|Shootaround notes from the Celtics’ last stand||05.11.11 at 11:46 am ET|
MIAMI — There was much to discuss with coach Doc Rivers prior to Game 5 of the Celtics’ playoff series with the Heat, but the key question is: How will they perform facing elimination?
“They’ve got great pride,” Rivers said. “I think you’ll see that tonight. I think I’ll enjoy the way we play.”
Rivers won’t have Shaquille O’Neal, but he does expect Rajon Rondo to play. The coach said he will have a wait-and-see attitude with Rondo to see how he responds to his dislocated left elbow.
The first order of business for the Celtics is to stop turning the ball over. They had 18 turnovers in Game 4, which led to 28 points for Miami, an enormous swing considering the way both teams payed defense.
“As poorly as we played we still had a shot to win the game in regulation,” Rivers said. “But when you gift a gifted team turnovers like we did, in the playoffs you’re usually not going to win that game.”
Rivers expects Kevin Garnett to recover from his disastrous Game 4, when he shot 1-for-10 and was involved in a pair of breakdowns on both ends of the floor late in the contest.
“I expect the same from Kevin every night,” Rivers said. “I expect him to be great. I also understand as a coach that we’re coaching humans. He owns up to everything. I said all the time you can coach one guy or work with one guy in your career, you should coach Kevin Garnett at some point. He’s a pro’s pro. He understands when he plays well, and when he plays well he comes back the next day to play better. That’s just who he is.”
As for Glen Davis, who has struggled throughout the playoffs, Rivers sounded less optimistic.
“We need him, but he’s been struggling for a while,” Rivers said. “It started before the playoffs and he’s still in it. He had an occasional light. We’ve just got to keep going to him and see if we can get anything out of him.”
Asked whether Davis’ impending free agent status may be affecting him mentally, Rivers said, “I have no idea what’s in his mind. I don’t even want to get in there. It’s safer where I’m at.”
ESPN NBA analyst Ric Bucher made an appearance on the Dennis & Callahan show Wednesday morning to talk about the Celtics-Heat series. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.
Asked if the Celtics will claw and scrape and do whatever they can to avoid elimination in Wednesday night’s Game 5, Bucher said that might be the case, but it still likely won’t be enough.
“I would certainly expect that [effort], knowing the character and the temperament of this team. I just don’t know that it’s going to matter,” he said. “We’ve seen one thing in this postseason, it’s that the athletes and athleticism has taken over this league. It’s just a matter of sort of pushing that big boulder downhill; it begins to gain momentum.
“The Miami Heat, whatever confidence they had playing against the Celtics overall, beating them on their home floor, beating them in last-minute execution just has to do wonders for their confidence. And if there was an Achilles’ heel that the Celtics had to take advantage of with the Heat, it was the fact that the Heat seemed to have a fragile psyche. And if you could get them doubting themselves, you could get that boulder rolling in the other direction. I just don’t see that happening at this point.
“Going home, I just feel like the Heat are going to come out hard, they’re going to play fast. I just don’t know that the Celtics at this point have the requisite physical ability to slow down that freight train.”
Added Bucher: “It’s hard for me, when I look at the width and breadth of this series, to make case for why the Celtics are going to get it to a Game 6, much less get it to a Game 7 and make a great comeback.”
Bucher said the lack of production from the Celtics’ bench players is something the team could not afford. “The big disappointment — and maybe it shouldn’t be disappointment, maybe my expectations were too great — Big Baby Davis, Jeff Green, Nenad Kristic, who didn’t even play in the last game, Delonte West — when those guys gave them something, as they did in Game 3, this was a different team,” he said. “Expecting those role players to give them something, to give them transcendent performances on the road just flies against history and tradition. … At this point, I don’t see any reason for that to change.”
|Glen Davis meets John Havlicek and learns a lesson about toughness||05.05.11 at 4:43 pm ET|
WALTHAM — The Celtics aren’t in the easiest spot right now. They’re banged up. They’re getting outworked and they’re down two games to a Miami Heat team that many consider the odds-on favorite right now to capture the NBA title.
But alas, not all hope is lost. Just ask Glen Davis, who Thursday at Celtics practice had a chance encounter with a Celtics legend of the past who told Davis to just hang in there. After all – as the Ringo Starr song goes – It Don’t Come Easy. Just like John Havlicek told Davis.
“The frustration, things not working out, you can get all messed up. But I was talking to Havlicek today, you know, ‘Havlicek Stole the Ball’ and I said which one of these [championship] banners were you 0-2, and he said the one that stood out to him was 1969. When they were down 0-2, they came back to win it in Game 7 against the Lakers.”
That was the series, of course, that featured the Don Nelson shot that bounced straight up after hitting the back of the rim and came down through the net at the old Los Angeles Arena to put the Celtics on top and lead them to their 11th title with Bill Russell in the organization. It also marked the only time the Celtics ever won a series after losing the first two games.
“He was just saying, ‘It’s going to take everything in you to fight and claw back and get back to get to 2-2 even but then it’s going to take something special to finish them off.’”
Can they do it against the Miami Heat? Davis said Thursday after practice that getting back to the mental and physical toughness that makes the Celtics a great team would be a good place to start.
“We didn’t play Celtics basketball,” Davis said. “Nobody played the way they were supposed to play. Ray had a good game the first game but we still didn’t pull it off. We all were supposed to play well but we didn’t. It’s easy to point the finger and blame and play the blame game as Kanye West would say but you’ve got to go get it. That’s all it is right now. X’s and O’s and you can coach as much as you want but that still ain’t going to make it happen.”
|Irish Coffee: Celtics must cash in at end of quarters||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.”
|Glen Davis: ‘We’re way deeper than [Miami]‘||04.27.11 at 1:43 pm ET|
As the Celtics returned to practice on Wednesday they still don’t know who their next playoff opponent will be, but that gives them a chance to focus on what has been their toughest adversary at times this season: themselves.
“I’ve told you all year our opponent has been us, so we get a chance to work on our stuff,” Doc Rivers said. “[This week is] very similar to training camp. When you start camp you really don’t have an opponent.”
That said, they clearly have an eye on Miami, who has a chance to close out its first round playoff series with Philadelphia on Wednesday night. As long as there’s not a Game 7 in that series, the Celtics will be in Miami for Game 1 on Sunday.
In the interim, their focus will be on what they do, especially their reserves. Glen Davis, for one, isn’t lacking any confidence.
“I feel like our bench is way stronger than theirs,” Davis said. “We’re way deeper than them. We just have to make sure we use our depth.”
The Heat have primarily used three reserves in their first round series with Philadelphia — Joel Anthony, Mario Chalmers and James Jones — but they may get a boost if Udonis Haslem is able to return from foot surgery that has kept him out since late November. An ineffective Mike Miller has fallen out of the rotation.
The Celtics may be deeper on paper, but their second unit didn’t exactly distinguish itself in their series with the Knicks except for a strong showing in the first half of Game 4. Rivers feels like he has gained some insight from that series, however.
“We knew what the starters could do,” Rivers said. “We weren’t sure what the fifth guy with the starters could do and you had no idea going into a playoff series what your bench, not only what they were going to give you, but what worked for them. As the playoffs went on we kind of figured out more and more what they’re comfortable with, what they can’t run more than what they can run.”
Despite their struggles, Rivers was encouraged by some of what he saw in New York, particularly on the block. “The one thing they do well is post,” Rivers said. “That second group is a great post group. Jeff Green, Delonte [West] and Baby, so we have to try to run a package more suited to them.”
The Celtics don’t incorporate a lot of post-ups in their offense, mainly because they haven’t had a reliable presence on the block since Shaquille O’Neal got hurt. Green got more work on the block in New York and for a second unit that sometimes struggled to run a functioning offense that would be a positive development.
Rivers also hinted at a bigger role for Green in the next round. “The other fifth guy [with the starters] is Jeff Green,” Rivers said. “That may be our biggest plus of all the groups, but we just haven’t used it a lot.”
SHAQ UPDATE: O’Neal didn’t practice on Wednesday and he won’t practice Thursday either. The Celtics are targeting Friday as a possible date, but as with all things Shaq, that is subject to change. “We hope he practices [Friday],” Rivers said. “But we don’t know that. We’ll see.”
Everyone else was on the floor at the start of practice, which was closed to the press.
STAYING IN RHYTHM: Everyone knows the Celtics play better with rest, but is there such a thing as too much? Assuming they play again on Sunday that would be a full week between games for the Celtics. They were 1-3 in the playoffs last season with three or more days between games.
“There’s nothing you can do about it,” Rivers said. “It’s not like we can say, ‘Hey listen we want to start now,’ so let’s take advantage of what we have.”
Rivers called this week a mini training camp, but there’s no doubt they don’t want to stray too far from what made them successful against the Knicks, especially the last two games offensively. “When we run our stuff right defensively and offensively we tend to not turn the ball over and we tend to rebound better,” Rivers said.
RUN RONDO RUN: While no one would come out and say it before the series becomes official, Rajon Rondo will be one of the most scrutinized players in a showdown series with the Heat. He is the one obvious advantage the Celtics have from a personnel standpoint. He showed in the Knicks series that he can kick it up a gear and play with the kind of speed the Celtics need from him.
“It’s night and day when you see it,” Ray Allen said. “When he’s out there and he’s going and he’s got the energy, he doesn’t care whether you make a shot or not, he’s still having an impact on both ends of the floor. He’s on us about running the floor. I’m thinking I’m running, but let me run a little bit harder.”
Still, the Celtics emphasized that all four of their star players are tied together.
“Rondo’s key for us but all of them are,” Rivers said. “If Rondo’s playing well and Ray is not playing well then we struggle. If Ray is playing well and Paul [Pierce] or Kevin [Garnett] struggle then we struggle. It’s not just one guy. This really is a team that is pretty much tied together and each guy has to carry his own load.”
|Celtics need more in reserve||04.23.11 at 6:44 pm ET|
NEW YORK — Step one was getting the defense in order. Step two was finding a way to make the offense function better. Step three, and possibly the final step in getting the Celtics on the right track for the rest of the playoffs is unlocking the potential of the second unit.
Delonte West, Jeff Green and Nenad Krstic have all started at various times in their career. Glen Davis is practically a starter for the Celtics, so the talent is there. But for whatever reason those four have not functioned well either as a group, or individually.
The numbers are not pretty. Through three games of the postseason, those four have averaged just nine points, nine rebounds and three assists, while shooting 14-for-45 in 179 minutes.
“It’s something I’ve got to do, I know that,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers said on Saturday after the team had a brief walkthrough at Madison Square Garden. “I’ve got to get them playing right. We’re searching I can tell you that because we need them in this series and we need them to play well.”
No one is standing out for the bench crew right now, which has magnified the pressure on all of them. Rivers had a quiet conversation with Davis after practice and simply told him to keep playing hard.
“We need him,” Rivers said. “He can play better. I can help him play better. I told him I was going to try keeping to do that as long as he keeps his end. Baby’s an energy player for us. As Pat Riley used to tell me — and everyone else — thinking hurts the team. When you start thinking what’s wrong you usually play poorly.”
Davis has struggled shooting jumpers all season and while he’s started trying to maneuver closer to the basket in recent games, he has had a difficult time shooting over the Knicks more athletic players. Davis is the Celtics most important reserve, but they also need more from Green.
Game 3 wasn’t a breakout game for Green, but it was his best of the playoffs as he scored nine points and earned praise from Rivers for his defense.
“He played much better,” the coach said. “Defensively, he was terrific. He’s starting to cut better for us. We got him a couple of nice cuts where he got deep posts and got his spot. He’s getting there. Jeff is going to help us.”
This is Green’s first time coming off the bench since his rookie season. He has said that the adjustment is all mental and it’s something he’s still getting used to doing. He also has to be something of a go-to guy for the reserves because they lack a dominant scorer with this group. Should the Celtics advance, Green will become a very important player in their series with the Heat because they play so many unorthodox lineups.
Even with all that no one has struggled more than Krstic. He has attempted just one shot, a jumper in Game 1 when he had a clear path to the basket. He saw second-half minutes in Game 3 only because of the score and he has grabbed just three rebounds in the series.
Rivers hasn’t given up on Krstic yet, but there are other options, namely Troy Murphy.
“There’s always another guy when the other guy’s not working,” Rivers said. “Troy’s working his butt off, I can tell you that. Him and Von [Wafer], they may be guys that help us win a game.”
|Glen Davis knows he has to choose wisely||04.19.11 at 2:54 pm ET|
Celtics forward Glen Davis takes too many jumpshots. This past season he launched 4.6 times a game from between 16 and 23 feet, which is three and a half more attempts per game than he averaged last season and almost twice as many as the 2008-09 season when he first began to fall in love with the long shot.
Shooting the jumper isn’t the problem. The Celtics offense generally takes their four men away from the post and out on to the perimeter (see: Kevin Garnett). They like to keep the floor spaced and the driving lanes open for Rajon Rondo and Paul Pierce.
The problem for Davis is that he didn’t make very many of them this season, hitting at just a 35 percent clip. By way of comparison, Garnett made 47 percent of his long jump shots and was one of the best shooting big men from that range in the league.
And yet for all the criticism Davis takes for his offense, he has had a breakthrough season as the Celtics most important reserve and garnered serious attention early in the season as a top Sixth Man candidate in the league. He filled that role so well that it’s easy to remember that just last season Davis was getting only 18 minutes a night and still trying to carve out a place for himself in the NBA beyond simply as a “rotation player.”
Part of the reason Davis played so well this season is that he became far more effective inside where he upped his shooting percentage from 50 to 60 percent and increased his attempts. He was frustrated by how often he got his shot blocked last season and developed some counters, which have been successful.
But he has to get inside first. Davis took eight shots in Game 1 and missed seven of them. Half of his attempts were from 16-23 feet and he made just one. Oddly enough, some of that has to do with Amar’e Stoudemire, although not directly. The Knicks use one of three players alongside Stoudemire: Ronny Turiaf, Jared Jeffries and Shawne Williams.
Friend of Green Street, Gian Casimiro showed by way of video the effect those players, particularly Turiaf, have on the Celtics defense. Essentially, Jermaine O’Neal played way off Turiaf and protected the paint. Of the three options, Williams could cause the most damage because of his ability to shoot 3-pointers. Turiaf was also effective making four of five shots inside mainly because O’Neal was busy elsewhere, but the Celtics seem willing to make the trade.
With that in mind, I asked Davis about it after the team’s shootaround this morning.
“They’re different,” Davis said. “When you guard Amar’e, he’s hard to guard because he’s so quick. Shawne Williams puts a lot of pressure on the next guy [the help defender] because he’s stretching the floor. If a guy like me is posting on Shawne Williams that’s a negative. But you know, other teams live with that. They’ll live with me scoring if the ball is not in other player’s hands. So I’ve got to pick wisely how I play the game.”
That’s why focusing on individual matchups like Garnett and Stoudemire is too simplistic. A great player like Stoudemire causes teams to make decisions and each decision has a counter-move. Davis is crucial for the Celtics in this series because of his versatility to matchup against whomever the Knicks put on the floor with Stoudemire. As he said, he needs to choose wisely.