C's Believe They Know Formula to Success

WALTHAM, Mass. – Friday’s schizophrenic performance by the Boston Celtics proved that they can be dominant at one moment and disjointed at the next.

The team has now had two days to think about its rollercoaster performance in Game 4, which resulted in a 92-83 loss. Although the Celtics’ attempt to take a commanding 3-1 series lead was foiled, they can pull something from the high points of Friday’s contest.

“We know what the formula is,” said Ray Allen.

The “formula,” per se, isn’t a mathematic equation in this case. Instead, it’s the game plan and type of execution the Celtics need to display in order to defeat the 76ers and advance to the Eastern Conference Finals.

The progression of Friday’s Game 4 indicates that Allen’s assertion of Boston knowing the formula is accurate. The team jumped out of the gates to a 14-0 lead in the first quarter, picking the Sixers apart at both ends of the court. The domination continued throughout the half and the C’s took a 46-31 lead into the locker room at the break.

How great was that first-half performance? Take a look at these numbers: the Celtics shot 52.8 percent from the field while limiting Philadelphia to 23.1 percent shooting. Yes, the C’s more than doubled the shooting percentage of the Sixers over the first 24 minutes of the game.

Boston was able to accomplish that feat because it was sticking to the formula that Allen alluded to prior to Sunday’s practice. Every Celtics player who took the floor made the extra pass on offense and was locked in on defense.

A performance like that would lead one to believe that the C’s ran away with a victory, but that’s why there is a second half. As we all know by now, you don’t win a game in the NBA Playoffs in the first 24 minutes of action.

The schizophrenic Celtics showed up in the third quarter. And it was painful to watch.

The elite passing and intense defense that highlighted Boston’s first-half performance was absolutely nonexistent. The Celtics jacked up jump shot after jump shot, many of which were off of the first pass of a possession. They lost their way and stumbled to the finish line.

“I believe when we get in those situations we just have to settle ourselves in,” said Allen, referring to the team’s poor second half. “Offensively, we gotta execute. We gotta find the second and third option. We gotta take care of the ball. It’s just poise down the stretch; I thought we lost that.”

Losing poise down the stretch is not part of the formula for the Boston Celtics. In fact, what this team is known for is the exact opposite – it relishes keeping its poise in critical situations.

Friday was an anomaly that sense. Boston struggled mightily in the second half and could not relocate the type of play that was so successful in the first half. As Doc Rivers often says, it all began at the defensive end of the floor.

“We broke our defensive formula,” said Rivers. “Listen, offense is always going to fail you in the playoffs... but your defense can’t fail you. You’re going to win games by getting stops.”

Rivers’ team didn’t get many stops in the second half. The final 24 minutes featured a complete role-reversal in comparison to the first half for the Celtics and Sixers. Boston shot just 31.4 percent in the third and fourth quarters while Philadelphia nailed 51.2 percent of its shots.

If the Celtics discovered their formula in the first half, the 76ers discovered theirs in the second half. Now it’s just a matter of which team will not only play within its formula, but also which one can sustain it.

“I think both teams do (know their formulas). I really do,” said Rivers. “I think you know it, you gotta stay with it, one, and you can’t let them take you out of it – and they want to take you out of it. So it’s a battle of wills.”

That’s the story of this series as a whole. Boston and Philadelphia have battled evenly through four games, and both now know their formula to success. The question is, which team will deviate from its formula when it matters most?