Blakely: How Celts can close out Hawks

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Blakely: How Celts can close out Hawks

ATLANTA At the very end of Ray Allen's post-game media scrum Tuesday night, he left these chewable crumbs that we plan to feast off of today.

"We have to go back to the drawing board," he said.

And so we will.

There's not much value in spending all our time on what went wrong in Boston's 87-86 Game 5 loss. Rather than do that, we'll use what we've learned from the entire series to this point as a learning tool and move forward.

Here we'll highlight three things the C's can do that should put this series to bed Thursday night.

STAY HUNGRY

The Celtics have proven repeatedly to be a team that doesn't handle prosperity well. It seems the role of favorite, even if it's just for one game, is one that's too difficult for them to handle at times.

In Game 5, Boston played for long stretches like a team that wasn't in a must-win situation. That is not the case anymore.

A loss in Game 6 and the C's will find themselves on the verge of what would be one of the greatest playoff collapses in franchise history.

The best way to approach Game 6 for the C's is to have a Game 7 mentality. Back in 2008, Boston annihilated the Hawks in their Game 7 at the Garden.

Even though last night the Hawks found a way to stay alive for another game, their Game 5 win wasn't exactly the kind of victory that's all of a sudden going to bring back their confidence that they can win this series.

At the very least though, the Hawks feel they can compete.

Part of the C's job -- and they need to do it in the first quarter -- is to break the Hawks' spirit with a major run and show no signs of letting up in the second or third quarter.

In other words, whip out the Game 4 plan and do it again.

PAGING RYAN HOLLINS

The Celtics need to play Ryan Hollins more.

I can't believe what I just typed, so let me do it again just to make sure this isn't some type of out-of-body, crazy dream thing going on.

The Celtics need to play Ryan Hollins more.

It still feels kind of weird, but it's the truth.

Hollins is giving the Celtics so much more in this series than Greg Stiemsa, it's not even really a debatable topic who should play more.

Stiemsma has earned the right to play because of what he has done in the regular season. But this is the playoffs. The regular season means diddly-squat right now.

Doc Rivers has to play the guys who are making plays. And Hollins -- no matter how out of control or wild he seems at times -- is making lots of plays.

In the Game 5 loss, he had a plusminus ratio of plus-6. Only Mickael Pietrus (plus-11) and Kevin Garnett (plus-17) were better.

He's hustling for loose balls. He's getting under the skin of Hawks players. He's catching alley-oop dunks from Rajon Rondo.

And he is . . . rebounding.

With Hollins, the good play that the C's are getting from him, could dry up at anytime so it's important that they ride this out for as long as they can -- even if it means sitting Stiemsma.

"The one thing you know when Ryan comes into the game, something's gonna happen," said C's coach Doc Rivers. "It's gonna be good or bad, but something's gonna happen."

LESS IS MORE FOR RONDO

While it's great to see Rajon Rondo being such a willing participant in Boston's efforts to score more points, the numbers show that more shots from Rondo doesn't necessarily make the Celtics a better team.

Consider this: In this playoff series, Rondo has taken 10 or more shots in the four games he played (he missed Game 2 while serving a suspension for making contact with official Marc Davis near the end of Game 1).

In those games, the Celtics are 2-2.

During the regular season, Boston was 12-13 in games in which he took 10 or more shots. One of the overlooked aspects of his recent run of double-doubles has been the fact that many of them have come on nights when Rondo was not a particularly efficient shooter.

In Boston's 87-86 Game 5 loss, he made some incredible plays both shooting the ball and as passer. But he also missed some easy ones, too, which accounted for him scoring 13 points while needing to take 17 shots to do so.

Every night, Rondo has to find that balance between when to search for his shot, and when to continue to find his teammates. For most of this season, he's done a really good job of doing so.

But for the C's to close out this series on Thursday, him finding that happy medium would make the process a whole lot smoother.

The '86 Celtics Interviews podcast (Ep.8): Dan Shaughnessy

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The '86 Celtics Interviews podcast (Ep.8): Dan Shaughnessy

Boston Globe columnist, and former Celtics beat writer, Dan Shaughnessy sits down with CSN for an extended discussion on "The '86 Celtics Interviews" podcast. Shaughnessy talks about the greatness of that team and the players' surprising reaction when they found out he was moving from the Celtics to the Red Sox beat.

Starter, bench or DNP: Zeller ready for any role with Celtics

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Starter, bench or DNP: Zeller ready for any role with Celtics

Every weekday until Sept. 7, we'll take a look at each player at the Celtics roster: Their strengths and their weaknesses, their ceiling and their floor. We continue today with Tyler Zeller. For a look at the other profiles, click here.

BOSTON – The NBA is a league full of highs and lows for players.

There are few who understand this as well as Tyler Zeller, a player who has gone from starting to being a backup to not playing at all – at times in the same week.

And through it all, you never heard him gripe about it publicly or privately to teammates.

It’s among the many reasons you constantly hear his teammates talk about how much they respect the way he has handled some extremely difficult situations.

This past season was especially tough for him considering he was heading into free agency and looking to do all he could to not just win, but showcase what he could do as player.

There were many nights when Zeller didn’t have that opportunity, but he understood.

The Celtics have been and will continue to be a team that’s about finding ways to win and on many nights coach Brad Stevens decided to go in a direction that didn’t include Zeller playing.

As the summer dragged on and the Celtics’ joined the handful of teams that came up short in landing Kevin Durant, Zeller’s return became more likely.

And Zeller’s patience was rewarded with a two-year, $16 million contract with the second year of the deal being a team option.

Now that he’s back in the fold, what’s next?

The ceiling for Zeller: Part-time starter

It may not happen on opening night and it may not happen in the first week, or even first month, of the season.

But at some point, Tyler Zeller will be in the Celtics’ starting lineup.

And when he’s there, he’ll do a lot of good things that he has proven he’s capable of doing.

When it comes to running the floor in transition, Zeller has distinguished himself as one of the Celtics best big men.

The Celtics are big on playing with space and pace and there are few 7-footers who can run the floor as well as Zeller.

In fact, his PACE (number of possessions per 48 minutes) last season was 101.93 which was tops among all Celtics frontcourt players and second overall to guard Marcus Smart (102.46).

It’ll get the Celtics a few easy buckets here and there, but it won’t score enough points with the coaching staff to keep a starting job, which would then relegate him back to being one of the team’s frontcourt reserves.

Still, Zeller is a luxury that few teams have: a player who won’t get (overly) bent out of shape even if his minutes resemble this.

The floor for Zeller: On the roster

Zeller has spent the bulk of his NBA career as a back-to-the-basket center, but showed more desire to score more from the perimeter last season, which is one of the reasons why he shot a career-low 47.6 percent from the field.

He’s trying to expand his game because of the direction that the NBA is going with big men who need to be able to score further away from the basket in addition to providing a presence around the rim.

While Zeller has decent mechanics on his perimeter shot, it’s clear that he’s not yet totally comfortable being a “stretch big.”

According to NBA.com/stats, Zeller shot 30.9 percent from the field last season on wide open shot attempts from at least 10 feet away.

With the addition of Al Horford and the return of Amir Johnson as well as Kelly Olynyk, Boston has a nice group of stretch centers they can put on the floor. And let’s not forget about Jonas Jerebko, who closed out the playoffs as a starter for Boston.

Minutes will once again be hard to come by for Zeller with any kind of consistency.

In fact, there’s a very good chance that he will have some games in which he doesn’t play (coaches decision) at all.

And depending on injuries, he may have to be inactive at times just to ensure Boston has depth on the perimeter.

Whether he’s starting, coming off the bench or not suited up at all, Zeller is an important part of this Celtics squad. Above all else, he provides depth, which continues to be one of the hallmarks for this franchise under Stevens.