At Celtics practice Thursday, Doc Rivers, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett all had thoughts on what had to happen at the TD Garden tonight to keep the Celtics from falling into a nigh-insurmountable 0-3 hole. Interestingly enough, some of the more popular first blush solutions (“More Shavlik” “More Terrence”) didn’t appear to be on their radar at all. If anything, Rivers seems focused on improving execution of the same offensive stuff the C’s ran in New York. Here’s a quick roundup of the sound from Waltham and the implications for tonight’s game.
Rivers (on the offense): “We’ve got stops in the first half and it’s [led to transition offense]. When you look at the two, it’s night and day. We’ve gotten a lot of early baskets, transition baskets. In the second half, we haven’t had those.”
CH: With a roster devoid of consistent shot creators (even Pierce falls short of that designation at this point in his career) Rivers is understandably focused on the easy buckets the Celtics can get off the back of their defense. The Celtics gave up 32 points in the third quarter of game two, which, in Doc’s mind was as damaging as anything that went wrong in the halfcourt offense. It’s worth noting that Pierce and Garnett both made reference to this same talking point. Expect the C’s to aggressively seek out early-clock offense off defensive stops.
Garnett (when asked about his health): “We’re a confident group.
Garnett (when pressed for specifics about HIS health): “We’re a confident group.”
CH: Sometime after the playoffs end, the truth will leak out from Celtics, Inc. We’ll inevitably learn the full extent of Garnett’s injuries and what he fought through. Are they much worse than have been reported this week? Perhaps not. But that’s cold comfort considering the Celtics require him (and Pierce) to carry burdens larger than they did in 2008. Despite being five years older. Ugh. I don’t even want to talk about this.
Garnett (on the need to up Boston’s intensity to New York’s level): “We have to.”
CH: Brendan was on this after game one, where he flagged a few instances where the Celtics simply didn’t play with enough fire (or, as Doc might prefer to call it: force). This is more true on the offensive end of the floor than the defensive end but it’s a reminder of how far we’ve strayed from the days when the Celtics were nasty bullies who roughed up teams around the league.
However, facing near-elimination, Pierce and Garnett should come out with the kind of hunger that’s characterized their best work (if not always their best performances) and we know Jeff Green has the ability to access his inner snarl, if only for brief stretches. Those three will set the tempo for the rest of the roster and the hope is that their return to the TD Garden and a city they haven’t seen since before the marathon bombings will get the best out of the role-players, who’ve mostly played around the bottom of their capabilities through two games.
Pierce (on the burdens of initiating the offense, scoring, defending smaller players and Carmelo Anthony): “That all comes with the job. I wouldn’t be asked if I wasn’t capable.”
CH: Expect no changes to Pierce’s job duties Friday night.
Pierce (on attacking a smaller defender): “We got to do a better job of taking advantage of it. The Knicks are doing a good job sending two or three guys and trapping, clogging up the lane and it’s working for them right now.”
Rivers (on the one thing he wants the Celtics to do better): “Get from the first option to the second option to the third option. Right now we are a first option team, then we stand around and watch.”
CH: Pierce has made some bad reads on New York’s hard double teams and he’s been stripped too many times as a result but as we’ve detailed this week, the faults on those possessions lie with the entire team. The Celtics have no reliable three-point threats, which means stacking the arc doesn’t force the kind of spacing that allows Pierce to move. Doc has to eat that one. And, to Doc’s point above, the players on the floor have to create passing lanes or move off-ball to give Pierce a target for a pass. The Celtics have been brutally inefficient on that last front and, assuming they continue to force-feed Pierce, it could be the major variable that defines Boston’s offensive success this weekend.
Rivers (on the idea Jeff Green is getting the same numbers of shots before and after halftime): “It’s not the same shots. Not even close. It’s ISOs. It’s clogged. It’s standing around. His second half shots — and it’s not because of him — have been pretty much awful. And it’s because of the way we’ve played. We have to create space for Jeff Green.”
CH: This falls right in line with everything noted above, with the added notion that Green is not a great face-up isolation player because he doesn’t have an explosive first step. But if the Celtics can get him in motion in the halfcourt (on reversals and handoffs and other actions where he can get one step on his defender) Green can close on the rim in two steps.