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Game 3: Execute or Perish

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.

  • swissflix

    Well, they were down 2 against Miami last year, so i might be a bit too negative. BUT: if you want to avoid another meltdown in the second half / 3rd quarter, you have to avoid players getting tired.
    Which means you have to sub, which means you have to rotate and trust players. of course, now it is too late to experiment. I would have really like to see TWill getting some minutes towards the end of the first and second quarters. Do not understand why this is not happening.

    • janos

      is not a proper until is road win so are good still but need more score this guys

  • IBleedGreen

    I just have a feeling this is going to be KG's final season…

    • CG12

      I am feeling the same way. He is not able to control a game like he used to. And it also seems like he must play in constant pain. That has to get really tiresome after a while. It isn't like he is going to heal up and suddenly be injured free next season. It doesn't work that way for guys that age with that many minutes on the floor under their belt. I love KG, and would hate to see him go out a broken-down wreck.

      • hydrofluoric

        Well, that's the luck of the dice with KG. He was phenomenally healthy in 2008 and then got hurt in 2009 and stayed hurt for 2 years after that… in 2012 he FINALLY got healthy again and produced one brilliant stretch, but now it's back to ailing.

      • elroz

        Well, he might not have another outlet besides basketball, and he can still play. Next season they could just use him 24 min a game at max, with Sully, Bass, and whoever else garnering the minutes. KG can play and stay durable at 22-24 min a game next season. This season he averaged 30.

        • fabzzz

          Well said. That really is the crux of it. And the cause for this crux? The gaping hole that has been beside the rim ever since Perk left. Not that I want Perk back or anything – I just want SOMEBODY.

  • janos

    ok but is not time talk to my think is time action lets go guys

  • Josh_5

    This just in: Russell Westbrook tore his meniscus and may miss the rest of the playoffs. Wow, could this season be any more f*cking gift-wrapped for the Heat?! No Kobe, Rose, Rondo or Westbrook?!

    • elroz

      yes disgusting… but Miami was the favorite anyhow. I am cheering for Chicago – if they can wrap up Brooklyn, they can give the Heat some difficult, grinding games. Then, who knows – might be the NYK and Heat in the EFC. Sorry to say, but I will be cheering on the NYK.

    • GymRat

      What's worse is it happened on a punk play when Beverly rushed him after he had already called time out and tried to steal the ball…knocking knees with him. What a terrible season. I hate when it's injuries and not on court play that determines the title.

      • GymRat

        Man. Just read the article to confirm that was the play. I'm so angry. I watched that game and Beverly (a scrub from the European leagues) was physcially harrasing Westbrook all night trying to get under his skin…and then makes a cheap play and dramatically changes the entire landscape of the NBA.

        They didn't even call a foul or a tech despite Westbrook being thrown to the ground. Grrrrr.

        Thanks Beverly. You'll be remembered for sure now…as the punk who ruined the 2013 playoffs trying to steal a game and make a name for yourself.