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Irish Coffee: Limiting Doc Rivers’ Celtics lineup options

10.19.12 at 5:21 pm ET

Celtics coach Doc Rivers has options. Kind of like Leonardo DiCaprio has options. It’s hard to choose from the depth and versatility of talent at his disposal, so he tries every combination at his disposal. Eventually, the cream rises to the top, and that appears to be what has happened over the C’s past two preseason games against the Nets. In other words, Rivers may have found his Gisele Bundchen, Bar Rafaeli and Blake Lively of lineups.

In the first three-plus quarters of the two games against Brooklyn — before Micah Downs, Kris Joseph, Robert Kurz or Fab Melo made obligatory fourth-quarter appearances — Rivers used 23 different lineups. Other than starters Rajon Rondo, Courtney Lee, Paul Pierce, Jared Sullinger and Kevin Garnett, no unit played longer than 8:36 together. Before making any observations, here are the combinations, playing time and plus/minus statistics.

Rondo, Lee, Pierce, Sullinger, Garnett (21:28): +18
Rondo, Jason Terry, Jeff Green, Brandon Bass, Jason Collins (8:36): -5
Rondo, Terry, Pierce, Green, Sullinger (7:30): 0
Terry, Lee, Green, Bass, Collins (4:15): -2
Rondo, Lee, Pierce, Bass, Sullinger (3:49): +5
Rondo, Terry, Green, Bass, Garnett (3:39): -4
Terry, Lee, Green, Bass, Sullinger (3:23): +3
Rondo, Lee, Pierce, Green, Garnett (2:45): -4
Rondo, Terry, Lee, Green, Garnett (2:42): 0
Rondo, Lee, Green, Sullinger, Collins (2:35): -3
Rondo, Lee, Green, Bass, Sullinger (2:32): +2
Rondo, Terry, Pierce, Green, Bass (2:30): +2
Rondo, Terry, Pierce, Green, Garnett (2:24): +8
Terry, Pierce, Green, Bass, Sullinger (2:02): 0
Rondo, Lee, Pierce, Green, Collins (1:53): +2
Rondo, Terry, Green, Bass, Sullinger (1:49): +2
Rondo, Terry, Pierce, Green, Collins (1:19): +2
Rondo, Terry, Pierce, Bass, Sullinger (1:09): 0
Rondo, Lee, Pierce, Garnett, Collins (1:07): -1
Terry, Lee, Green, Bass, Sullinger (:59): -1
Rondo, Lee, Green, Bass, Garnett (:50): 0
Rondo, Lee, Pierce, Green, Bass (:30): -1
Rondo, Terry, Lee, Green, Pierce (:17): +1 (end of quarters)

That’s a lot to process, so here are a few important observations after noting: a) this is a tremendously small sample size and b) Avery Bradley, Chris Wilcox and Darko Milicic will eventually throw a wrench into anything Rivers is planning at this stage (although Milicic might be used similarly to Collins).

  • The starting lineup seems set. Because Terry thrived off the bench for the Mavericks, there never should have been any doubt Lee would hold Bradley’s spot at the 2, and it’s hard not to read into the fact Bass didn’t play a single minute with Rondo, Lee, Pierce and Garnett against the Nets.
  • On two occasions, Rivers played Rondo, Terry, Lee, Green and Pierce in the final seconds of a quarter. When you don’t need a rebound, it’s nice to have the luxury of playing five capable 3-point shooters.
  • Including the starters, the most productive lineup featured Rondo, Terry, Pierce, Green and Garnett, who outscored the Nets 9-1 over a span of 2:24 in the second quarter of Thursday night’s blowout. There’s been speculation that unit could close out games, and that stretch was certainly a step in the right direction. Conversely, that group with Lee instead of Terry finished a minus-4 in 2:45 (again, small sample size).
  • Rivers played Pierce and Green together in eight different lineup combinations (or 35% of all combos), so that’s certainly been an emphasis. That duo was a combined plus-9, although Pierce was plus-32 overall.
  • In various combos, Garnett and Sullinger finished plus-18 in 21:28, Bass and Sullinger finished plus-11 in 15:43, and Garnett and Bass finished minus-4 in 4:29. In other words, Sullinger has been very, very good. Meanwhile, Collins finished minus-7 in 19:45, so expect the Darko experiment to continue.
  • The various backcourt combos: Rondo/Lee (+18 in 37:29); Rondo/Terry (+5 in 28:56); Rondo/Terry/Lee (+1 in 2:59); Terry/Lee (0 in 8:37); and Terry/Pierce (0 in 2:02). Rondo and Lee are replicating the success that Rondo and Bradley enjoyed last season, but just imagine the possibilities when Bradley returns.
  • In all, these 23 combinations finished plus-28 in 56:03. Rondo was plus-28 in 46:24. Coincidence?


In an interview on Miami’s WMEN with bizzaro Big O (as transcribed by, Ray Allen took this jab at the Celtics organization while discussing his decision to join the Heat.

‘€œWell it was just really a shame because on one hand you could say so many great things about me as a player and my impact on the floor, and not only on the floor but off the floor, like we did so many great things in the community ‘€” not only as a team, but as individuals — and that was my community and I support it as much as I could. We had some foundation initiatives that we still continue to do, so that doesn’€™t change me. It was a business decision and the team put me in the position where we had to move. We had to go. Miami was a better choice for us based on what the team was doing, so it wasn’€™t, don’€™t boo me, boo the team in a sense. Now it’€™s out of my control. ‘€¦ When this contract situation came down, everybody in my circle — mom, family, brother, sister, friends from college, people who watched me since I was in high school and since I was in college — nobody wanted me to re-sign in that situation because they thought, ‘€˜There [is] so much left in you and this team isn’€™t taking care of you or treating you right.’€™ That’€™s the way I felt and it was like, if you are going to come and not put out a good contract on the table then, hey, we gotta think about going somewhere else.’€

Again, let’s not forget Allen turned down a two-year, $12 million deal from the Celtics to sign a two-year, $6 million contract with the Heat. That’s probably why Rivers still feels “disappointed” about how Allen left.

‘€œI’€™ll always be disappointed with that because of the way it went down,” Rivers told the Herald. “But it is what it is, so I’€™m over it, but you’€™re always disappointed about stuff. But as far as our team, I moved on the next day. We were trying to build our team. We already had Jason Terry; we knew that. So my next move was Courtney.’€


The NBA has vowed to cap the time between player introductions and tipoff at 90 seconds, which seems ridiculous when you consider how long player intros actually last, and Rivers told USA Today he doesn’t like it — not because Garnett might have to alter his pregame routine, but because it limits his opportunity to draw up a play.

“I don’t like it,” said Rivers. “I think it’s too quick. I think it’s too rushed. I like the idea of it — enough of some of the stuff. I think they need to change it to two minutes, maybe even two and a half minutes. I don’t think they factor in the coach actually has to draw up a play first, and then guys break. I hope that will be changed a little bit. It makes the first play that you draw up before the game almost silly. Guys are more focused on running out on the floor.”


The C’s got their first taste of Brooklyn’s Barclays Center, and these quotes stood out (via

  • Rondo: “I love it. It’s kind of like low-lighting — like you’re in a theater or an opera — so we’ve got to put on a show every time we come here.”
  • Terry: “The thing I like in there is the black seats. I’m a shooter. When you have a backdrop that is real dark, you can shoot the lights out.”


Finally, this wouldn’t be Irish Coffee without a good old-fashioned Garnett quote about chemistry (via the Herald).

‘€œPhilly, that was embarrassing. We don’€™t play basketball like that. That was embarrassing to us. We have a culture in here that we adopt. When you put this jersey on, it comes with responsibilities, whether it’€™s preseason or [expletive] around, chillin’€™, one-on-one, 21, whatever it is. It comes with responsibility. We don’€™t take that lightly around here. We felt like in Philly we took a step back. We feel like we got back on that horse and got better.’€

(Have a question, concern or conception for the next Irish Coffee? Send a message to @brohrbach on Twitter.)

Read More: Boston Celtics, Doc Rivers, Jared Sullinger, Kevin Garnett
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