|Irish Coffee: When did the Celtics become the Knicks?||04.24.13 at 2:22 pm ET|
Veteran leadership. Superior coaching. Clutch playmaking. Suffocating defense. When did the Celtics and Knicks switch jerseys? In the first two games of their opening-round series, New York has simply out-Celtics-ed the C’s.
Despite establishing halftime leads in their first two meetings, the Celtics failed to execute anything resembling an offense, toyed with head-scratching matchups and generally just crapped their pants after the break. The result is a 2-0 hole and an early NBA playoff exit staring them back in the face. That’s supposed to be the Knicks’ role.
This can’t be how a team led by Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett goes out. Can it? Doc Rivers is coaching like a desperate man, and maybe he is. Maybe he knows Garnett’s injuries are worse than we thought, Jordan Crawford is his best option off the bench and the success of the pitbull backcourt was simply smoke and mirrors.
Here’s what we do know: Carmelo Anthony is the best player in this series, and it’s not even close. The only guy who could possibly answer Anthony’s ability to create clutch offense out of nothing is dressed dapperly on the Boston bench. His name is Rajon Rondo, and he’s not walking through that door.
Paul Pierce used to be that guy, but now that his age matches his minutes, he can’t shoulder the load. Maybe on a night or two, but not over a seven-game series. Kevin Garnett was that guy as recently as last year’s playoffs, but cameras caught him clutching his abdomen on multiple occasions and bone spurs don’t disappear from your foot overnight. And Jeff Green may one day be that guy, but not now. Not consistently anyhow.
The C’s needed a collective effort from that trio in concert with a chorus line of contributions from their teammates, and nothing’s changed. That’s still the formula. Whether they can execute it or not is an entirely different matter.
|Doc Rivers: ‘I thought the fouls on [Kevin Garnett] were horrendous and had a huge effect’||at 1:03 am ET|
But in the mind of coach Doc Rivers, it could’ve been more – much more – if it weren’t for the officials. For the second straight game, Garnett got into foul trouble, with three fouls at halftime and five midway through the fourth quarter. When the Celtics needed him the most, Garnett couldn’t get into an offensive rhythm in the second half, and Rivers said the officiating early had an impact in the end.
“I thought the fouls on Kevin were horrendous, and had a huge effect on us,” Rivers said after the 87-71 loss in which Boston scored 23 points in the second half. “He never got his rhythm when you could see he was going to have a game. It hurt us.”
Garnett felt the frustration as well, but held back a bit, deflecting some of the criticism on himself.
“At times, it’s frustrating,” Garnett said. “But fouls are part of the game. Refs are calling things but it’s an aggressive time in postseason play. I just have to be consistent and position myself not to foul so much.”
The trio of David Jones, Rodney Mott and Derrick Stafford officiated the game, which ended with Garnett and Paul Pierce each with five fouls before they were taken out after the game was out of reach with four minutes left.
For the second straight game, the Celtics established a playoff franchise record for fewest points in a half when they scored just 23 in the second half of Tuesday’s 87-71 loss to the Knicks.
“We are who we are,” Rivers said when asked about the effect of not having Rajon Rondo available. “We can’t apologize for that. That is who we have been left with and I think it is good enough to win. So far, I haven’t gotten them to the right spots. We can play better and we have to play better.”
The Celtics led 48-42 at the half. But Iman Shumpert hit a pair of threes early in the third quarter, part of a 29-6 New York run that put the Knicks in complete control. The Celtics were outscored 32-11 and converted just 4-of-17 shots from the floor in posting another abysmal third-quarter performance.
“They attacked us,” Rivers said. “We didn’t handle it very well. We have to be able to do better. I don’t know what we are doing wrong in the beginning of third quarters but we gave up those two back-to-back threes, which helped their confidence. It was a tale of two halves.”
Paul Pierce led the way with 18 points but came out with four minutes left as the Celtics conceded.
“He needs some help,” Rivers said. “I think Paul was playing pretty well. He started getting tired in the second half because he tried to do everything.”
|‘Brilliant’ Pablo Prigioni returns for Game 2, Doc Rivers talks road toughness||04.23.13 at 8:25 pm ET|
NEW YORK — Pablo Prigioni, who did not play in Game 1, returned Tuesday night from a sprained right ankle and will start for the Knicks against the Celtics in Game 2.
What does the return of Prigioni to the Knicks starting lineup mean Doc Rivers?
“Well, it just gives them another decision-maker. He’s brilliant,” Rivers said. “He’s another Jason Kidd-ish-type guy. It just gives them another smart player on the floor and another guy that can create plays. That makes them really good. It’s no coincidence that when he’s in the lineup they play better because they have a lot of IQ on the floor at the same time.”
“He gives us a guy who can help run our team, and gives us a defensive presence out front guarding the ball,” Knicks coach Mike Woodson said, adding there won’t be a minutes restriction. “Not at all. He’s practiced the past few days and moved around real well. I think he’s going to be fine.”
“We’re going to attack whoever guards Paul,” Rivers said. “I’m sure [Mike Woodson] is thinking the same thing, it doesn’t matter who’s guarding Paul because Paul’s going to get the ball in the post. They’re going to come trap. I hope there’s an advantage there but I don’t know if there is.”
With Prigioni returning to action, that sent Chris Copeland to the bench.
Rivers said the 72 hours is a long time to wait between playoff games but there’s no better city to spend it in if you’re on the road then in New York.
“You never know but I think pretty well,” Rivers said when asked how he thought his team handled it. “Obviously, especially on the road, you’d rather get right back at it. You just feel like you’re sitting around the room and things like that, but obviously being in New York helps in some ways. It’s not a bad city to hang out in, go have dinner so I think we’ll be ready.”
Rivers is hopeful his team can channel the 2008 team in terms of toughness and the 2010 team that found a way on the road.
“I was going into the ’08 playoffs because we literally had the easiest year you could possibly have,” Rivers said. “We won every game it felt like and didn’t get tested a lot. I was concerned going into the playoffs with a team, even though they were really good, that didn’t get tested. I thought Game 6 in Atlanta we came apart a little bit.”
|Tuesday shootaround: Jeff Green says C’s ‘can still play good without force-feeding’ Kevin Garnett||at 11:45 am ET|
NEW YORK — Jeff Green isn’t necessarily buying into the theory that the Celtics have to get Kevin Garnett involved on every possession he’s on the court for the Celtics to have a chance of tying the series, 1-1.
“I think we have one of the best coaches [Doc Rivers] in the league who can figure out the adjustment and how we can still play good without force-feeding [Garnett],” Green said Tuesday morning prior to the team’s shootaround at Madison Square Garden.
But Green added later that an established Garnett in the post will clearly increase the chances of Boston walking out of MSG with a victory in Game 2 Tuesday night.
“Well, to make it easier for him in the post, I’ve got to continue to be aggressive off the dribble, trying to get to get to the rim, because if I do that it’s going to take a man [to guard me] in the post and open up a lane for Kevin,” Green said.
Green scored a team-high 26 points and played nearly 46 minutes in Saturday’s Game 1 loss to the New York Knicks. Rivers Green also said he needs to work through the fatigue to remain productive. Green scored 20 points in the first half but only six in the second half as the Celtics offense went cold. Green split time with Paul Pierce and Brandon Bass in guarding Carmelo Anthony, who scored 36 but needed 29 shots to do so.
“I just have to do it. I have to play through the fatigue,” Green said. “I have to continue to look for mine, basically. There’s no excuses now. I want to be out there. I want to compete. I want to play against the best. I want to guard Carmelo. I want to do it all. It’s something I just have to get through.
“Just continue to be more aggressive in the open court, that’s about it. Defensively, continue to make everything for Carmelo tough, keep him off the offensive boards and get all the 50-50 plays.”
Green is confident that if he remains aggressive, the offensive – and points – will continue to flow for him.
“I got to the free throw line,” said Green, who made all seven free throws Saturday. “I made a couple of shots outside on the perimeter to get me going and I got some layups in transition. That’s how you get yourself going. That’s how you get a rhythm.”
Told that Anthony feels this is a “must-win” game for the Knicks before the series shifts to Boston for Game 3 Friday, Green said Boston feels the same way.
“Every game is a must-win game,” Green said. “It’s the playoffs. That’s the only way you can move on is to win. We go into every game thinking it’s a must-win.”
|Monday notes: Doc Rivers says Brandon Bass played ‘the perfect game’ while the bench, not so much||04.22.13 at 2:17 pm ET|
NEW YORK — So what did the Celtics film session reveal on Sunday?
“I thought Brandon played the perfect game for us,” Rivers said. “I thought defensively, he guarded Melo [Carmelo Anthony] well. He took shots when he should have. He moved the ball because they were coming [on traps].”
And it showed that the team’s energy and effort was there.
It also showed one huge area of need – getting Kevin Garnett more involved in the right spots on the court so that the offense doesn’t go into hibernation like it did for the final 13 minutes on Saturday.
“It was good, it was good,” Rivers said. “The film never lies. It didn’t. I thought our guys were great. They saw what we could’ve done and didn’t do. I’m sure New York saw the same things. So, I expect them to have a great game [Tuesday] and I expect us to play better as well.”
After hitting his first two shots from the field, Garnett made just two of his final 10 shots and finished 4-of-12 with eight points.
“He could’ve gotten himself in better spots and that’s again on us, too,” Rivers said. “It’s never one thing, it’s both. We have to create them for him. Kevin can’t dribble or pass to himself. We have to create that for him but listen, they’re still very good defensively. They trap and get down there [on block]. Even if you get him deep, they’re still coming.”
Did film help Garnett himself?
“Yeah, actually it did,” Garnett said. “It was nice session. Obviously, we put some things in, dropped some things. We’ll go over that in practice.”
The mood of the team was good, led by its always-smiling head coach, who as Garnett was talking to Rivers, asked Rajon Rondo if he were going to take part in practice. Rondo – wearing a pair of stylish green beats – was doing what he has been doing for the last two weeks, shooting around with his team and taking in practice and offering insights as he rehabs his reconstructed right ACL.
Now, Rivers is trying to regroup his troops and remind them that there was a lot to be happy about in the first three quarters of Saturday’s loss to the Knicks.
One thing he made clear on Monday was that the energy Saturday was good, just not the execution.
“I’m always pleased with that,” Rivers said. “We played hard, and so did they. We have to play better. It’s like I told our guys, hard is great but hard and smart is more important.”
The perfect example of that was in the third quarter when Lee saved a ball with a behind-the-back pass. But he saved it under the basket the Celtics were defending and into the hands of the Knicks, who easily converted the layup.
“We made a lot of hard plays, even Courtney saves the ball inbounds, he was hustling so you give him an ‘A’ for effort and then the rest of the part is where you have to be smarter as a group. I thought we did a lot of that in the game [on Saturday].” Read the rest of this entry »
|Sunday notes: Celtics need a way to feed Kevin Garnett, get more out of Jason Terry, bench||04.21.13 at 2:08 pm ET|
NEW YORK — The Celtics didn’t practice Sunday. Instead, they hunkered down in a suite inside the Four Seasons Hotel in midtown Manhattan to go over the ugly details of their 85-78 loss to the Knicks in Game 1 Saturday afternoon.
Specifically, what happened in the final 13 minutes, 40 seconds when they scored exactly eight points.
‘I thought, from an offensive standpoint, I didn’t have a lot of different opportunities,” Garnett said. “Obviously, I had shots and stuff. Some went down, some didn’t. But I try not to let that predicate things or my level of play. I thought I moved the ball very well, got other guys open, was able to rebound obviously, trying to be as much of a force as I can on defense. In Game 2, I’d like to be a little more aggressive, obviously, but being consistent with the overall game.’
For the first time in his career, Jason Terry was held scoreless in a playoff game. But Terry was far from alone on an unproductive Boston bench. To Rivers, it was a case of something he likes to call “hero-ball” – where the ball stagnates and teammates watch as one player tries to generate something all by himself.
‘We didn’t do a good job with Terry [Saturday], especially in the second half, there were so many [isolations] that Jason has nothing to do with,” Rivers said. “In the first half, Jason didn’t score, but we ran that play with the pick-and-roll with him and Paul. We scored five times in a row because of Jason Terry’s involvement, so I don’t actually look at if he scored. I look at the points he created, and in the first half he created 12 points. In the second half, it was all ISOs. I mean, it’s not us. We’re not built that way.’
Courtney Lee provided the only four points (all on free throws) as Boston’s reserves were outscored by New York’s bench, 33-4. Boston didn’t get a single field goal from their bench in the entire game.
‘I’m looking for a better overall effort, whether it’s the bench, whether it’s the starters,’ Paul Pierce said. ‘The starters, you look, me and Jeff [Green] had 12 turnovers ‘ just us two. We have to be better, regardless of our bench. Overall as a team, we have to be better.’
Rivers acknowledged that he might look to shake up a bench rotation was limited solely to Terry, Jordan Crawford and Lee. Rivers said he would consider adding a big man to the rotation, either Shav Randolph or Chris Wilcox. Crawford played just 10 minutes, 46 seconds, including just over three minutes in the second half.
“I thought Jordan should have played more in the second half,” Rivers said. “It’s funny, he didn’t score, but he created baskets. And, I’ll tell you, he’s buying in defensively and if he can continue to do that, then he has a chance to help us.”
Speaking of the Four Seasons Hotel, that’s also where Rivers’ old friend Tom Thibodeau and Chicago Bulls are spending their weekend in the Big Apple. Their Saturday was even worse in Brooklyn as they were down by 25 at halftime and lost Game 1 at Barclays Center. They will play Game 2 Monday night in Brooklyn.
‘It’s not a good hotel today,’ Rivers said in dark humor. ‘Two losing teams, I think one should leave. This was a quiet, dark hotel last night. The New York area teams didn’t treat the guests very well.”
While Rivers expects the Celtics to execute better in Game 2 Tuesday night, he expects the same of the Knicks, who shot just 40.5 percent and had two starters (Tyson Chandler and Chris Copeland) who went scoreless. J.R. Smith, who torched the Celtics for 32 in late March at TD Garden, made just 7-of-19 shots and finished with 15.
‘They’re going to play better, too,’ Rivers said. ‘J.R. Smith missed a couple open 3s. [Steve] Novak didn’t get involved. So we have to anticipate them playing way better, and then we have to play way better. And that’s what, in the playoffs, you just have to anticipate that.’
The Celtics didn’t practice Sunday but will on Monday at Madison Square Garden in advance of Game 2.
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