The Day After: Three adjustments for Celtics after Game 2 loss

The Day After: Three adjustments for Celtics after Game 2 loss
April 24, 2013, 10:00 am
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NEW YORK — The mission at this point is pretty clear for the Celtics: Win a game, by any means necessary.

Down 2-0 with the next two games at home presents both the promise of improved odds for a team in desperate need of more than a wink-wink from Lady Luck, and the challenge of trying to de-rail the momentum of the Knicks.

In the coming days, there will be plenty of talk of adjustments Boston needs to make this series just that -- a series.

And that kind of chatter is at its peak today, the Day After.

After seeing the Celtics drop two in a row on the New York Knicks' home turf, Boston will need more than just a change of scenery to turn around their losing ways.

The "5-5-5" Plan: Playoff Edition

This season has been as unconventional as any Doc Rivers has had in Boston, and the need to continue on the unconventional route is apparent this postseason.

He tried that by going with a second unit of three players that included no one taller than 6-foot-5. They didn't play much, and in the minutes Boston's three backups were on the floor, they were mostly ineffective.

Common sense tells Rivers and any coach for that matter, that more Kevin Garnett is an across-the-board good thing.

While there's a ton of truth in that, reverting back to a modified "5-5-5" plan of minutes restrictions for Garnett -- at least for the first half of games -- may not be a bad idea.

For starters, it gets backups like Chris Wilcox and Shavlik Randolph in roles similar to what they had in the regular season, which might actually help the C's second unit give become more productive. Plus, as we've seen throughout the course of the season, bench players tend to play their best at home.

In addition, giving Garnett regular rest might avoid the foul troubles that plagued him in Game 2.

Maybe even more important, it provides Boston a much better chance of having at least one player among their newest Big Three -- Garnett, Paul Pierce and Jeff Green -- to be fresh down the stretch.

Looking back at Boston's Game 1 and 2 losses, both Green (in Game 1) and Pierce (in Game 2) were worn down by game's end, while Garnett's foul trouble limited his impact in Game 2 and he just didn't get enough good looks in the C's Game 1 loss.

Yes, sitting Garnett for a couple more minutes is risky. But down 2-0 with their entire season riding on Game 3, there should be nothing -- NOTHING -- considered off limits as far as options to consider at this point.

Second half full of problems

Nothing has been easy for Boston in this series, but the second half has been a first-rate problem.

While it's clear that there have been execution issues in the second half of both Games 1 and 2, Boston's problems in the second half go much deeper than the Xs and Os.

New York has wanted to win more than Boston. It's that simple.

So much of the C's problems stem from a lack of overall effort, intensity and purposeful play. There is nothing Rivers can say or do that can change that trend. Celtics players have to man up and take on the challenge that the Knicks have presented to them in the second half of games.

Celtics guard Jordan Crawford grew up on the west side of Detroit, a part of the world not exactly lined with picket fences and neatly-manicured lawns sprawling about town. It produces a certain teflon-like mindset to adversity, the kind of thinking the Celtics need a lot more of right now.

"It's how we made it in our city," Crawford told recently. "When you doubt us, we go harder."

If only more of his teammates felt that way.

For better and worse, Green stands out

When you talk about Boston's second-half disappearing act in Games 1 and 2, it's hard to quickly think of Jeff Green. In each of the C's first two games, Green's play in the second half has been significantly worse than his play in the first.

Of course Green is by no means alone in this, but when you drop 20 points in the first half and score just six in the second, as Green did in Game 1, you stand out. When you hold your own defensively against Carmelo Anthony in the first half, and get lit up in the second half, you stand out.

No one expects Green to get 20 points every game, let alone in one half. But there have to be certain things the Celtics can count on every night beyond points because they know Green can be a versatile talent.

Anthony led the league in scoring, so of course he's going to be a tough cover for any player. No one expects Green to shut him down, but he has to keep the pressure on the Knicks defensively -- Anthony included -- which means getting out in transition and attacking them off the dribble.

The best way to do that is to find minutes for Green to be on the floor without Garnett.

It wasn't just a coincidence that Green's best scoring games during the regular season came with Garnett out either due to injury or to rest for the playoffs. In those games, Green did what he does best -he got out and ran -- and to his teammates' credit, they did the smart thing and got out of his way.

There are few players Green's size in in the NBA that are as good as Green when it comes to attacking the rim in transition. Boston knows that, but unfortunately so do most teams.

Getting Green in situations where he can utilize this strength isn't easy, but the Celtics have to find a way to help bolster what has been an anemic offense in the playoffs.

The C's have yet to crack the 80-point plateau after two games. Whatever they can do to get a few more points, has to be explored. Because what's happening now with the offense is clearly not working.

Not for Green, and certainly not for the Celtics.