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Shown the error of their ways

Rivers laments poor shot selection, turnovers

By Jon Marks
Globe Correspondent / May 24, 2012
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PHILADELPHIA - Thanks to Doc Rivers’s greatest fear being realized and an offense that consistently bogged down - resulting in poor percentage shots to beat the shot clock - the Celtics have put themselves in a position they were desperately hoping to avoid. Having to win a decisive seventh game against the gutty Sixers at TD Garden Saturday.

They know they have only themselves to blame following Wednesday night’s 82-75 Game 6 loss.

“We didn’t have it,’’ said Rivers simply, after Boston was done in by 17 turnovers, while shooting just 26 for 78 (33.3 percent) with only Paul Pierce (24 points) and Kevin Garnett (20) reaching double figures. “I thought we had a lot of empty possessions.

“Offensively we played random basketball. We never really established Kevin in the post. Our spacing was horrendous. They really clogged the paint up, but we hurt ourselves with pace. We walked the ball up the floor and we have to get [Rajon] Rondo running.

“It didn’t look pleasant, as someone said. So we’ll look at it and see what we need to change.’’

None of the Celtics’ Big Three had any suggestions regarding what needs to change. Garnett strongly hinted just being back on the parquet floor could be enough, which might be a dangerous way of thinking.

“We missed shots we usually make,’’ said Garnett. “I don’t think we were in rhythm.

“They were aggressive, but for the most part it was nothing we haven’t seen for six games. Now we’re going home. The crowd will be into it. We’ve been here before.’’

While it’s true the Celtics are 17-4 in seventh games all-time at home, two of those losses were pinned recently, by Indiana in 2005 and Orlando in 2009. Rondo, who didn’t hand out his first assist until midway through the second period and eventually finished with six, was a bit more diplomatic on that topic.

“Only a couple of us have been to Game 7s,’’ said Rondo, who scored 9 points and hauled down nine rebounds, but also turned it over four times. “We’re not going on history. It’s a new series. We have a new group of guys. We’ve been going back and forth the entire series, so it’s going to be tough.’’

Especially if the Celtics cough it up another 17 times - leading to 19 Philadelphia points - and spend much of the night fighting the shot clock. Yes, they did miss some open looks - particularly Game 5 hero Brandon Bass (2 for 12), Rondo (4 for 14), and Garnett (9 for 20) - but the scrappy Sixers deserve some of the credit.

The Celtics flew home last night knowing the problem was mostly their own doing.

“Offensively we were challenged,’’ said Pierce, who kept the men in green in the game by hitting all 13 of his free throws. “The ball movement we had in Game 5 was not there. We made some bad decisions and they had good defensive rotations. We got some pretty good shots, but they didn’t go down. But give them credit.’’

The Celtics have to be thrilled to again get that extra day of rest before putting their season on the line Saturday. But they also know they’ll be facing a Sixers team brimming with confidence.

It’s up to the Celtics to take that away.

“We need to get into our sets quicker,’’ said Rondo. “I have to do a better job calling sets and taking care of the ball. Sometimes we try to make the home run pass instead of making the simple pass. But we do need to make shots. We were aggressive in the first half, but started taking jump shots in the second half. But they didn’t fall.

“There’s going to be nights like tonight where we just need to find a way.’’

They couldn’t in Game 6, which means it all comes down to 48 minutes back at the Garden Saturday. “It’s nice we have it at home,’’ said Rivers, who has been in a few of these as a player and coach, “but you have to still go get it. At the end of the day you have to go play.’’

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