• Adrian Wojnarowski at Yahoo! weighs in with a deep, deep appreciation of Doc Rivers’ strategy of limiting the Big Three’s minutes during the regular season, focusing on the playoffs and preaching all season that the Celtics could still win the title.
On keeping Pierce and KG on the bench longer than usual even as things fell apart on the court:
As Garnett and Pierce glared into space, Rivers would hear his assistant Tom Thibodeau and trainer Ed Lacerte bark out the minutes they had played, and Rivers refused to let his thirtysomething stars exhaust their prescribed limits.
On Doc’s positive attitude:
Rivers would march into the locker room and insist, “We’re not changing anything.” Over and over, Rivers would tell them they were the best defensive team in the NBA. He would tell them they still had the core of the ’08 champions, and no one had ever beaten them when the starting five had been together…
Rivers always talked about it, always told them, “I like this team guys.” They loved him for it, too. Deep down, they never lost sight of the fact Rivers always fought for them, that he never stopped selling the locker room on the belief that when together, when whole, they were still champions.
“He stuck to the script the whole time,” Allen said. “There may have been a point when we were wavering, but … he believed in us.”
I said it in this Saturday Notebook two weeks ago: Doc Rivers and his outstanding staff have squeezed every last bit out of the Celtics since KG and Ray Allen arrived here.
• Stan Van Gundy was gracious in defeat (via Chris Sheridan at ESPN.com):
“If you come off the two series they just had, I mean they beat two very good teams, and they made us look like we weren’t very good teams, OK?” Van Gundy said. “Cleveland was upset with the way they played, and we’re certainly upset with the way we played. But when you go through two series like that, I think you have to be fair and say a lot of it had to do with them, and they are playing very, very well right now.”
• Ah, but Stan Van couldn’t leave Boston without getting in one little childish gripe, this one about the C’s veterans sometimes not showing up at press conferences after losses. After learning Pierce and Ray Allen were on the way to the podium last night, SVG said this, according to the Herald:
“What, they come to the podium when they win?” the coach cracked.
You just keep on being you, Stan. I look forward to your next complaint session about Orlando not getting enough respect or national TV games or the prime Christmas night slot or whatever else you’ve got lined up for us once the schedule comes out.
• Doc Rivers had a simple explanation for the team’s more efficient offensive performance on Friday (via Steve Buckley in the Herald):
“Yeah, we ran our stuff,” said Rivers. “In Game 4 and 5 we became an iso (isolation) basketball team. We had zero movement. And today in our shootaround before the game, it was probably the longest we’ve ever gone on offense. All I kept stressing is the ball does not need to touch the floor; it needs to touch more hands. It has to move. Orlando’s too good defensively to play iso basketball.”
“My favorite moment of the game was Paul in the timeout. He said, ‘Hey, I’m just cutting for my teammates tonight.’ And that’s Paul Pierce saying that. That was a great moment.”
Paul Pierce played a game last night that was every bit as good—if not quite as spectacular or weighty—as his legendary Game 7 performance against the Cavaliers in 2008.
I’ve asked it once already today and I’ll ask it again: Where all of those people—friends, diehards, casual fans—who have spent the last 12 years telling me Paul Pierce is overrated or inefficient or whatever else? Where are you today?
• Doc is concerned about Rasheed Wallace’s back, the Herald reports:
”Neither Rasheed or (Glen Davis, concussion) was in great shape tonight. You could see that.
“Rasheed could not move. He looked old tonight because of his back. You could see him in pain, and I said thank you for giving me the minutes you gave me. That’s our concern, but we have time, so I think by Thursday (in Game 1 of the NBA Finals) we’ll be good.”
• Also at ESPN.com, John Hollinger discusses the future of the Magic, who will look very similar next season barring a trade. Orlando has about $80 million in salary committed next season, though Vince Carter’s contract is semi-expiring, since the final year of his deal (2012) is only partially guaranteed, via ShamSports.
Hollinger thinks the Magic might try and package some of their front court assets (Brandon Bass and Ryan Anderson, for instance, both have value around the league) in return for a superior perimeter player:
I think the weakness with Orlando is obvious, and it’s what the Celtics and Lakers showed in last year’s playoffs and Boston did again this year — when the opponent has a player who can single-cover Dwight Howard, the rest of Orlando’s offense sinks in the muck.
What the Magic need is a perimeter player who can be a go-to offensive force in his own right. They thought they were getting that type of player in Vince Carter, but he came about two years too late.
• As for Carter, this playoff season represents another lost chance to prove he belongs in the Hall of Fame. His overall playoff numbers (per game):
15.5 points, 2.3 assists (the same number as Rashard Freaking Lewis!), 40.2 percent shooting, 23.5 percent from three.
13.7 points per game, 2.2 assists, 3.8 rebounds (fewer than Jameer Nelson!), 36.7 percent shooting, 21.1 percent from three and two clanked foul shots in Game 2 that could have swung this series.
Carter’s inability to rise to the occasion is among the biggest stories of Orlando’s conference finals loss, and a nice run that kept the Magic afloat in the 2nd quarter last night barely makes a dent in the larger narrative of Carter’s failure.
Vince Carter was and is an incredible athlete, and he seems like a wonderful person. Next season, he’ll eclipse the 20,000 point mark (regular-season points only), an accomplishment that has almost guaranteed entry into the Hall of Fame. Of all the Hall-eligible players who have hit the 20K mark, only three—Artis Gilmore, Mitch Richmond and Tom Chambers—are not in the Hall, and the members of the 20,000 club who are active or retired too recently to be Hall-eligible are all shoo-ins.
Not Carter. I’m sorry, but at this moment, Vince Carter is not a Hall of Fame player. If he blows up in the playoffs next season for Orlando or some other team, we can talk. But as of right now, he joins Richmond, Chambers and Gilmore (the latter of whom should be a sure-fire HOF-er) outside Springfield.
• Count the Bulls among the teams interested in hiring Tom Thibodeau, according to Mike McGraw of the Daily Herald in Chicago. Time to come to grips with it: Thibs will be a head coach next season if he’d like to be. The only question is where, and whether a promotion in Boston (with Doc retiring/stepping down) is even a possibility.
• Nate Robinson, after the game (via the Herald’s Steve Buckley):
“I’m definitely watching ‘SportsCenter’ when I get home.”
Let’s hope Nate hitting a big shot isn’t such an unusual thing that he makes a point to watch SportsCenter each time it happens
• Chris Forsberg noticed something in the C’s locker room after the game:
On the whiteboard inside the Celtics’ locker room, a big No. 4 was written in the upper right-hand corner. It likely signified the number of wins Boston need to win the NBA title. But it might as well have been an homage to Robinson, who wears No. 4.
And Forserg reports that Robinson tried his best to remain confident that, just as Doc had said on a near-daily basis, he would be a key factor in a big playoff win:
“I just kept listening; I heard [Rivers] say it to the media, and heard him say it to me,” Robinson said. “I just kept waiting, waiting patiently. Games were chipping away, and I’m thinking, ‘When’s it going to happen?’
Forsberg also notes that playing Nate extended minutes early wasn’t a snap response to the hard fall Rajon Rondo took:
Before Friday’s game, Rivers had already decided the Celtics would give extended minutes to Robinson based on the defensive intensity he showed during Game 5.
I’ve picked on Robinson’s defense a lot. I’ve said he does not understand how to play effective team defense, that he too often gambles irresponsibly in a way that leaves his man open, forces rotations or results in him committing a needless foul. Last night, Nate proved he does understand how to play effective team defense; he just hasn’t been defending that way often enough
Hopefully last night was a turning point. Because when Robinson focuses, he is a good enough defender to give smaller point guards (Steve Nash, Jordan Farmar?) and so-so ones (Derek Fisher) problems. When he doesn’t focus, he’s a defensive liability that should remain on the bench.
What’s it gonna be, Nate?
• The C’s needed Robinson’s production badly in the 2nd quarter. The rest of the team scored just 11 points 4-of-15 during the 8:45 Nate played in the 2nd quarter; Robinson scored 10 points on 4-of-7 shooting in that stretch, according to ESPN Stats and Information.
• Doc, on KG’s bizarre karate chop on Dwight Howard, which, frankly, was one of the dumbest things I’ve ever seen an NBA player do on the court and in plain view of an official (via the Herald):
“Yeah, the composure was great,” said Rivers. “You know, Kevin kind of was a little amped to begin the game. He turned into Bruce Lee there for a minute with the karate chops. I don’t know what that was about.”
• Pierce was never worried about the C’s being the first NBA team ever to lose a series after going up 3-0, according to the Globe:
“I never think negatively — about losing, about being up 3-0 and something tragic happening,’’ Pierce said. “This is not hockey, this is basketball. It’ll happen one day [in the NBA]; I’m just glad we could prolong it one more year.’’
• The captain also had a fun pratfall in the locker room, according to that same Globe story:
About the only thing that Pierce misfired on last night was knocking over a tray of food in a very crowded postgame locker room, near the Eastern Conference trophy, which sat on a table, being ignored. He shrugged it off.
“I’m delirious,’’ Pierce said. “I need some rest.’’
• J.J. Redick and Shelden Williams, former Duke teammates, aren’t exactly buddies, according to this Globe piece.
Side note: Redick is a restricted free agent after this season, and John Hollinger, in that piece I linked to above, speculates that some team/s might offer Redick the full mid-level exception. Is he worth it? And for a team like the C’s, whose shooting guards and swing men are either free agents (Ray Allen, Nate Robinson, Tony Allen, Marquis Daniels) or aging and in need of help (Paul Pierce), does Redick merit a full mid-level offer? And if the C’s made that move, would Orlando match just to keep Redick away from a rival?
Questions to ponder….in about three weeks.
For now, we’ve got bigger things to think about.