One Adjustment Boston Celtics Must Make to Ensure Postseason Survival

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One Adjustment Boston Celtics Must Make to Ensure Postseason Survival
Jared Wickerham/Getty Images
Jason Terry has stepped up this series. Avery Bradley could step down.

The Boston Celtics narrowly avoided postseason elimination from their first-round playoff series against the New York Knicks on Sunday, winning Game 4 in overtime 97-90.

Displaying pure heart, the Celtics surmounted the Knicks by holding Carmelo Anthony to 10-of-35 shooting.

Despite the win, Boston has still lost 14 of its last 20 games. Without serious adjustments, their chances for banner No. 18 look to be on the endangered species for 2013.

It all starts with one thing for the Celtics—aggressiveness. When the Celtics play a fiery, attacking brand of basketball, good things tend to happen. When they become monotonous or complacent, they struggle to score and end up squandering leads.

To borrow a catchphrase from Alcoholics Anonymous, the first step is admitting there's a problem. For Boston, it's not drinking. It's Avery Bradley in the starting rotation.

Bradley's full-court defense has been nothing short of amazing this year, as he has given every ounce of energy he has in man-to-man defense. He has also improved his jump shot and played with more confidence with the ball in his hands.

However, this postseason? Crickets.

He plays tentatively, with about as much fire and aggressiveness on offense as a JV call-up to the varsity squad. In addition, his defense on Raymond Felton has been porous. Felton has averaged 19.3 points on 50 percent shooting over the past three games.

Meanwhile, Bradley has only averaged 3.6 points in 35.6 minutes per game. That's a problem, folks.

 

The Green cannot afford another 1-of-4 night from their starting point guard (in Sunday's Game 4 squeaker, Bradley was 1-of-7). They also can't afford another abysmal passing output. Bradley only managed one assist in Game 4, which is what he has averaged throughout the entire series.

I can't recall a playoff team ever employing a starting point guard who averaged one assist or less in a postseason series.

It's bench time for No. 0. He could still deliver an impact in the second rotation as a defensive spark plug when the veterans need a breather. Still, he's not helping the Celtics win anytime soon. As a matter of fact, he's bringing them down, with a minus-3.8 postseason points differential.

The Game 4 victory proved one thing—Boston needs "Jet" fuel.

Jason Terry showed the world that the veteran has no plans to retire just yet. More importantly, he showed his teammates—primarily KG—he still wants to make a push at the title. He talked to Jay King of MassLive.com after the game:

Me, personally, I've let Kevin down. I know what he sacrificed to come back here this year. He's the reason why I'm here, and so, again, I just don't want to let him down. I don't want his lasting impression to be, 'OK we got swept', or 'We didn't give our best effort.' He's our leader and we look up to him.

Just as the Celtics look up to KG as their emotional leader, they look to Terry for emotional buckets. His clutch transition three-pointer and nine overtime points capped a 7-for-10 night. It was arguably one of his best games in a Celtics uniform.

The Jet has improved each game of this series. He started with no points in Game 1, then scored nine, 14 and 18 respectively in the next three. His three assists per contest over the past three games haven't set the world on fire, but they look good compared to Bradley's one-per-night.

Terry has also taken care of the ball. In 130 minutes of postseason play, he's committed just three turnovers, including none  in 41 minutes of Sunday's win.

Coach Doc Rivers recognizes what Terry brings to the Celtics' starting lineup—big shots. That's why he gave him the nod over Brandon Bass.

"That's what he does," Rivers said after the game.

However, Terry  should be doing it in place of Bradley, not Brandon.

Bass showed in Game 4 that he plays the type of blue collar defense that can absolutely stifle Anthony. He slid his feet, kept his hands in Melo's face and forced him into awkward and uncomfortable mid-range jumpers and fadeaways.

It seems crazy after a largely forgettable season, but Bass (like Terry) has been one of the bright spots for the Celts this postseason. Like Terry, Bass deserves to be out there at tip-off. Rivers must go with what has been working.

Starting Terry and Pierce at the guard positions with Green, Bass and Garnett may sound a little unconventional. However, it could help Boston avoid an early demise.

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Currently, that rotation provides the best shooting, the most aggressiveness and surprisingly, the best defense. Terry and Green still leave a lot to be desired on the defensive end, but Jet has given a better effort than Bradley did with Felton. 

Headed back to New York for a do-or-die Game 5 at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday, May 1, the Celts need their best players on the floor. Unfortunately for Bradley and Courtney Lee, they just haven't been those guys for the team. Boston needs to tap into its aggressive, fiery side. 

Jeff Green has to get angry and drive to the hole. Bass needs to clamp down on Anthony once again. Terry must hit big jumpers. Pierce and KG just need to keep doing their thing, playing with the heart and drive they always provide in the playoffs.

Nobody's predicting a series comeback for the Celtics, but if any starting rotation can give the Celtics a chance to do it, it's those five.



Stats compiled using NBA.com/stats and ESPN.com. Graph created using National Center for Education Statistics.

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