|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|
Doc Rivers said it: “We’re struggling” without Kevin Garnett on the court.
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.”
Somewhere, the Celtics hope, guys like Jeff Green are listening, or this relationship just isn’t going to work.
|Paul Pierce explains why Celtics ‘really disturbing’ transition D is his biggest worry||at 9:54 am ET|
Paul Pierce has seen a lot since his entrance into the NBA in 1998. For that reason, the Celtics captain says he’s ready to be very patient with this team, even after the C’s lost their third game in five tries to open the season Friday night at TD Garden. Pierce scored a team-high 24 points but it wasn’t enough as the Sixers pulled out a 106-100 win that dropped Boston to 2-3 on the season with road games Saturday in Milwaukee and Monday in Chicago.
“I’m very patient,” Pierce said. “I understand that it’s a process. We’re only five games in. We’re still building. Even though we lost today, we’re down, there are some positive things that can come from that. And so, it’s still a long season. We have to get some things together. Maybe a road trip like this one, against two pretty good teams can solve it. We’ll see.
“I’ve been a patient person for the most part. The thing is you just have to talk it out. Young teams get frustrated with one another; they start pointing fingers. You can’t do that. That’s a losing team, that’s losing genetics. We don’t have that in here. We are a team that is just going to try and solve it by talking to one another, trying to figure out what we need to do to get better and build from there.”
Pierce says all the talk about the bench is overrated since it’s the first unit that need to play better in transition on both ends.
“It’s just that we have to put the time in at practice figuring out the second unit but that’s going to come,” Pierce said. “Our identity is going to be a defensive team first. We have the talent offensively where we think it will come together. We have to do a better job sharing the ball, making the extra passes but the main concern is the transition defense and rebounding the ball.”
The Celtics were beaten badly again in transition Friday night. Two stats prove his point. They were outscored 26-9 on fast break point – a stat Doc Rivers said was actually much worse than the number – and Philly beat up Boston in the paint 56-38, many coming on layups in transition.
“When I look at this game if I had to point out one thing that’s a major concern for us, and has been for these last five games, it’s probably our transition defense,” Pierce said. “That’s the No. 1 thing right now. When you look up and we’re playing well half-court wise, and then you give teams that many layups in transition, it’s really disturbing so that’s one thing we have to look at the film, address that. If we can do a better a job of getting back on defense, limit those easy opportunities, then we give ourselves a better chance.
“Getting back, talking, matching up with the nearest guy, loading up to the ball, helping one another. Just basically when the [shot] goes up, you either go get the rebound or get back. It’s one of the two things. For the most part, it has to come from the guys on the perimeter, we have to do a better job of getting back from the 1, 2 and the 3-positions, the point guard, the 2-guard and myself. Our big men are crashing for offensive rebounds. If they’re not, they have to get back also.”
|Doc Rivers has had it with the lineup questions||at 2:11 am ET|
It wasn’t exactly what you would’ve expected after his team lost to the Sixers, 106-100. Doc RIvers was answering questions about what went wrong and toward the end of his five minute session with reporters decided to go off on a tangent about something that was really bugging him.
After the 106-100 loss to the Sixers Friday, Rivers was reminded that before the game he mentioned he might tweak the lineup when the team heads to Milwaukee and Chicago for games Saturday and Monday nights.
“I don’t know,” Rivers said. “We’ll see. We just finished this game so I’m not thinking about it [yet]. I will say this guys, this lineup stuff you talk about, it lasts for four minutes. Then we switch the lineup [with substitutions]. It’s the whole game that matters. I could start everybody on our bench [Saturday in Milwaukee]. You think it’s going to matter at the end of the game? Really, that’s the way I think. Clearly, you guys don’t think that’s way but that’s how I think.”
Rivers started the first two games with a lineup of Rajon Rondo, Courtney Lee, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Brandon Bass. In the next three games, including Friday against the Sixers, he started Jared Sullinger in place of Bass.
“I don’t think who starts matters,” Rivers continued. “It’s who plays well, who plays the most minutes. That’s what we’re focused on. I don’t think a guy in our locker room gives a flying crap about who’s starting.
“You have to find the right group. I think we have that. We’re just not playing well. The thing that’s hurting us right now is when Kevin is going off the floor. It happened again tonight. I thought in the second half it was better. Chris Wilcox gave us a lift. But right now, if y’all want to focus on something, that’s what you should focus on, is what are we going to do when Kevin goes off the floor in the first half. Every time we do it, and we have to do it, we’re struggling.
“And that’s on me. I have to figure that out because he’s not going to be on the floor. He’s coming out and he’s coming out at an exact time. We have to figure out something to make us click, and I think it’s on both ends. I don’t think it’s just our defense going down. I think our offense really struggles when he goes out. We have to do something about it.”
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|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||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.
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