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|Is "come-from-ahead loss" the defining phrase of the Doc Rivers era?|
Wait, you don't believe me? Driving to a birthday party in Hermosa Beach, Calif., and listening to the game on Sirius, we were up 70-45 midway through the third when I was parking the car. Did I feel safe with a 25-point lead? Of course not. About 45 minutes later, I couldn't get reception on my cell phone and made a buddy hunt down the score to make sure we didn't blow the game. "Wow, it's 94-93, Cleveland!" he exhaled, glancing up from his phone in shock. I wasn't shocked. I wasn't even remotely shocked. That was also the night Ogi in NYC sent me this e-mail: "Why the Celtics must keep Doc Rivers: Greg Oden 7-0 265 C Ohio St. Fr." (Ladies and gentleman, the Doc Rivers era!) During a somber home game on Monday, Doc (now looking like Mikey after the answering machine scene in "Swingers") played 11 guys in the first 13 minutes against Orlando (the same team that fired him after a 1-10 start). The subs were coming fast and furiously, to the point that I think our penalty-killing line was out there at some point. Meanwhile, Jameer Nelson was putting himself on the map as the fifth opposing point guard in six games to destroy the Celts on high screens. (Quick tangent: Defending the high screen comes down to philosophy and coaching. We have neither. We couldn't even defend the high screen when Antoine Walker and Gary Payton were here, which was interesting because they jumped ship to Miami and immediately regained the ability to defend high screens.) Anyway, thanks to a spark from Rajon Rondo (our most talented point guard, even though it took Doc until mid-November to realize it), we surged ahead in the final three minutes before the "everyone stand around and watch Paul" offense killed the momentum. Eventually, Orlando regained the lead and clinched the game on one of those "team grabs an offensive rebound off a missed free throw, then gets the backbreaking layup off a bad defensive switch" sequences that have defined the Doc era. Following the game, Doc blamed Pierce for failing to box out on the missed free throw, which was interesting for two reasons. First, Pierce DID box out. I recorded the game on TiVo. The ball just bounced over his head. It happens. And second, instead of putting in two rebounders with Trevor Ariza at the line (a poor free throw shooter), Doc went in the other direction and yanked Kendrick Perkins (our tallest guy) for Ryan Gomes (who's 6-foot-7), leaving two small forwards on the low block to grab a potential Ariza miss with less than 90 seconds to play. I mentioned that he's a career 60 percent FT shooter, right? The important thing to remember is that the whole thing was Pierce's fault because he was too short to grab the rebound. Whatever. The players screwed up the "little things" down the stretch, as always. It's the hallmark of a poorly coached team, whether you're watching Doc and the Celtics, Terry Stotts and the Bucks or whomever else. Speaking of Stotts, Tuesday's Milwaukee paper ran a "what's wrong with the Bucks?" column that easily could have been written about the Celtics, Grizzlies or Raptors. See, it's not hard to tell when your coach stinks. You usually know when your players are constantly saying things like "We just need to sustain that intensity for four quarters," "We need to play the kind of defense we're capable of playing," "We can take big leads, now we need to learn how to keep them," "We're a young team, so we're still learning how to bring the same consistency every night," "We have to start getting stops," and my personal favorite, "We need to learn how to execute down the stretch."
All if it is B.S. All of it. Players from well-coached teams never say these things. If those fake quotes look familiar to you, or if that Milwaukee article looks eerily familiar to others that have been written about your own team, then your coach is underperforming and needs to leave.
|Four recent NBA links that I enjoyed: 1. From Steven in Clarkston, Mich.: "Have you seen the Bryan Colangelo YouTube video of him in the war room from draft night trying to get Marcus Williams? It's fascinating, and gives a glimpse of what draft night is really like for a GM." Plus, the Danny Ainge part is great. 2. Check out my new screen saver. 3. From Jake Browne: "Found a great YouTube clip. Can't Zach Randolph find some dying kid to go visit? Since when is visiting the overprivileged part of the NBA Cares program? And what parents openly support idol worship of Zach Randolph? Was he the fourth option behind Miles, Q. Woods and Telfair? I guess in Oregon it's a battle to not raise a hippie." 4. This link tells you everything you need to know about the Tony Allen era.|
|The likely top prize in the next NBA lottery, Greg Oden, could be the man to lead the Celts out of the abyss.|
|Will Danny Ainge blow up his staggering team, or just lop the head? The wrong choice would deserve a Stern talking-to.|