May 23, 2012; Philadelphia, PA USA; Boston Celtics small forward Paul Pierce (34) is surrounded by Philadelphia 76ers power forward Elton Brand (42), small forward Andre Iguodala (9) and shooting guard Evan Turner (12) during the second half of game six of the Eastern Conference semifinals of the 2012 NBA Playoffs at the Wells Fargo Center. The 76ers defeated the Celtics, 82-75. The 76ers tied the series at 3 games each. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-US PRESSWIRE
The natural instinct when you're losing is to look at winning teams and say, "hey, why aren't we doing that?" Why aren't we running in transition and throwing alley-oops to Wade and Lebron? Wouldn't it be great to have Westbrook, Harden, and Durant slashing to the rim on every possession? Why isn't Doc going deep into his bench like Pop in San Antonio?
Last night was brutal, but with over two days before Game 7, let's take a breath. Doc's system is working, everybody.
The glaring statistic from last night's game was the difference in the paint. There was clearly a concerted effort by the Sixers to take away easy buckets:
"He's been playing so great this series, we were just trying to limit his easy shots," Brand said.
"Twenty field-goal attempts, 20 points -- shot-per-point for any guy that shoots a lot during the game, that's what you want. We tried to contest his jumpers, but he started knocking them down late. The easy ones, the post-ups, the putbacks, the dunks -- him and Brandon Bass -- we wanted to take that out of the game, and we felt that we really gave ourselves a shot to win if we did that."
Flannery points out:
Per the HoopData box, the Celts took 47 shots 16-feet and out and made 13 of them. KG didn't have a look within 10 feet.— Paul Flannery (@Pflanns) May 24, 2012
The Celtics were outscored 42-16 in the paint, but that's a little bit of a misconception. Yes, the Celtics were outplayed at the rim, but let's not forget that Pierce attacked early and often and hit all thirteen of his free throw attempts. Brandon Bass took it to the rack with two hands at least three times and was
"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."
Yes, great times find other ways to win. Championship teams find other ways to win, but the Celtics have few options to go to. For them to win, they need to do what they do and do it well. It's that simple. Like every good defensive team, the Sixers tried to take away all the easy stuff; however, we still outscored them 13-7 on fast break points and 20-17 in free throws made. They left us to make open jumpers and that's our bread and butter.
According to HoopData.com, the Celtics were 5th in the league in attempts from mid-range at 8.8 and 4th in FG% at that distance at 41.1%. In long twos (16-23 feet), Boston was third in attempts at 23.7 and third in percentage at 41.5%. Simply put, they take them a lot and make them a lot.
Last night, it just wasn't falling. They were 10-33 from 16-23 feet out. In other words, they shot ten more long twos than they average and missed them all. It's an anomaly that can't happen again if they want to win Game 7. The bottom line is that the Celtics came into the pre-season a jump-shooting team, succeeded in the regular season as a jump-shooting team, but have been inconsistent in the post-season as a jump-shooting team. I promised myself that I wouldn't parrot Doc's favorite phrase that "this is a make-or-miss league," but that's the gamble Boston is forced to make.
The Celtics have arguably the best ball-distributing point guard in the league surrounded by arguably the best mid-range starting lineup with Pierce, Garnett, Bass, and now Allen. If I told you Doc that Philly was going to clog the paint and force those guys to hit jumpers, he'd take that in a heart beat. Think about it. Would you really rather have them taking contested drives to the hoop? Check out Zach Lowe's analysis of Game 6:
In Game 6, the Sixers sent a clear signal that they will take away one key method through which such Boston has created open looks over the years: Allen drawing huge amounts of defensive attention by running off screens. It was alarming to watch in real time, and Rivers mentioned it in his postgame comments: Philadelphia basically ignored Allen, happily allowing him to get free so that his movements didn't open up holes elsewhere.
I'm begging Philly to leave our guys open like that again.
Two days rest.
I dare you. I double dog dare you.