Sustainability Has Been the Issue for Boston

NEW YORK – Anyone who thinks the Boston Celtics need to go back to the drawing board after falling behind 0-2 to the New York Knicks has it all wrong.

The game plan is on point. Sustainability? Now that’s a different story.

Boston’s game plan has led to it outplaying New York for half of this series. Unfortunately, that impressive play hasn’t been sustained throughout either game, meaning the Celtics have chosen the wrong half to win on both occasions.

KG

The Celtics have been successful when they've established KG in the post, but they've gotten away from it in the second half of Games 1 and 2.
Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty Images

Games 1 and 2 featured a Celtics team that controlled the Knicks at both ends of the floor during the first and second quarters. Boston took a lead into halftime during both contests while shooting an average of 54.2 percent from the floor in the first halves. Meanwhile, New York was limited to a woeful 42.1 percent shooting.

All of those numbers led Boston into the locker room at halftime with leads under its belt. The bad news is that those numbers inverted during the second halves while their offense morphed into a different being. Sloppiness, poor execution and most importantly, poor shooting, plagued the men in green.

“We’re just not making our shots that we normally make,” said Jeff Green, who was visibly upset after Tuesday’s loss.

Green, who wore frustration on his face as he made that statement, has a reason to be upset. He and his teammates are irritated by the fact that they’ve fallen into an 0-2 series hole while they’ve failed to do the things that they know they’re capable of doing. The things they’ve done all season long. The things they’ve done in the first half of both of these contests.

The Celtics aren’t a high-powered offensive team by any stretch of the imagination. They can, however, shoot the ball with the best of them. Boston ranked sixth in the NBA in field goal percentage this season with an average of 46.5 percent. Three of their starters (Kevin Garnett, Brandon Bass and Jeff Green) made at least 46.6 percent of their shots this season. Another key player, Courtney Lee, hit 46.4 percent of his shots during the regular season.

That’s the type of shooting we’ve all witnessed during the first half of Games 1 and 2. That’s the type of offense that featured characteristics such as ball movement, patience and execution.

Boston’s offense has been incredibly unselfish during the first halves of these contests. It racked up an average of 12 assists in those two halves. The C’s looked for high-percentage shots. If a particular player didn’t have one, he moved the ball to the next player, and so on. That’s Celtics offense to a T.

Patience has also been critical to the success Boston has experienced on offense. When they have gone to Garnett in the post it has led to great looks at the basket, either for him or for teammates. Garnett hit three of his four shots in the paint during Game 2 and has hit half of his shots in the paint during the series. Many of the shots he has missed have been point-blank looks, too. It’s not like he has fired up ill-advised shots in the face of staunch defense.

When the C’s patiently use the post game, it opens up shots for other guys on the court. Take, for instance, the four first-half 3-pointers the team has hit in each of the first two games of the series. During Game 2 in particular, those 3s were a result of inside-out basketball. Patience has been a virtue.

Lastly, Boston’s success on offense has been spurred by execution. Turnovers won’t help any offense except for the opponent’s. It’s no wonder that the C’s only turned the ball over six times during the first half of Game 2 while they shot nearly 56 percent from the field. The team has put a premium on taking care of the ball and executing its offense during each game’s first half, and that has led to great success.

Madison Square Garden must be pumping something through the air vents at halftime, because Boston has come out looking like a different team during the second half of each of these games.

Doc Rivers said Tuesday night that Game 2 “was a tale of two halves” and that he doesn’t know why the Celtics “didn’t come out with the same mentality” in the second half.

We don’t know why either, but we do know this: the Celtics already know what they need to do to be successful against New York. They’ve already seen it with their own eyes for long stretches of play.

Now all they need to do is sustain it.