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The true brilliance of Doc Rivers: ‘It’s great when you win on execution’

03.06.13 at 11:09 pm ET
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Everyone is going to point to the back-pick play drawn up by Doc Rivers, with a huge assist to offensive coach Armond Hill, as the latest example of what makes Rivers one of the truly best coaches in the NBA.

And they should.

But his real brilliance comes in how he’s prepared Jeff Green for the game-winning moment all season. Kevin Garnett fired a bullet pass to Green under the basket after Paul Pierce set Green free on a perfect back-pick. Green makes the adjustment under the basket, puts the game-winner off glass for an 83-81 road win over the second-seeded Pacers.

‘€œIt was executed great,” Rivers said. “We got it down to the last second. Either Kevin was going to try and hit Jeff or [hit Paul Pierce]. The whole play was [made] by Paul Pierce’€™s back pick. He was terrific. He set a nice back pick. They [Pacers] got a little mixed and then Jeff had to make a tough shot. They doubled Kevin so the pass was a little bit off-mark and Jeff had to adjust but it’€™s great when you win on execution.

‘€œI told our players I had drawn up another play. Armond Hill walked over, and he rarely does it, and he says, ‘€˜Listen, the play you drew up in the first half worked so let’€™s run it again.’€™ So I switched to the play that he wanted me to run and it was great. It worked out perfect.”

Funny thing, earlier in the season, Rivers probably would’ve gone with his first instincts for a pick-and-roll but decided to go with Hill’s recommendation.

‘€œIt was going to be a pick-and-roll, actually a pick-and-roll with Jeff and Kevin because we like that combination because Jeff is at the ‘€˜4′€™ with his speed can always get a shot off,” Rivers said.

Green has been brought along at a pace all season that varied between breakneck and breakdown. Rivers struggled all season to find that comfort range for Green to excel so that he could put Green in the position he was Wednesday night on the road – a tired team that needed young legs to make up a 14-point deficit in the second half against a red-hot, No. 2 seed in the East.

Thursday night was not one of Green’s best games but it was one of his best moments. Eleven points in 34 minutes. He was just 5-of-14 from the field. Still, Rivers and Hill believed in Green enough to draw up the game-winning play to go to him. It was why Pierce was grinning ear-to-ear coming out of the timeout.

‘€œThis is the best I’€™ve seen him play, consistently,” Rivers said. “What we are always on Jeff about is being consistent. I was really on him hard in the first half because I just didn’€™t think he had his motor. I rode him pretty good. He’€™s responding to it as well. I think this is his best stretch because his confidence is sky high. He taking shots, he doesn’€™t worry about misses anymore. He doesn’€™t feel bad. I thought early on [in the season] if he missed a couple shots, he’€™s looking around at Paul and JET and Kevin, and saying, ‘€˜I shouldn’€™t take another one.’€™ And we were telling him, ‘€˜Yeah, you should. You’€™re one of them.’€™ And that’€™s really important for him to hear. And now he believes it and you can see it.

‘€œIt’€™s great when things work out.’€

Rivers knew his team would be in a difficult position after beating Philadelphia, 109-101, 24 hours earlier halfway across the country.

‘€œWe didn’€™t have anything tonight, you could see it. We were flat. They got into us. In the first half, I thought Indiana just bullied and pushed us around the floor and I thought we responded well in the second half.

‘€œFor our team, it’€™s a great thing, just hang around. It’€™s what we’€™ve been all year, just hanging around and we stole the game.”

Doc on containing Roy Hibbert: ‘€œWe didn’€™t make any adjustments. We trapped a couple of times. We just fought them more. Again, I just thought they were so much more physical than us. They were taking us out of our stuff, they were into us and we weren’€™t responding. Then we came out in the second half and just kind of fought back and hung in there. In the fourth quarter wasd terrific.”

Doc on Jordan Crawford: “[He] was on the court when we started our run. He was big for us. I was going to search for any lineup I could find tonight in the second half because that’€™s how you felt the game was going to be. It wasn’€™t going to be a normal [game]. Going into the game, I thought we were going to be big all game and we decided small was better and it worked out for us.’€

Doc on team chemistry: ‘€œI just think we’€™ve come together as a group. I still go back to we have eight new players and it just took them longer to buy into everything and to play free enough to buy into it.

“And Avery’€™s return is bigger than people know. It really was. You think about it. We don’€™t have Rondo now. We missed the first 35 games without Avery so we’€™ve had some key guys not in our lineup. I thought right before Rondo went down, our bench was playing great. I kept saying if we can get our starters playing like our bench, it’€™ll be great. That was an indication that the new guys were starting to come on.’€

The rest of the Eastern Conference, you’ve been warned.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Doc Rivers, Indiana Pacers, Jeff Green
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