After I did a live blog of Doc Rivers’ ineptitude in the Celtics’ Game 4 loss to the Pistons, I sat back and agonized through the team’s Game 5 victory at my leisure. Live blogging for 48 minutes was no joy, even if it did allow me to vent my misery at having to watch a supremely talented Celtics team struggle under the burden of Rivers’ so-called offense that resembles nothing so much as a pickup game at the Y. I’ve been goaded in blogging again, however, and have agreed to blog how and why the Celtics will lose Game 6 in Detroit. So here goes. Here’s why, and how, my beloved hometown team will lose:
1. For 24 days, or nearly a month, the Celtics have been playing games every two nights. Not routine regular season games but playoff games packed with intensity and stress. Worse yet, throughout this stretch Rivers has abandoned the team’s highly successful regular season rotation. For months, forwards Leon Powe and Glen Davis had come off the bench to provide a lethal sucker punch much like Dennis Rodman and John Salley did early in their careers for the Pistons. Eddie House had come off the bench to rain in backbreaking 3-pointers, and more recently Sam Cassell had arrived to provide clutch shooting. Forget that. Powe and Davis have rung up mostly DNPs and, when they did play, it was only for scant minutes at a time because a starter was in foul trouble. House got to play briefly when Rondo, Allen and Cassell were playing so badly that Rivers had no choice. The only bench players to contribute significant minutes have been James Posey and 38-year-old PJ Brown. Which means the Celtics’ starters are playing on tired legs. Contrast that to the Pistons, who have given big minutes to rookie guard Rodney Stuckey, veteran Lindsey Hunter and forward Jason Maxiell. The Pistons, facing elimination, will have more energy and stamina. Count on Rivers to ignore his bench once gain unless he runs out of options, which guarantees two things: not only will Boston’s starters be tired down the stretch, anyone who comes off the bench knows his coach has played him in desperation, not because he has confidence in him. Anyone who’s ever played sports at any level knows what that sort of thing does to a player’s esteem, confidence and ability to produce. Never mind the fact that you haven’t played a minute in several games or with your teammates. Advantage, Detroit.
2. When the Celtics are able to stifle their opponents by playing assistant coach Tom Thibideaux’s overwhelming brand of defense, they score effectively in transition and semi-transition. But when they have to set up and play Rivers’ predictable halfcourt offense, they die. There’s no movement, and the picks and rolls on which Rivers insists bunches up the Celtics and makes it easy for Detroit to help and double team. Look for lots of intercepted passes, steals and easy Pistons hoops in transition. Advantage Detroit.
3. Rivers is one of the weaker bench coaches in the history of the NBA. One of the reasons his teams look worse as series go on is his inability to adjust to the other team’s defenses. Once a team has played Boston once or twice and adjusts to stymie its offense, Rivers’ players are stuck trying to execute a game plan its opponents know as well as its own. Advantage, Detroit.
4. Rivers’ worst instincts betray him every three or four games, when he realizes the need to spell his starters but does it in classic Rivers style — that is, instead of working bench players in among the starters as anyone intelligent would do, he pulls his starters and fields crazy lineups like Brown, Powe , Davis or Perkins in the frontcourt and House and Posey in the backcourt. In other words, no ball handlers and no one who can create a shot for himself. When this happens, leads vanish and deficits mushroom. Until Rivers panics and puts his tired starters back on the court and buries his bench players again. Advantage, Detroit.
5. The sad part of this is that Boston’s roster is so talented and versatile that it often overcomes Rivers’ stupidity, which is what has happened in two playoff series so far and will happen again in Game 7 in this series. But in the Finals, against a coach skilled in exploiting opportunities, Rivers will be undressed by Phil Jackson and the worst of all worlds will unfold. Evil will triumph over good and the Lakers will beat the Celtics for the championship. And to make matters worse, Ainge and the Celtics will probably extend Rivers’ contract, ensuring a similar debacle next year.
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