By A.Sherrod Blakely
MINNEAPOLIS Nenad Krstic was getting an earful from Doc Rivers in the first half of Sunday's 85-82 win over Minnesota.
He missed a defensive rotation, and Rivers, well, wasn't happy.
But it wasn't so much the missed assignment that bothered Rivers, but the reason behind it.
"The reason he had the missed defensive rotation was because he was mad about missing layups," Rivers said. "And I told him at halftime, that's selfish to me; that's thinking about your poor play, instead of helping the team win. He's not trying to be selfish. He wants to do right so bad, that at times it takes him out of playing well."
Krstic, acquired along with Jeff Green from Oklahoma City last month, agrees.
"Now I'm putting more pressure on myself just to do right things," Krstic said. "When you think too much about not making mistakes, that affects your game. When you get the ball, you're not focusing 100 percent. So I'm trying, I'm really trying to play basketball. But I am, my personality . . . everything I do, I want to do 100 percent."
But his teammates, specifically Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, have been encouraging him to just play and not think so much.
Far too often, Krstic will get the ball around the basket and seemingly wait for defenders to come nearby before going up for a shot or dunk.
At halftime, Pierce and Garnett had a talk with him about that.
"Kevin and Paul at halftime were phenomenal," Rivers said. "They said, 'Just dunk it, and if you miss, so what?' I thought that was great for him, and I thought the second half he played much better."
Although Krstic only scored 4 of his 11 points in the second half, his defense was better.
Because he was just playing, and not thinking as much.
"I'm really trying to play hard and try to do the right thing," Krstic said. "It's not the good way to for myself, putting more pressure. That's why, I kind of struggle and sometimes I forget a play; too much stuff, and I'm trying to do right."
Minnesota's Anthony Randolph has been on a tear since Kevin Love went out of the lineup with a groin injury.
That is, until he faced Kevin Garnett.
In the two games Randolph had started in place of Love prior to Sunday night, he averaged 27.5 points and 13 rebounds. Against the Celtics, he had three points while missing all five of his field-goal attempts, along with four rebounds.
"Kevin's pretty good," said Rivers, referring to Garnett who was the league's defensive player of the Year in 2008. "He's long, athletic. I thought we kept Randolph off the block. We didn't let him set up shop. And I thought everybody ran out to his shot."
After watching video of Randolph's last couple of games, Garnett had a pretty good idea of what he needed to do in order to limit the 6-foot-11 forward.
"Just took the first option away from him, made him do some things he didn't want to do," Garnett explained. "Our bigs did a good job of taking it to him. He's . . . foul prone. He never got into a rhythm. We did a good job of taking him totally out of the game."
You can bet Virginia Commonwealth coach Shaka Smart had a ton of congratulatory phone calls and text messages after VCU advanced to the Final Four with a thrilling victory over Kansas.
Among those to reach out to him?
Smart, one of the hottest names in college basketball right now, is a former assistant coach at Florida who was instrumental in Rivers' son, Austin, originally committing to the Gators.
Smart left for VCU, and Rivers soon re-opened the recruiting process before ultimately choosing to sign with the Duke Blue Devils.
"I love him," Rivers said. "I'm really happy for him. Got to know him very well. When he left Florida, that was a big deal for Austin. They still kept in contact. He's a wise . . . far beyond his age. He's going to be a terrific coach, forever. So I'm really, really happy for him."