|Irish Coffee: Celtics must cash in at end of quarters||05.05.11 at 10:29 am ET|
Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee …
The Celtics were once the best closers in basketball — playing suffocating defense and precision offense to keep leads (or deficits) safe at the end of each 12 minutes. Now? Not so much.
As the whistle signaled the close of each of the first three quarters in Games 1 and 2 of the Eastern Conference semifinals, it’s been Miami — not the Celtics — that has turned up the heat on both ends of the floor to stretch a lead the C’s had tried so hard to erase.
“One of our biggest strong points in our team and how we play the game is closing out quarters,” added Celtics shooting guard Ray Allen. “What we haven’t done in these past two games is close out the quarters well. Whether we’re down, whether we’re up, whether the game is tied, to finish quarters we have given them too many points. We have to be a lot more solid.”
The Celtics have been outscored at the end of each of the first three quarters in both losses — 99-90 in Game 1 and 102-91 in Game 2. In the last two minutes of those six quarters, the Heat have outscored the C’s by a total of 12 points. That advantage balloons to 22 when you look at the final three minutes or 32 points when you zoom out to four minutes.
Miami has beaten the Celtics 13-6 in the last three minutes of the first half in both matchups. In Game 1, the Heat stretched a 38-30 advantage into a 51-36 halftime lead. Then, in Game 2, the Celtics turned a 36-34 edge into a 47-42 halftime deficit. Each time, they never recovered.
“One of the things we clearly have to do a better job of is close out quarters,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers told reporters after Tuesday’s loss. “They closed out the first quarter on a run. They closed out the second quarter on a run. They closed out the third quarter, and then they closed out the game all on runs. We have to figure out a way of finishing quarters better than we did.”
The Celtics have actually won the final few minutes of Games 1 and 2, but those efforts of course came after the Heat had already built 17- and 14-point fourth-quarter leads, respectively.
The reserves deserve much of the blame for the Celtics’ failure to close quarters. While Rivers has often had multiple bench players on the floor to finish the first, second and third quarters, he tried to limit the number of reserves to one in Game 2. Most often, it’s been Glen Davis.
In this series, the Celtics have been outscored by 35 with Davis on the court. In the playoffs, according to the NBA Stats Cube, the Celtics have had a solid 116.07 offensive rating but an awful 123.98 defensive rating with Davis on the floor. By contrast, with Jermaine O’Neal on the court, the C’s have a 107.81 offensive rating and a stellar 86.48 defensive rating. That’s a net rating differential of 29.23 between Davis and O’Neal.
All in all, the bench has been terrible in the playoffs. Outside of the starting lineup, no other group that has played more than eight minutes this postseason has a positive net rating. I hate to say it, but this is where Shaquille O’Neal could make an impact.
Otherwise, Rivers will have to rely on even more minutes from Paul Pierce‘s aching Achilles, Ray Allen‘s aching chest and Rajon Rondo‘s aching back.
KEVIN GARNETT: ‘NOT HAPPY WITH OUR GAMES’
Celtics forward Kevin Garnett entered the first post on his Anta blog since the start of the Heat series. It’s understandably short and not-so-sweet, so here’s the complete entry:
So we’re down two and not much to say. Fighting hard and guys are beat up. Not happy with our games and we gotta figure it out! We need to be a team and quick. They’ve been more aggressive and we gotta start attacking in all areas! Long flight back, so tons of discussion about what we gotta do! Heading back to our place on Saturday, so we know the Garden with be Rocking!!!!!
THE LAWRENCE FRANK INTERVIEWS
Even after his defense allowed 99 and 102 points in the first two games of the Eastern Conference semifinals, Celtics assistant coach Lawrence Frank is in the running for the open head coaching positions in Houston and Golden State, according to The Star-Ledger.
“I’m constantly calling and pushing for him,” Rivers said. “That’s why I want him to do interviews — even now, this week. And I think he has a good shot at one of those jobs.”
Hopefully, Frank still has time for his current job, reinforcing the schemes to the struggling C’s.
HEAT: REST HELPS CELTICS, BECAUSE THEY’RE OLD
While everybody might be thinking it, two members of the Heat essentially came out and said it: The Celtics will benefit more from the three days of rest between Games 2 and 3 because they’re a bunch of old men. First, when asked what he saw from the Celtics in Game 2, Miami guard Mario Chalmers told the Palm Beach Post:
“Fatigue. We just want to keep running on them, keep wearing them down. We know they’re an old, veteran team.”
And then Dwyane Wade piggybacked that sentiment with the following to The South Florida Sun-Sentinel:
“I think it probably helps Boston more than it helps us, for those guys to really get a lot of rest.”
It took me awhile to finally catch up to my big brothers, but it’s only taken two playoff games for the “little brother” Heat to start calling the Celtics old and tired.
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