The Boston Celtics had a bad loss last night. There is really no other way to put it. You could say they “let this one get away” but the Cavs never really seemed out of it. Even when the Celtics were up 11 in the fourth quarter, there was this feeling that the Cavs weren’t really out of it. I wonder when coach Doc Rivers’ had his “What the…” moment. I mean, his second “What the…?” moment. The one that came in the fourth quarter. His first one actually arrived pregame.
In a moment of preemptive levity, Rivers met with the media before the tip and Bill Doyle of the Worcester Telegram and Gazette asked him about what it was like being on TV while attending Duke games. If you’re a fan of college basketball, specifically the Dukies, then you suck (NSFW) and know that Doc’s son Austin is a freshman combo guard. Doc goes to as many games as he can because he’s one of the best Dads ever and when he’s at Cameron, the cameras find him. So when asked, here was Doc’s response:
For the record I, unlike many of those around me, laughed for an appropriate length of time.
Doc’s second “What the…?” moment came in the fourth quarter when he saw his team’s 11 point lead dissipate into one of the worst losses of the season. In case you missed it, Hayes cut together the string of fourth quarter possessions in his Highlight post. I’ll give you a minute to watch it…. almost done?…okay, I’ll give you another 30 seconds…okay, done. As you can see, the Celtics really squirted this one away.
It may have looked like Doc’s moment came when Paul Pierce did not get the foul call when his man jumped into him on a jumper attempt because Doc went ballistic (for good reason too. Did anyone see a difference between Pierce’s move and the foul call on Brandon Bass for jumping into Antawn Jamison?). But really, it came a few minutes after that when he realized he failed to reintegrate his starters for the stretch.
It wasn’t until just under four minutes that Rivers replaced E’Twaun Moore, Sasha Pavlovic, and Chris Wilcox/Greg Stiemsma with Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Avery Bradley. It’s not hard to see why Rivers left his bench in so long. The C’s were rolling in the fourth and the bench was playing well (I mean, Pav DUNKED THE BALL!). That said, it’s pretty obvious that Rivers would have been better served by slowly rotating in his starters. Who does he think his team is, the San Antonio Spurs? As soon as there were five minutes to go in the game, it seems like Rivers should have put KG back in the game. Then follow that up with Pierce a minutes later. So much of this game is based on rhythm and the C’s starters were all out of sorts when that mass substitution happened.
It’s really easy to second guess Doc on this after knowing how the game finished. It’s also funny to think that Rivers is usually getting killed for over-extending his starters and playing them too many minutes. It’s fair to say that if Doc left KG and Pierce in the game with an 11 point lead late in the fourth, we’d be reading about what a bone-head move it was to play them the extra minutes.
This is the first time in a long time where Doc has a bench unit he can actually trust (does he have a choice?). The Celtics’ are so close to really hammering down some consistent rotations and once they do, I don’t think there will be too many games like this one.