Monday, April 28, 2008

Just For A Night

Earlier today, I wrote this:
But the bigger issue is this, and it's something no one else is really touching on, because of the foregone conclusion this series results in. Boston's not playing great. They're just not. They're playing well. And that's enough to obliterate the Hawks at home. But this team is not nearly as frightening as we may have thought they would be.
And over at FanHouse, this:

But I feel like it's my duty to inform the Celtics nation that things aren't perfect so far. Of the Boston Big Three, only Kevin Garnett has scored more than 20 points in a game, and that was 32 points in the loss in Game 3. The Celtics are only shooting 2.8% better than the Hawks so far in this series, and the Hawks are hanging with them in rebounds and blocked shots. I'm just saying, this is the 8th seed. Boston needs to play like it, blowouts or no blowouts.
Now, I also said tonight the Celtics would blow them out of the water. I know better than to go out on a limb and predict upsets. Ask my partner in crime, I'm a worse jinx than Jessica Simpson. I wasn't about to go ruining it by talking about a Hawks' upset. In fact, I begged my FanHouse compatriot Ziller not to to post about it, I was so worried about it. Little did I know, there was no way to jinx Joe Johnson, and no way to unjinx Paul Pierce.

Yes, this one falls on Pierce. I've supported Pierce the entire season, saying how important he was to this club, and how he'd produced so diligently. When Al Horford barked at him in Game 3, I thought for sure Pierce was going to follow up on what the Celtics fans barked about, and annihilate Horford personally. Instead? 5 of 14 from the field, including a layup that would have altered the score, the momentum, and forced a very young Hawks team into gutcheck time. Instead?

This series is 2-2. 1 versus 8, tied 2-2. And despite the joy this has brought to so many of us whose blood does not run green, simply for the unpredictable nature of it and the amazing act by Joe Johnson (who we'll get to in a few minutes in another post, it deserves such acclaim), none of this changes the fact that this series is still tied. There are still three games left, and two of them are in the zoo of Boston, who, after being sleepy and unimpressed with the competition in Games 1 and 2, will be rabid like never before this season. They have to protect this team, or else, well, the sting of 18-1 is not so far removed. They know embarrassment. On top of all that, this Celtics team is simply better, in every way, than the Hawks. They should win this series, but it may take seven games, I kid you not. This Hawks squad is ornery, excited, and confident. And that means they're dangerous. Whether it ends in two or three, this has suddenly become the series to watch. This, amazingly, shockingly, has become fun.
I said that this Celtics team is simply better, in every way, than the Hawks. That's only true if I mean on the court. Because now would be an excellent time to go ahead and clear this up so no one gets confused again.

Doc Rivers is a terrible in-game coach.

All season long I've put up with this line of thinking.

"Doc Rivers is the coach of the best team in the NBA, so he must be the best coach in the league."

Are you kidding me?

"He's done such a good job managing egos and getting the big three to play together."

No, seriously, are you (expletive) kidding me?

And then tonight, when it mattered, when the overwhelming talent advantage that the Celtics have with three of the best players in the NBA on one roster wasn't getting it done alone, Doc Rivers went and coached... like Doc Rivers.

He didn't call for adjustments on Joe Johnson. While Johnson was breaking Leon Powe's ankles, Doc wasn't making any shift to get the ball out of his hands. He got beat by two players tonight. Two! You think Byron Scott's letting that happen? Byron Scott is saying "Josh Childress can score a dozen points, Johnson doesn't keep the ball." Finally Garnett had to do what he's done all season, coach this team, and he went out to double Johnson, when it was too late.

And oh, yeah, when your team is on the road, facing a dangerous athletic squad and you have reliable veteran shooters like, oh, say, Sam Cassell? You know what you need? Timeouts. The Celtics used their last full one with 2:12 remaining in the fourth.

Constantly down the stretch, he designed plays for Eddie House, Powe, people other than Kevin Garnett. Garnett, to his credit, tried to take over and do his thing. But that's the limitation of Garnett being Garnett. He's a power forward, and in crunch time you need shooters and slashers. Still, this team has more than enough talent to put together a crushing series of possessions and put this game away. Doc Rivers didn't know how to do it. When the talent couldn't match Joe Johnson and Josh Smith, Rivers didn't have an answer. Because, he's not an answer guy.

He's a spokesperson. A figurehead. Someone that won't rub against the big three the wrong way. Someone who won't try and mess with what minutes they decide they want to put in. But not being in the way doesn't make you a great coach. Saying the right things to the media doesn't make you a great coach. And having Kevin Garnett doesn't make you a great coach.

Doc Rivers is still Doc Rivers. He just has three of the best players in the league on his side (and I'm talking about Rondo, not Allen). And I still believe that will be enough to win a championship. But it won't be because of Doc Rivers.

Add to Technorati Favorites