C's Struggle with Anemic Offense in Game 1

MIAMI — The Boston Celtics’ offense went AWOL for the first and third quarters of Game 1, and that was enough to land them down 1-0 in the Eastern Conference Finals after a frustrating night in South Beach.

The Celtics shot a shade under 40 percent from the field for the game, but especially anemic offense in the first (5-for-20) and third (7-for-30) quarters left the Celtics trying to play catch-up. Meanwhile, the Heat hit half of their field goals (36-for-72) and scored far too often at the rim despite hoisting 25 3-point field goal attempts, many of which were wide open.

Doc Rivers

Doc Rivers wasn't happy about an 11-point first quarter and a 15-point third quarter, or the fact that his team got beaten to most of the "50/50 balls" in Monday night's Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals.
Mike Ehrmann/NBAE/Getty

“In the second quarter we executed our stuff offensively. In the third quarter the game got away from us. We rushed, the offense was rushed,” Doc Rivers said. “But they had way too many layups. We have to do a better job protecting the paint.”

Beyond allowing 42 points in the paint, it was a maddening night for the Celtics on many fronts. The team was hit with five technical fouls, one of which will almost certainly cost Doc Rivers the price of a midsize sedan given his postgame remarks. But the team’s issues extended well beyond any beef they may have had with officiating. The Celtics also missed 10 of their 21 free throws — Ray Allen bricked four himself, which is inconceivable — and were outhustled to most of the loose balls that were up for grabs.

“They crushed us in the 50-50 game. Anything loose or rolling, or anywhere, they got,” Rivers said from the postgame podium. “Honestly, I expected them to in some ways; the quicker guy always gets to the loose ball. But I thought we could have got more of them.”

Rivers will probably have more criticisms of the Celtics' performance following Tuesday’s afternoon film session, but he wasn’t quite ready to make up his mind on whether or not the Celtics hurt themselves offensively or were just subjected to above-average defense from the Heat.

“We'll look at the film and we'll see. I just know that when we took our time in the second quarter, we got everything we wanted. And then we went back to the way we started the game in the third quarter,” Rivers said. “On the road you just can't have two quarters of lulls. You just can't afford it. And I thought we did that.”

The bottom line for Boston? The offense is struggling to score. When you shoot 12-for-50 over a 24-minute span, consecutive or otherwise, you’re going to struggle to beat anyone, let alone the explosive Miami Heat. Boston dug a 21-11 hole that they closed by halftime on the strength of that 35-point explosion in the second quarter, tying the game up at 46-46 at the break. But one quarter of high-octane offense just won’t cut it in the Conference Finals, or really, in any regulation NBA contest.

“I probably did not move the ball enough. We didn’t make the extra passes,” Celtics captain Paul Pierce said, surrounded by reporters in a cramped and humid visitors locker room. “I thought they made all the hustle plays too. They really beat us in that aspect.”

What Pierce is alluding to is what Kevin Garnett said to reporters moments before Pierce spoke. Perhaps most troubling is that the Celtics never really staged a final run at the Heat in the fourth quarter. Miami had built a 76-61 lead with 10:03 to play and Boston never really threatened as the game wound down.

Garnett, who was taunted by LeBron James with impunity, stopped short of calling his team out, but was not pleased with the Celtics' lack of resolve and fire in Game 1.

“This is not our best basketball. I believe we have better basketball in us. In order for us to stay alive we have to play better, and we will,” Garnett said. “We have to put up more of a fight and more of an effort.”

Asked specifically about the showboating from the Heat, Garnett dismissed it on the record.

“They are home and they are comfortable. When you are comfortable you do things like that,” Garnett said. “We have to make sure we take them out of their comfort zone.”

Rajon Rondo, who usually finds himself on the business end of aggressive fouls around the basket, suggested that his team may need to start decking the Heat when they head for the hoop. He qualified his hypothesis by adding, “Nothing dirty.”

While Rondo has a point, he’s probably two or three decades late. In the 1980s NBA, Kevin McHale would clothesline Kurt Rambis and change the complexion of the series. In 2012, however, it’s a lot harder to do that without risking suspension. Regardless, the Celtics will have to change their approach for Game 2 if they’re going to steal a road win and return on Thursday to Boston tied up 1-1.