Coach as star: Rivers shines vs. Knicks


Coach as star: Rivers shines vs. Knicks

By A.Sherrod Blakely

WALTHAM In Boston's two playoff wins over New York, the Celtics' ability to execute in the closing moments has stood out.

Just as important has been Celtics coach Doc Rivers' uncanny knack for knowing who to go to, at just the right time.

You put it all together and you have a tightly contested series that, in terms of winners and losers, has been decisively lopsided.

The C's hope to keep the series like that moving forward with Games 3 and 4 at Madison Square Garden on Friday and Sunday, respectively.

Rivers said his formula for play-calling success in tight games is pretty simple.

"It's all about multiple options," he said.

For most late-game plays, Rivers will call a play in which either Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen or Paul Pierce will be the player they're looking to for a basket.

In Boston's 87-85 Game 1 victory, the C's trailed 85-82 with less than a minute to play.

Coming out of a time out, Rivers called for a lob pass to Garnett.

The play completely caught the Knicks off guard.

After a turnover, the C's called another time out.

Again, there were a number of options on the play. The ball ultimately wound up in the hands of Allen who calmly sank the game-winning shot.

"It's like football. You have a whole list, and you pick," Rivers said. "I've been wrong as much as I've been right. But when you're right and the shot goes in, it makes it a lot better."

A big part of the Celtics' late-game success is the fact that this group has been through so many trials and tribulations. It's given them a certain confidence that regardless of what the call is, they can make it happen.

"They've been together for a while and they understand what they have," said Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni. "They've just got so many weapons and it's tough."

But it's still on Rivers to make sure he puts his players in the best position possible.

And part of that involves coming up with plays that completely catch the opposition off guard.

In Game 2, Garnett put the Celtics ahead by one point and then forced a turnover with about four seconds to play.

The Knicks were planning to foul immediately.

Rivers had the Celtics inbound the ball to Delonte West, which was a surprise to the Knicks.

It took New York nearly three seconds to foul West, who went to the line with just 0.6 seconds to play.

"Doc Rivers drew up a hell of a play," said New York's Carmelo Anthony. "A lot of us thought that the ball was coming in the front court, he threw it in the backcourt, it took a lot of time off the clock. You have to take your hat off to Doc for drawing up a hell of a play like that."

But a play is only as good as those who execute it.

And for the Celtics, that starts with point guard Rajon Rondo.

Because of the bond that he has with his coach, Rivers won't hesitate to call a play with several options and be confident that Rondo will make the right read on the play.

"I guess he trusts me," Rondo said. "I've earned his trust, I guess."

And it's true.

The NBA is indeed a player's league.

But those players need direction and guidance, especially down the stretch in close games.

We've seen that up-close in the Celtics series, one that Boston leads 2-0 in part because of Rivers' ability to make the right call in the closing moments of games.

"He does all the plays," Rondo said. "We don't have anything to do with it. We just execute them, I guess. Obviously, we didn't execute them well in the regular season. But these last two games, we've done a pretty good job of executing plays."

Said Allen: "As a coach, he's watching. Doc has watched numerous hours of film. When you see kind of what's happening, you adjust to it on the fly. We have a play for almost everything. He knows who we are; what we're good at."

A. Sherrod Blakely can be reached atsblakely@comcastsportsnet.com.Follow Sherrod on Twitter at http:twitter.comsherrodbcsn

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WATCH: Boston Celtics vs. Orlando Magic

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Mapping out the Celtics' next super long win streak

Mapping out the Celtics' next super long win streak

That Celtics win streak was dope. Let’s map out an even longer one that probably won’t happen. 

Nobody’s actually expecting them to keep the pace they’ve established with their recently concluded run. Still, with 63 games remaining, there’s still time for the Celtics to have up to three win streaks of even longer than 16 games. So, because it’s the holidays and the holidays are all about positivity (fun move you’ve probably picked up from movies: You can say “the holidays are all about _____” and just put in whatever you want and it will work), let’s map out the next win streak. 


A big part of the Celtics’ 16-gamer (and get ready to say “duh”) is that they were better than a lot of the teams they beat. But they also beat one team that was without question better than them and beat a few teams that could certainly beat them on any given night. 

Here’s a rough breakdown of the 16 games: 

- Even if they didn’t go as smoothly as anticipated, nine games were against what could be classified as easy prey based on their rosters and how those teams were playing: The 76ers, the Knicks, the Kings, the Hawks twice, the Lakers, the Hornets, the Nets and the Mavericks. 

- Let’s say that the Heat (whom they played and beat during the streak before Miami snapped the streak Wednesday) and Magic weren’t perceived pushovers, but rather unremarkable opponents. 

- Four games were against what one could call worthy opponents for the Celtics: the Bucks, the Spurs (though they were missing Kawhi Leonard), the Thunder and the Raptors. 

- Nobody was ever pretending the Celtics were actually better than the Warriors. 

So that breaks the 16 games into one game against an unequivocally superior opponent, four against worthy opponents, two against unremarkable teams, and nine joke books. 

Of course, there are several variables that can be thrown into that, such as the fact that the C’s beat one of the aforementioned good teams (Toronto) without Kyrie Irving and nearly lost to two of those trash teams (Charlotte and Dallas). You can’t predict injuries just like you shouldn’t predict win streaks, but let’s take all the information we have and try to find the next one:


Friday vs. Magic (trash; probable win)

Saturday at Pacers (unremarkable; potential loss)

A back-to-back after a holiday with the second game on the road against a team that’s been way better than expected? I don’t like the sound of it. 

Nov. 27 vs. Pistons (worthy opponent; potential loss)

Are they overrated? Maybe, but Pistons currently hold the second spot in the Eastern Conference. Whether it’s the Pacers or the Pistons, I think this short stretch prevents a speed bump. The streak might have to wait. 


Nov. 30 against Sixers (upgraded to unremarkable based on recent play; still win)

Remember: The last streak started against the Sixers. Hopefully, Kyrie pays that fans’ way to Boston for a halftime reunion. 

Dec. 2 vs. Suns (trash; win)

Dec. 4 vs. Bucks (worthy opponent; win)

Celtics aren’t losing to those sons of guns twice at home. 

Dec. 6 vs. Dallas (trash; win)

Can you get revenge on a team for almost beating you? Yes. The Celtics will. 

Dec. 8 at Spurs (worthy opponent; win)

Until I see Kawhi on the court, this one is a win. 

Dec. 10 at Detroit (worthy opponent; win)

The Pistons play the Spurs, Bucks and Warriors the three previous games. They’ll be all tuckered out. 

Dec. 11 through Dec. 23 (mix of unremarkable and trash opponents; seven wins)

Dec. 25 vs. Wizards (worthy opponent; win)

Terry Rozier becomes a household name with a Christmas performance for the ages. 

Dec. 27 at Charlotte (trash; win) 

Dec. 28 vs. Houston (worthy opponent; win) 

Dec. 31 vs. Brooklyn (trash; loss)

The Celtics are 0-1 the days prior to holidays this season. The streak ends at 18. 


We'll assess it then, but for now, let's say undefeated (including playoffs).