NBA: Celtics: Sharing of the glory
By JEFF ZILLGITT
ORLANDO — Boston Celtics forward Paul Pierce takes 21 shots one game, eight two games later.
Celtics guard Ray Allen gets eight attempts one game, 16 the next. The same for forward Kevin Garnett.
In Boston's offense, the shots and scoring don't come from the same players every game.
"That's what makes us so strong," Pierce said Monday at practice for Tuesday's Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals against the Orlando Magic.
"When you do your scouting report on us, you have to worry about four, five, six different guys night in and night out," Pierce said. "A lot of the great teams, they have at least one great player when you look at (Magic center) Dwight Howard, (Los Angeles Lakers guard) Kobe Bryant, (Cleveland Cavaliers forward) LeBron James. . . . With us, you can't just key in on one guy."
That might seem counterintuitive to getting players into the flow of the game, but Boston coach Doc Rivers disagrees.
"I would say the biggest change that we have through this year is that we are a balanced-scoring basketball team," Rivers said. "We don't rely on one guy anymore. We don't even rely on two or three. We just keep looking for the right place to go."
The offense still runs through Garnett, Pierce and Allen, and the Celtics rely on them for a bulk of the points. But the Big Three are averaging fewer points this season than in Boston's 2008 championship season, Garnett in particular. He averaged 18.8 points in 2007-08 and 14.3 this season.
That's OK because the Celtics no longer need Garnett, Pierce and Allen to have big games to be successful. Point guard Rajon Rondo can fill in scoring blanks. Or forwards Rasheed Wallace and Glen Davis. Or guard Tony Allen and center Kendrick Perkins.
Garnett, Pierce and Allen scored in double figures in three of the six games in the Boston-Cleveland Eastern semifinals.
In Boston's victory Sunday against Orlando in Game 1, Allen and Pierce had 25 and 22 points. Garnett had eight.
This offense pressures the Celtics to find the open man, if not the player with the hot hand. Rivers said it was easier on the coaches than on the players.
"A coach always knows about balance," Rivers said. "He can see the ball movement and the next (open) guy, where an individual player is thinking, `The ball's in my hands, I can score right now and make my own play.' . . . It's far more difficult for individual players to see when they do it together it's better."
Rivers saw his offense fall apart in the final six minutes of the fourth quarter of Game 1, when Orlando rallied from Boston's 85-71 lead to a 90-88 deficit.
"It went from trust and ball movement to, `We need a basket, I'm going to get the basket,' " Rivers said. "That's not a selfish thing, but it's the wrong decision."
For a shooter such as Allen, getting more shots is preferable, but he understands the dynamic.
"Being efficient is the ultimate key," Allen said. "If you take seven shots, making five of them would be the ultimate objective."
Pierce understands. In his only 20-point effort against Cleveland, he took 21 shots to get 21 points.
In Game 1 against Orlando, he needed eight shots to get 22 points.