Celts 'point' to Garnett for solutions
NEW YORK - Celtics coach Doc Rivers probably had no idea of how his words would take form Saturday after saying, "I've never gone into any game or series without a point guard on the team."
No disrespect to Avery Bradley, who is indeed more comfortable playing off the ball, but the absence of Rajon Rondo was bound to start hurting the C's the most once the playoffs began.
It was never more apparent than down the stretch of Saturday's Game 1 playoff loss to the New York Knicks. The Celtics turned the ball over seven times in the last 5:30, and generally stumbled over their own bad decision-making.
This is the same team that actually played its best basketball of the season in the two weeks following Rondo's departure. That was made possible because of the surrogate playmaking of Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, and an emphasis on ball movement.
Pierce now believes there is a road back to that efficiency, and it has to do with how the Celtics completely botched the way they utilized Garnett on Saturday.
"We've got to play through Kevin a lot more," Pierce said Sunday at the team hotel. "He's one of our best passers. I mean he's one of the most unselfish players, so we have to do a better job of getting him the ball, a lot more than he got it yesterday.
"Doc said he wants Kevin to be aggressive, he wants him to take 20 shots, but even when we run plays for Kevin, he's so responsible that he's going to find the open man and be responsible with the ball. He usually ends up getting four or five assists. So we have to do a better job of involving him because he's good at doing a lot of playmaking duties."
Garnett's diminished role was evident in the fact he seemingly never got a good look at the basket Saturday. He shot 4-for-12, and though he had four assists, nothing came easily offensively for his team.
Though his post passing can work wonders in the absence of Rondo, Garnett's teammates also have to give him the proper space. That didn't happen.
Rivers was careful not to hang responsibility on Bradley, who simply fell victim to the same bad decision-making as his teammates.
The Celtics ultimately threw the ball away 20 times, including six each by Pierce and Green. Pierce has historically been prone to the occasional turnover spree.
"We made bad decisions," Rivers said. "It wasn't Avery, only. Paul had six turnovers and Jeff had six. That part didn't play out. Avery could have made some better decisions and so could everybody else.
"But we made some unbelievable decisions with the ball. A lot of it we just became impatient. Three or four post passes to Kevin were just impatience, instead of just advancing the pass. It was three or four guys, not just the point guard. They saw Kevin and wanted to get it to him so bad, almost. One of them was a crosscourt post pass which I don't think I've ever seen, and the other was a pass from beyond halfcourt to the post. Those are passes we can't make.
"But that's why the film is good. They'll see that. They'll see the wing guys who were open. We have to do a better job of that, because we have to get Kevin in the right spots."
Garnett is always reluctant to discuss his offensive role, but he remains confident in the team's ability to make the right decisions.
"Well, sharing the ball is one thing that's consistent throughout," he said. "But our decision-makers are guys who've been there a long time. Obviously, without Rondo who can obviously see plays before they happen (things get tougher).
"I mean we've survived up until this point. Not to say Avery's good or bad or nothing like that, but we do due diligence with him by helping him with some of the decision-making. Being consistent with our leadership, you know, is important. It's not like we're going to get up to the playoffs and all of a sudden we forget. We've been kind of like this since Rondo went down. So it's the same conditions we've already had."
Garnett believes that his own shots will come.
"Well, I thought from an offensive standpoint I didn't have a lot of different opportunities," he said. "I should have had shots and stuff. Some went down; some didn't. But I try not to let that predicate my energy or level of play. So I tried to (focus on) ball movement. I thought I moved the ball very well (and) got other guys open. My game surely can be a little more aggressive, obviously, but consistent with my overall game."