. Coincidentally, Duke University head coach Mike Krzyzewski has already turned down the job for both franchises.

Here’s what he told ESPN.com when asked if he’d be interested in the Lakers job at season’s end:

“I’ve never thought of ever leaving Duke for another school, but there were three serious times where I almost left to go to the pros. One was when Dave Gavitt took over the Celtics [in 1990], another was with the Trail Blazers [in 1994] and the one that I took to a really far level was the Lakers situation [in 2004]. They were great with me. I just could not give up what I’ve done and gotten at Duke. It just wasn’t worth it.”

Can you imagine Krzyzewski took the Celtics job in 1990? Duke might not have won back-to-back NCAA titles in 1991 and 1992 — and wouldn’t become the world’s most hated college basketball team — Roy Williams might have delivered a title to Kansas and the Fab Five may have won an NCAA title in ’92. Then, maybe we wouldn’t have been beaten to death by this whole Grant Hill-Jalen Rose fiasco.

Oh, and we wouldn’t have gotten that classic 1994 March Madness “Yes, I am” Coach Krzyzewski commercial.

SHAQUILLE O’NEAL DID NOT BECOME THE DEPUTY

After Wednesday’s report that Shaquille O’Neal was scheduled to become a member of the Worcester County Reserve Deputy Sheriff Association, we get the news Shaq has postponed the visit “to continue to rehabilitate his sore right foot,” according to the Worcester Telegram & Gazette.

Here’s what Rivers told reporters prior to his team’s loss to the Grizzlies:

“For the community part of Shaq, it’s been a huge success. There’s no doubt about that. He’s everywhere. His next step would be doing the same thing for us and that will happen eventually. I really believe that.”

On Thursday morning, Rivers told Dennis & Callahan that Shaq should return “within the next five or six days” — which would mean he’d be on the floor before April 1.

Meanwhile, Jermaine O’Neal will travel with the Celtics to Indiana on Monday but his return date is still up in the air. Also, Von Wafer (strained calf) participated in a shoot around on Wednesday but did not suit up for the first time since March 6.

(Have a question, concern or conception for tomorrow’s Irish Coffee or a future mailbag? Send an e-mail tobrohrbach@weei.com or a Twitter message to @brohrbach.)

Read More: Boston Celtics, Mike Krzyzewski, Paul Pierce, Rajon Rondo
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