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Celtics must make good use of their time

Rest, adjustments needed after defeat

By Frank Dell’Apa
Globe Staff / May 25, 2012
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Celtic players are recharging batteries and Celtic coaches are revamping schemes. After an 82-75 loss to the 76ers Wednesday, they had two-plus days to prepare for Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals Saturday.

The key for the Celtics was the two days. That could allow them to recuperate physically from Game 6. The Celtics looked like they were running on fumes in shooting 33.3 percent less than 48 hours after an impressive Game 5 victory. An extra day of rest could rejuvenate them.

Coach Doc Rivers and his assistants might not need that much time to make tactical adjustments. They have faced the Sixers nine times since March. There will be some fine-tuning and tweaking offensively, but probably few changes defensively.

The Celtics’ off night was partly caused by confusion generated by the Sixers’ defensive strategy, but was mostly the result of self-destructive tendencies. Shots that went in during Game 5 clanged out in Game 6.

“We got a lot of open looks in the first half that we wanted,’’ Rajon Rondo said after the game. “We shot 28 percent in the first half. It’s a matter of getting stops, but we do have to make shots going into Game 7.’’

One of the enigmas of Game 6 was the Celtics’ inability to turn defensive stops into transition points.

“We want to be in a nice defensive rhythm,’’ Kevin Garnett said. “When we’re in a nice defensive rhythm we turn that into points, and we weren’t in a rhythm.’’

The numbers indicate the Celtics were defending well enough to win.

“I thought we played pretty good defense, for the most part,’’ Paul Pierce said. “When you hold a team to 82 points - offensively, we were challenged. Ball movement was - you look at the assist total, we only had [14] assists.

“I thought the defense was there, for the most part. So, we’ve just got to make adjustments offensively and get ready for Game 7.’’

The Sixers’ tactical moves, plus the absence of Avery Bradley (shoulder), seemed to knock the Celtics out of synch.

“You’ve got to give credit where credit is due,’’ Pierce said. “They made adjustments. I thought a lot of times we got pretty good shots that didn’t go down, but they made adjustments they needed to make.

“So, we’ve got to go back, look at the tape, and see what adjustments we can do to get the ball moving a little better, take advantage of opportunities, and put the ball in the hole.

“We tried to be aggressive, get to the bucket. Outside shots didn’t fall, but that’s the makes and breaks of the game. A lot of good shots were guarded, a lot of shots just didn’t fall. I thought we got good shots. I thought Rondo was very aggressive to the bucket - that’s what they were giving him.

“[But] we’ve got to move the ball, play the defense we’ve been playing, stop giving them so many layups. I thought we gave them a lot of layups at the end of the game, Lou Williams in the fourth quarter. Try to get out on the break and get some easy opportunities.’’

The Sixers were able to stifle Brandon Bass, who followed a 9-for-13 Game 5 with a 2-for-12 Game 6.

“I would say nine [of Bass’s shots] were very good looks,’’ Rivers said. “They just didn’t go in. After he had a great game [Monday], I didn’t think Philly was going to change their game plan over that. They were still going to give him shots. He’s been the guy they’re giving shots to this entire series. When he makes them, he makes them pay for it, and [Wednesday] he just didn’t make them.”

The Sixers also defused the playmaking of Rondo, who came into Game 6 averaging 13.2 assists during the playoffs.

“I thought they really clogged the paint up,’’ Rivers said. “They used other guys to cut off the seams. I never thought we established any pace in the game. Basically, we walked the ball up the floor the entire game, so we didn’t get any pace into it.

“We have to get Rondo running. We keep saying we don’t want Philly to run, but we need to run, and the best way for us is to have a running game offensively and a slowdown game for them at the other end. In the games we’ve won we’ve been able to do that and the games we’ve lost we haven’t been able to do it.

“I’m going to go look at it. It didn’t look pleasant, but we’ll look at the tape and see what we need to change. We’ve played six games, so obviously there are not going to be a lot of tweaks or changes. It’s going to come down to players making shots. It’s a make-miss league and that’s what it’ll be Saturday.’’

Frank Dell’Apa can be reached at f_dellapa@globe.com.

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