Motivation is a layup
Celtics know they made it too easy
MIAMI - Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals Monday night generated an image of the Celtics being inconsistent, sloppy, and slow. But after several hours of processing their 93-79 defeat against the Heat, the team appeared angry, defiant, and eager to get into action again.
“There [weren’t] a lot of happy guys in our locker room after the game,’’ said coach Doc Rivers, “or in film today. When we start out by showing 19 straight layups, you know, who wants to watch that? I didn’t, and I watched it four or five times. So, you know, it’s a good question, but their belief is pretty strong.’’
When the Celtics meet the Heat Wednesday night in Game 2, they resolve to limit those layups and restrict offensive rebounds.
“We were in the paint 37 times, we were actually 19 for 37,’’ Rivers said. “They were 21 for 27, so they were far more efficient when they got in there. But of the 21 times, 19 of them were made layups. That can’t happen in a CYO game, let alone a playoff game.’’
If the Celtics seemed lackadaisical and lethargic, it was partly the lack of recovery time after Saturday night’s Game 7 of the semifinals, and partly the level of play of the Heat’s LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, plus some efficient contributions from Miami’s role players.
Boston answered with Kevin Garnett and Rajon Rondo. No other Celtic produced significant numbers.
“One thing we talked about before in the series is them getting easy baskets,’’ said Ray Allen. “You know, it was 15-plus easy layups.
“In the third quarter, the game was tied and we were down 2, 4, 6 points. And we were giving up so many layups that we can’t win in that fashion. So we’re optimistic. We know we can do it.’’
Allen struggled through one of the most difficult - and painful - games of his career, limited by a right ankle injury.
“I don’t even like talking about it,’’ Allen said. “The last three or four days have been pretty painful.’’
The Celtics took Tuesday off, conducting interviews late in the afternoon at the team hotel. Even Allen took a break, though if healthy, he likely would have found time for a workout.
“In my predicament,’’ Allen said, “I’m only going to do myself further damage.’’
In the first two playoff series, Allen acted mostly as a decoy, but just when the 76ers least expected it, he led the team in scoring in Game 2 vs. Philadelphia (the only time he has done so since March 19), and he hit two 3-pointers Saturday, helping clinch that victory.
Allen played nearly 39 minutes and totaled 6 points against Miami. He was 3 for 7 from the line, and when asked if he had ever missed four foul shots, he said, “Not in one game, no.
“Who knows what it is? I shoot as many as I can. You go to the line, it’s important to get comfortable and get the rhythm, so when you fall out of it, you fall out of it. So you figure out ways to get back into it and create that rhythm.
“Thing is, I don’t want to change my technique. My technique has been solid for a very long time. It’s successful. I’m never going to stop doing the way I shoot, so it’s just getting to it and making sure I’m trying not to push myself and jumping higher, but trying to find that happy medium.
“You’ve got to also remember that sometimes you just don’t make shots, too. So I don’t put too much pressure on it. You just kind of find your rhythm and glide into it as best you can.’’
Rivers has faith in Allen’s ability to adjust offensively.
“We’re good,’’ Rivers said. “Ray is Ray, just keep throwing him out there and see what we can get. And if he can’t, go with someone else. But I think right now you have to give him a fighting chance any time.
“We can help him better. We were supposed to, we just didn’t do a very good job of it. I’m talking defensively. Offensively, we’re going to keep getting him shots - and I always believe Ray will figure it out.’’
Rivers is not playing shot doctor, though.
“You clearly never saw me shoot the basketball,’’ Rivers said. “I don’t think I’ve ever said a word to Ray in my life about shooting. But we do have to try to get him open more and get him more time.
“One thing you can see has changed: He’s not as quick in his release, and probably because of his feet. So we have to find ways of getting him more time to shoot.
“I don’t think he has his balance. You can see it on his free throws, he’s falling forward, he’s kicking his leg out. Right now, he’s all over the place. He’s leaning, going sideways, falling forward. So it’s somewhat of a balance issue, but it’s all created by the injury.’’
But Allen’s defending was also exposed by the Heat.
“I mean, LeBron, D-Wade are two of the greatest players we have in this league at this current moment,’’ Allen said. “They have great shooters from the perimeter, so our defense requires multiple efforts. If I couldn’t do it, I wouldn’t be out there.’’
Frank Dell’Apa can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.