|Irish Coffee: Celtics no longer closing by committee?||11.13.12 at 12:17 pm ET|
As much as Celtics coach Doc Rivers says, “It doesn’t matter who starts; it matters who finishes,” he may never convince his players and their egos, but his actions speak just as clearly as his words. While the starting shooting guard and power forward turnstile continues twirling, Rivers plays matchups and hot hands down the stretch.
The C’s have played five straight games decided by six points or less, and the closing five has been as inconsistent as the team’s overall performance. Just as Courtney Lee vs. Jason Terry and Brandon Bass vs. Jared Sullinger battle for starting roles, Rivers has used just about every combination imaginable of those four plus Leandro Barbosa and Jeff Green at the 2 and 4 spots in the final five minutes of the fourth quarter of those games plus the five-minute overtime period against the Wizards. Here’s the minutes breakdown.
FINAL 5 MINUTES OF 4TH QUARTER (AND OVERTIME)
Celtics 89, Wizards 86: Terry 3:09; Lee 2:03 | Sullinger 3:25; Green 0:54; Bass 0:48
Celtics 100, Wizards 94 (OT): Terry 5:00 | Bass 4:51; Green 0:09 (OT: Terry 5:00; Bass 5:00)
76ers 106, Celtics 100: Terry 5:00 | Barbosa 2:58, Green 2:02
Celtics 96, Bucks 92: Lee 4:40; Terry 0:22 | Bass 3:12; Green 1:23; Sullinger 0:01
Celtics 101, Bulls 95: Terry 5:00 | Bass 5:00
TOTAL (OUT OF 30 MINUTES): Terry 18:31; Lee 6:43; Barbosa 2:58 | Bass 14:03; Green 4:28; Sullinger 3:26
If you need more proof Rivers is willing to try anything, look at the lineups that finished the Sixers game alongside Rajon Rondo, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett. He played Terry for the entirety of the final five minutes and split the fifth spot between Barbosa and Green. But it’s becoming clearer who he trusts more.
|C-mail: Answering inbox full of Celtics questions||11.12.12 at 3:22 pm ET|
You’ve got Celtics questions. We’ve got answers. Or more questions. Either way, let’s scroll through the inbox.
@priusport: Where the heck is Darko?
Physically, all 7 feet and 275 pounds of Darko Milicic sits on the end of the bench this season, his ailing wrist often wrapped in tape or a soft cast. It’s a familiar place for Darko, whose history of cashing checks for sitting front row in a warmup suit makes him the envy of most men. And a conundrum for all coaches.
The Celtics certainly didn’t sign Darko as this season’s savior, but they expected more total minutes than games played from him. After all, he’s big, he blocks shots (2.6 per 36 minutes for his career) and he fouls — or “kills,” as Milicic himself might say. Players with less skill than Milicic have made a career out of those attributes.
So, maybe the wrist still bothers him. Or maybe C’s coach Doc Rivers considers him a liability. After all, when the Bucks owned the Celtics in the paint during the second game of the season, Rivers turned to Darko, who committed as many turnovers as he totaled rebounds, blocks and personal fouls in five short minutes.
@BostonsportZ: With trouble in paint with KG on bench, why no Darko or Collins yet? It can’t be worse.
If you thought Darko’s playing time was a limited sample size, check out Jason Collins and his streak of six DNP’s. The only reason he’s had to celebrate was his college roommate Joseph Kennedy III‘s election to Congress.
The C’s biggest problem has been the lack of depth behind Kevin Garnett. In Paul Flannery‘s must-read weekly Sunday notes column, he points out the Celtics are 18.3 points better than their opponents with Garnett on the floor than without, allowing a staggering 112.5 points on 53 percent shooting per 100 possessions sans KG.
So, why not turn to Collins? The 7-foot, 255-pound so-called Dwight Howard stopper has earned a reputation as one of the most heady defensive bigs in the game over 11 NBA seasons. But the C’s have yet to play a traditional center like Howard, facing undersized and finessed 5’s like Lavoy Allen or Chris Bosh for the most part.
@miccamacho6: Doc needs to forget about going small and go big. The 76ers are having a field day in the paint, especially when kg is out.
|Kevin Garnett finding out ‘who’s willing to fight’||11.10.12 at 11:15 am ET|
Rajon Rondo said it: “It’s chaos” when KG sits on the bench.
Perhaps more than his physical presence, the Celtics miss his voice on the defensive end. Forget Ronald Reagan, KG is The Great Communicator, and Paul Pierce said it: Without Garnett, “you just have to talk it out.” So, as I’m sure your wife or girlfriend has told you a million times, it’s all about communication and a little effort, and in these “grind days” of the early season Garnett is finding out who’s willing to show the love.
“I try to teach the things that I know to some of the younger guys, if not anybody,” said KG following the C’s 100-94 loss to the 76ers that dropped their record to 2-3. “The things that I know have been over the course over a couple decades. I’ve understood actually how to play this game, understood my role at this point of my career. A lot of the things are just how hard I’m doing it. I talk very loud. I’m continuous with some of the things that I do. …
“But the things that I know are through experience. Trying to give that to a younger guy or somebody who hasn’t played in the league that long is difficult at times, but I try to lead by example. Anybody that’s looking to learn, I’m always open to teach. Nobody said this was going to be easy. Sometimes the darker days and your harder days are some of the most obvious days. It shows you who’s with you, who’s willing to fight, who’s willing to be in the hole with you, so this is showing a lot.”
|Bad Jeff Green is a sad Jeff Green||11.09.12 at 11:43 pm ET|
After shooting just 1-of-5 from the field and scoring four points in 18 minutes off the bench during a 100-94 loss to the 76ers, Celtics forward Jeff Green gave a few curt responses during his postgame press conference, eventually offering a “mmm-hmm” to one final question before catching the team’s flight to Milwaukee.
After scoring three points in the season opener, Green tallied 22 points over his next two games before netting just 10 points in 40 minutes over his past two — a drastic drop from his stellar preseason play. On Thursday, Danny Ainge expressed his disappointment in Green’s adjustment, and Friday was coach Doc Rivers‘ turn.
“It’s a dilemma, but he’s going to be a good player for us this year,” said Rivers. “And sooner rather than later, I’m hoping. We’ve just got to unlock him. Right now, he’s just absolutely frustrated; you can see it in his play. But that’s on all of us; it’s not just on Jeff. Jeff’s the easy target right now. Jeff’s part of this team, just like everyone else, and we have to do a better job of getting him going. He’s probably got to do a better job of getting himself going.”
|Fast Break: Rajon Rondo’s not enough vs. 76ers||11.09.12 at 10:11 pm ET|
Rajon Rondo may have continued his streak of games with double-digit assists, but the 76ers backcourt combined for 46 points, 18 assists and 15 rebounds, and the Celtics‘ defense let another playoff foe from last season reach the century mark in a 106-100 loss to their Atlantic Division rivals.
Jrue Holiday (21 points, 14 assists) and Evan Turner (25 points, 11 rebounds) torched the C’s.
Rondo finished with 14 points and 20 assists while Paul Pierce (24 points), Kevin Garnett (19 points, 10 rebounds) and Jason Terry (13 points) all reached double figures, but the Celtics got little help from the bench beyond the guy who dubbed their reserves the best in basketball, as Jeff Green (1-5 FG) struggled once again.
WHAT WENT WRONG
A little help: Outside of Garnett and Lee, the Celtics started an atrocious 1-of-18 from the field, settling for far too many jump shots. Rondo (1-5), Pierce (0-5), Green (0-3) and Bass (0-3) all couldn’t find the basket through most of the first half, and the Celtics fell behind by double digits for the third time in five games.
Wet paint: While the Celtics seemed content launching from mid-range, the Sixers attacked the rim. In the first half, Philly scored 30 points in the paint and added 18 fast break points — compared to 14 and two, respectively, for the C’s — resulting in a 57-45 Sixers lead at the break. Evan Turner, in particular, victimized Pierce, scoring four of his six first-half buckets at the rim. In all, the Sixers outscored the C’s 56-38 in the paint and 26-9 in transition.
Downtown daggers: Somehow, the Celtics failed to defend the basket and the 3-point line. In all, the 76ers shot 7-of-13 from beyond the arc, including a Jrue Holiday triple with five minutes to play that helped keep the surging C’s at bay. In all, Boston opponents are shooting 34-of-84 from long-distance (40.5 3P%). Both the number of makes and attempts illustrates the inability of Celtics wings to close out on the perimeter.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
First five: The Celtics actually started off strong defensively, holding the 76ers to a 1-of-9 shooting start and building leads of 6-0 and 8-3 on the back of Garnett, but as has been the case all season, things went south when KG took his five-minute sabbaticals. Sullinger/Bass and Bass/Wilcox combinations quickly turned five- and six-point leads into five- and six-point deficits with Garnett on the bench.
Making a point: In the third quarter, Rondo did everything he could to will his lackadaisical team back into the game. He had his hand in the C’s first five buckets after the break (layup, jumper, assist, 1-2 FT, layup, assist). In the meantime, he notched his 10th assist, tying John Stockton for the NBA’s third-longest streak of 10-plus assists (29 games) and recording his fifth straight double-double to start the season.
Terry time: Often referring to himself as a clutch player, Jason Terry put his words into actions. Twice he drew the Celtics within three points in the fourth quarter — on a 3-pointer that trimmed the lead to 83-80 and a 12-foot floater that cut the edge to 93-90 — as he reached double digits off the bench for the third time in four games. Perhaps more importantly, Rivers has given the all-important closer’s role at shooting guard to Terry in the last two games, including all 12 minutes of the fourth quarter on Friday night.
|Irish Coffee: Celtics no longer intimidate NBA dregs||11.09.12 at 8:37 am ET|
When Jeff Green suggested “teams are no longer scared” of the Celtics after they lost to the Bucks, it seemed to be his interpretation of Kevin Garnett‘s postgame “pack of hyenas” speech. Under Doc Rivers in the KG era, the C’s earned a reputation for playing defense with an edge, and without it they’re just another basketball team.
So, when even 19-year-old rookies born in the Bill Clinton era don’t fear the Celtics, who will?
“We know they’re vulnerable,” said Wizards shooting guard Bradley Beal, the NBA’s third overall draft pick in 2012. “We know that they are an aggressive team, but they are a lot older then we are, so we are going to try and wear them down. They have a decent bench, and their bench comes in and gives them immediate scoring — everybody has the green light. So, our plan is basically to wear them down and keep pushing the ball in transition and make sure our pick-and-roll defense is what it needs to be, especially on Paul Pierce.”
Beal wasn’t the only Washingtonian unfazed by the Garden banners or Celtics mystique. If the current C’s players can’t get inside the heads of NBA newcomers or make them think twice about driving the lane, then they’re no longer hyenas on the hunt. Instead, Wizards and Bucks smell blood in the water.
Take Kevin Seraphin as Exhibit B. In two games against the Celtics, the 22-year-old product of France has totaled 35 points and 16 rebounds. So, when Garnett trapped him in the corner late in the fourth quarter, drew an offensive foul and tried to snatch the ball away from him after the whistle, he wasn’t intimidated, resulting in a Garnett technical and an 84-82 Wizards lead with 1:07 remaining. Who’s in whose head now?
|The newest Kevin Garnett analogy is a weird one||11.08.12 at 1:12 am ET|
You’re in for something special when even Kevin Garnett admits, “That was a weird interview.” Last season, he compared team chemistry to frying tortillas and baking cakes. This year? After the Celtics (2-2) escaped a second straight game against the depleted Wizards, KG invoked cable providers and DVR in one strange analogy.
“You can’t speed chemistry up,” said KG. “I think the more practice, the more you get familiar with each other. There’s no hit the fast forward button here. You’ve got Comcast. Some shows you can’t fast forward through. You’ve just got to let it go through and watch the silly ass commercials and be pissed, right? This is what this is.
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