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John Schuhmann

Kevin Garnett's inability to get shots in the paint was just one among a slew of Boston's offensive flaws.
Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images

Celtics' offense escapes them as close-out woes continue

Posted May 24 2012 10:46AM

PHILADELPHIA -- Is there a bright side when you shoot 33 percent? When you get outscored in the paint 42-16? When you turn the ball over 17 times and tie a season low with just 14 assists? When you fail to close out a playoff series on your first try for the 10th time in five years? When your aging roster has to grind through 13 games in the first two rounds?

Sort of. The bright side is that this is nothing unexpected.

The Boston Celtics are both shorthanded and banged up. They've had trouble putting the ball in the basket all season long. So they were prepared for this. They'll always be a confident group with championship swagger, but they know that nothing comes easy this year.

"The one good thing I would say coming into the playoffs, because of the way we're constructed right now with some of the injuries, I think they fully knew that every series was going to be a grind, nasty series," Doc Rivers said before his team lost Game 6 of the conference semifinals 82-75 to the Philadelphia 76ers, setting up a Game 7 Saturday in Boston. "And I think that does help us, understanding that, instead of being surprised by that. I think that's been the one good thing."

Did he say nasty? Game 6 was just that. It was Eastern Conference basketball on both ends of the floor in the first half and, unfortunately for the Celtics, on their end of the floor in the second half too.

"We have to do a better job offensively," said Rivers, making the understatement of the night. "I thought we had a lot of empty possessions."

There was absolutely nothing about the Celtics' offense on Wednesday that was even adequate. No player played particularly well. No set functioned properly.

"I thought our spacing was horrendous," Rivers said, "so even if they didn't trap, they didn't have to because we were standing next to each other a lot."

The ball movement was lacking and the post game was non-existent. All 20 of Kevin Garnett's shots came from outside the paint, and several were off the dribble. In total, 41 of the Celtics' 78 shots were from mid-range, the most inefficient area of the court. The Celtics have always been a jump-shooting team, but taking more than half your shots from mid-range is about as bad as it gets.

When they did get to the basket, the Celtics couldn't finish, shooting 7-for-18 from within five feet of the rim. Most of those shots were blocked or contested, but that's a lot of missed layups.

Rajon Rondo clearly didn't have any kind of rhythm or feel for this game, shooting 4-for-14. Brandon Bass proved that his Game 5 performance was a fluke, shooting 2-for-12. And the bench, depleted without Avery Bradley, scored five points, their third-lowest total of the year.

Yes, the Sixers are an excellent defensive team. And Philly deserves plenty of credit for Boston's offensive ineptitude on Wednesday. But 75 points on 33 percent shooting goes well beyond good defense.

"They were aggressive," Garnett said. "But nothing we haven't seen in six games."

Rivers managed to come up with one other "bright spot," that Ray Allen got some open looks for a change. He missed 'em (1-for-5 from 3-point range) and is clearly hampered by his ankle injury, but he was open.

"They allowed Ray to get loose and he just didn't make shots," Rivers said. "But I think that will be good for Ray going into next game, because I think he knows he's going to get shots now."

The Celtics can count on one other thing. There's been absolutely no carryover from game to game in this series and neither team has won two games in a row. So even though they couldn't buy a bucket in Game 6, there's a chance they'll make some shots in Game 7 on Saturday.

"We've got to go back," Paul Pierce said, "look at the tape, see what adjustments we can do to get the ball moving a little bit better, take advantage of the opportunities, and be able to put the ball in the hole."

The home team has won about 80 percent of Game 7s in NBA history. But the Celtics' season now comes down to 48 minutes, because they blew another opportunity to put a team away. Since Allen and Garnett arrived in Boston, this team is 3-10 in its first opportunity to close out a playoff series.

The way this series has gone, there's no telling what will happen on Saturday. Though the Celtics managed to play efficient offensively in Games 3 and 5, there's a pretty good chance that Game 7 will be as much of a grinder as Game 6 was. These teams aren't exactly the Spurs and Thunder offensively, and four of the six games thus far belong in the "ugly" category.

But hey, at least we're not surprised by any of this.

John Schuhmann is a staff writer for You can e-mail him here and follow him on twitter.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting.

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