Game 5: Inside the Box Score


Game 5: Inside the Box Score

When Kevin Garnett sits down at the podium for a post-game press conference on the night's when he does sit at the podium he's often preoccupied.

Not by the questions blasting out from the media, the answers being given by his teammate, the blinding lights of the cameras or the screaming voices inside his head.

Instead, by the white piece of paper in front of him.

The box score.

No one loves a post-game box score more than KG. The whole press conference will be buzzing around him, and half the time he's sitting there like this. Taking it all in.

And not because he's obsessed with his own (or any) stats.

The guy spends every night in an almost-inhuman trance where everything's so fast and nothing matters for more than two seconds. It makes the game impossible to digest; even harder to analyze. So before he speaks his post-game piece, Garnett likes to sit down with the box score and try to make sense of what just happened.

Anyway, after last night's ridiculous Game 5, I think we were ALL wondering the same thing:

What. The Hell. Just Happened.

So I took a page out KG's book, studied the box score, and tried to make some sense.

Here's what jumped out at me:

Avery Bradley: Two points

When the series began, we all assumed that the Hawks would go with a Jeff TeagueJoe JohnsonMarvin WilliamsJosh SmithCenter line-up. The reason being that playing Johnson at the two would force Avery Bradley to guard a much taller and stronger man. This would create a mismatch for the Hawks and ideally (for Atlanta) force Doc Rivers to tinker with his ideal five-man unit.

Anyway, for some reason, Drew ignored that obvious advantage for the first four games of which the Hawks lost three. Then last night, with his season on the line and no where else to turn, Drew finally woke up, went with Williams and here was your result.

Avery Bradley: Two points.

Just as important, Avery Bradley: 18 minutes.

Not including Game 3 (when the C's were up big and Bradley was resting his shoulder), No. 0 hadn't played less than 24 minutes in a game since becoming a starter on March 25. But with one obvious adjustment, the Hawks basically eliminated him. It's not that he didn't score; he barely played. He saw the floor for 10 seconds in the fourth quarter.

Personally, I think Doc over-thought the situation. As much as Atlanta forced his hand with the new starting unit, he seemed far too willing to let them force his hand. Why make it so easy for the Hawks to dictate the way you play? Why not just do what you do, say "Our best vs. your best" and take care of business?

It's one thing if the JohnsonBradley match-up was killing them, but that's not remotely true.

Do you know how many points Johnson scored when Bradley was in the game?


On 1-6 shooting.

On that note

Joe Johnson: 6-17 from the field, 15 points
While it took Drew four games to figure out that Williams should start, 165 games hasn't been enough to realize that Iso-Joe is not Atlanta's best offensive option.

With last night's 6-17 performance, Johnson's now shooting .365 for the series. He's also taken twice has many three-pointers (30) as his closest teammate, and is connecting at a .233 rate. In a way, it's a little scary that the Hawks are still alive despite his no-show, but then again, it's not like this is anything new. This is the fifth straight year that Johnson's scoring average has decreased between the regular season and playoffs. He's no longer the guy you can consistently depend on to throw the team on his back.

But as long as Drew wants to keep trying instead of spreading the floor and letting Teague carve up the D the Celtics will take it.

Paul Pierce: Zero free throw attempts.

This was only the fourth time in 115 career playoff games that Paul Pierce failed to get to the foul line. That's never good for business, and certainly raises a few questions about the status of his knee.

Paul Pierce isn't Paul Pierce unless he's getting to the line.

The Celtics aren't the Celtics unless Paul Pierce is Paul Pierce.

The last time was Boston's blowout loss in Game 6 of the 2010 Finals.

Kevin Garnett: Zero assists.

Its only the fourth time all season that Garnett probably Boston's second best passer (after Brandon Bass) has failed to register an assist. And surprise, surprise, the Celtics are now 0-4 in those games.

Thats not to say that KG was hogging the ball. He took only 12 shots last night, which is actually down one from his season average, and down more than two from the 14.3 a game he posted after the All Star Break. More than anything, Garnett's invisible assist total comes down to a lack of flow in the half court offense the C's missed Bradley's movement and missed shots from his teammates. It's indicative of the staleness in Boston's entire approach, and hopefully the last goose egg of his playoff season.

P.S. Garnett's seven rebounds in 38 minutes weren't great either, and most likely a product of.

Al Horford: 41 minutes, 19 points, 11 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals

Well, then. That was unexpected.

To be honest, when I read Horford's comments after Game 4 (about his his status for Game 5), I just assumed that his season was over:

"Well see how I feel tomorrow," Horford said. "Either way Im going to be supporting the team. If I can play I will. If not, then Ill be there to support them like I have all year."

Does that sound like a guy who's ready to play? Who has it in him to give 41 minutes, be a factor on both ends and essentially save Atlanta's season?

No way. Nobody saw that coming. And moving forward, Horford's an enormous wild card.

When he's out there, the Hawks are a different team. They're a playoff team. Horford might not be Kevin Garnett, but in terms of offense, defense, passion and overall attitude, he's the closest thing Atlanta has. He takes everyone to another level.

But at the same time, given that he wasn't healthy enough to play AT ALL in the first three games, and considering his general caution after Game 4, it's fair to wonder if Horford may have emptied his entire chamber on the Phillip Arena floor.

Can he really bounce back for a third straight game?.

I'm not sure, but either way, at least the Celtics will know he's coming.

Atlanta's bench: Four guys < Eight minutes

Horford isn't the only Hawk who got an extended work out last night.

Every starter but Marvin Williams played more than 40 minutes, and none of Drew's reserves played more than eight. Of course, you can't blame him. If you're going to go down, you want to do with your best. But now that Atlanta's extended the series, you have to wonder if any of them especially Smith, on that gimpy knee will have anything left for Thursday's unbelievably emotional and physical test at the Garden.

Meanwhile, Rajon Rondo was the only Celtics starter to play more than 40 minutes.

Ryan Hollins: 19 minutes

No, seriously. Ryan Hollins.

Yeah, I know. You can say that Hollins played well last night (and Doc did), but thats a very relative term. He played well for Ryan Hollins.

But that doesn't change the fact that he's Ryan Hollins.

Hollins only played 160 minutes for the Celtics this season (by comparison, Jermaine ONeal played 570) and over his time with the team, the Celtics have barely practiced. As a result, Hollins didn't know what he was doing last night. Sure, he was slightly effective when the game got chaotic and his athleticism shined through. And sure, he was definitely in Josh Smith's head for periods of time. But in general, when the game slowed down, and the Celtics needed to play actual basketball, Hollins was a mess. And that's not his fault he's Ryan Hollins! And that explains why he only played a combined 22 minutes in the first four games of the series.

Still looking for a good reason why he played 19 minutes in Game 5, other than: "Doc's once again decided to randomly bench Greg Stiemsma despite the fact that he's done nothing to deserve it."

Rajon Rondo: 6-17, 13 points, 12 assists, five turnovers.

Forget everything you just read, and know this:

When Rajon Rondo puts up a line like the one above, the Celtics are going to have a hard time winning.

For all the back and forth about what it will take for the Celtics to knock out the Hawks and achieve any sort of success in these playoffs, it's in some ways as easy as that. It still all comes down to Rondo.

When he's on his game, the Celtics can play with anyone most definitely Miami. When he plays like he did last night? Anything's possible.

And unlike box score-loving Kevin Garnett, I don't mean that in a good way.

Rich can be reached at Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrich_levine

Celtics nearly blow fourth quarter lead, hold on to beat Nets, 122-117


Celtics nearly blow fourth quarter lead, hold on to beat Nets, 122-117

BOSTON –  The Boston Celtics are not used to being the hunted, or holding a comfortable lead over teams they should beat easily.

That inexperience nearly cost them their season opener against Brooklyn which rallied back from a 23-point deficit to within a field goal of tying the game in the final seconds of play.

But the Celtics managed to hold on for a 122-117 win.

For most of the game, it went according to the script many would have expected to see played out on the TD Garden floor.

Brooklyn put up a good fight, Boston got it together in the second half and the game is over.

Not so fast, says the Nets.

Head coach Brad Stevens tried to rest his starters in the fourth, but the Celtics’ second unit simply didn’t get it done as they nearly squandered a commanding fourth quarter lead.

It was somewhat fitting that they were on the floor to finish off the pesky Nets considering they were the main reasons why Brooklyn was in such a deep fourth quarter hole.

With the win, the Celtics are now 44-27 all-time in season openers and 32-13 at home.

Making the win even sweeter was the fact that because it was so decisive, it allowed head coach Brad Stevens to rest most of his core players who will return to the floor Thursday night to play the Chicago Bulls.

Celtics all-star guard Isaiah Thomas was in double-double range most of the second half before finishing with 25 points, nine assists and six rebounds.

Boston also got a strong night from Jae Crowder who had 21 points on 9-for-15 shooting to go with four rebounds and two assists.

And while the numbers weren’t all that impressive, Al Horford delivered the kind of performance that speaks to his ability to impact the game positively for Boston in a multitude of ways.

He finished with 11 points on 5-for-8 shooting to go with five rebounds and six assists in just 25 minutes of action.

Depth was a strength of the Boston Celtics last season, and it seems to be an even bigger weapon for them now.

Celtics head coach Brad Stevens went 10-deep in the first half with each Celtic who stepped on the floor in the first two quarters scoring at least two points.

The Nets came in as heavy underdogs, a team that many anticipate will be among the worst in the NBA this season.

“We can’t worry about that stuff,” Brooklyn’s Trevor Booker told prior to Wednesday’s game. “The big thing for us is to go out and compete, give ourselves a chance to be successful.”

Brooklyn did just that for most of the Wednesday’s game, but Boston’s talent and depth proved to be too much.

Crowder got things poppin’ at the start of the game by making his first four shots from the field.

But the Nets didn’t buckle, but instead got a multitude of players chipping in with a bucket here or defensive stop there to keep the game from getting out of hand.

Brooklyn’s Jeremy Lin, a former star at nearby Harvard, was among the Nets players keeping the game relatively close. He finished with 18 points.

But the second half was once again dominated early on by Crowder who scored in a variety of ways which included stealing an in-bounds pass and banking in a mid-range jumper in the third quarter.

That play was part of a 26-16 run by Boston to close out the third quarter which ended with the Celtics ahead 97-81.

Brooklyn continued to play scrappy basketball in the fourth, but the Celtics had built up too big a cushion for the Nets to present any kind of real threat to Boston’s control.

Halftime stars, studs and duds: Celtics in control, but Nets within striking distance


Halftime stars, studs and duds: Celtics in control, but Nets within striking distance

BOSTON – The Boston Celtics were in control most of the first half, but the Brooklyn Nets managed to stay within striking distance most of the first half which ended with the Celtics ahead, 64-58.

It was a high-scoring first half, the kind that one of the league’s top defenses shouldn’t experience.

But it is the first game of the season and the Celtics clearly have some kinks defensively to work out.

The Celtics led by as many as 13 points in the first half with contributions coming from several players in the starting unit as well as off the bench.

Boston has spent a good chunk of the preseason preaching the importance of good ball movement.

It was indeed on full display as Boston had 19 assists in the first half on 23 made baskets.

As for the Nets, Bogan Bogdanovic kept Brooklyn within striking distance most of the first half as he tallied 10 points through the first two quarters of play. Brooklyn also got a nice lift from Justin Hamilton who had 14 first-half points off the Brooklyn bench.

Here are our halftime Stars, Studs and Duds



Isaiah Thomas

Thomas was a more assertive player in the second quarter and it paid off for the him and the Celtics. He finished the half with a team-high 11 points in addition to doling out a game-high seven assists.

Jae Crowder

Boston displayed some crisp ball movement in the first half, and Crowder seemed to benefit from this more than any other Celtic. Through two quarters of play, Crowder has a team-high 10 points which included him making his first four shots from the floor.



Sean Kilpatrick

The Nets only have five players on their roster from last season’s disastrous 21-win club, and Kilpatrick showed why he’s one of the few holdovers. At the half, he had nine points off the bench to go with three rebounds.



Brook Lopez

He’s supposed to be the Nets’ best player, but you would not have known this by his play in the first half, The 7-foot Lopez was a non-factor through the first two quarters of lay, missing four of his five field goal attempts to go into the half with just three points.