NEW YORK – It’s a question of style.
The Celtics scored just 25 points in the second half of Game 1 vs. the Knicks Saturday. They scored eight points in the fourth quarter and shot 41 percent for the game. They didn’t get a lot of easy looks.
One way to fix that is to get out in transition. That’s exactly what Paul Pierce said he wanted to do before his team took the court at Madison Square Garden Monday for practice.
“Some of those easy opportunities have to come in transition,” said Pierce. “Kicking the ball ahead to myself, Jeff [Green] is something we want to emphasize. We feel like if we can get the ball up and advance passes before the defense, it says it gives us an opportunity to get easy baskets. The more we get stops the more opportunities there are for that.”
The Celtics have had a strained relationship with the fast break this season. On one hand, they played some of their best basketball by pushing the tempo during a seven-game win streak after Rajon Rondo went down. They averaged 105 points during the streak (two of the games went to multiple overtimes) compared with their season average of 96.5 points. The Celtics had 20 turnovers Saturday, but most of them came in the half-court, not in transition. The Celtics might do well to push the pace Tuesday night.
On the other hand, the Celtics are the sloppiest team in the league on the break. According to Synergy Sports, they had the NBA’s highest turnover percentage in transition, coughing the ball up on 15 percent of their fast break possessions this season. The Knicks are the league’s 11th-highest scoring team (3d in offensive rating). Do the Celtics really want to get into a track meet with New York?
The guess here is that in addition to taking better care of the ball and making the extra pass, the Celtics will look to push the ball more Tuesday night. It’s worth a shot.
More notes from Monday’s practice:
– Celtics coach Doc Rivers said this was not the same group of road warriors that he’s had in past seasons.
“You have two guys [from those teams],” said Rivers. “Without Rondo you have Kevin and Paul. It’s not that group. That’s the difference.
“You tend to trust the guys you know, but I don’t know any of them. I don’t know a lot of them. … You want to play your key guys as many minutes.”
Rivers mentioned Pierce, Garnett, and Jeff Green as his key guys. He said he wasn’t concerned about his team not being dominant away from home.
“You win one and that changes everything,” he said.
– Kevin Garnett reiterated the need for his team to play unselfish basketball and to continue their tough defense.
– Jordan Crawford scoffed at the notion that he was nervous in Game 1.
– Rajon Rondo was on the floor in sweats, sporting big green headphones and rebounding for his teammates. At one point Rivers yelled over to Rondo.
“Rondo you practicing today?” he asked.
“Not today,” Rondo replied.