The Boston Celtics' X-Factor: Will Doc Rivers Get Outcoached?

ASM WILDCATContributor IMay 1, 2008

I hate blaming the coach. Basketball isn't like football. In football, you get a formation and a play, you basically have a couple of audibles and options to run, should a defense adjust on the fly. That is why I don't like blaming basketball coaches at the NBA level.

But, when you see Rick Carlisle with a less-talented Detroit team dominate the league for a year, in a time when the West was arguably even stronger than it is now...well, you see that the coach has game management responsibility, and time and time again, Doc has shown that he just can't do it.

Below are just a sample of some losses where Doc mismanaged the game.  


1) The Detroit loss in December

Tony Allen is on Billups, and fouls him because he left his feet (Hoops just DON'T DO THAT). Granted he might be one of the better perimeter defenders on the team, you don't put him in the game at that point when Billups isn't even that quick.


2) Back to back losses to Washington

These were both poorly managed games at the end, with strange substitution patterns and questionable play calling on inbounds. Undisciplined three-point shooting also played a role.


3) The Utah loss

In March, and at home. After Ray Allen went out with an injury, the rotation of Posey, House, and Tony Allen seemed to contradict logic, as it played to the length and size of the Jazz.  


Overall, he misjudges defensive matchups, as we have seen in this series with the Hawks. He is letting KG and Co. simply get tired. As a result, they are settling for threes, abandoning the ball movement and penetration that made them so well balanced and unstoppable this season, and are not attacking the basket and getting the other team into foul trouble.

When the Celtics have Posey, KG, House, etc. going nuts on the court and on the sidelines, the team is energized. During the two games in Atlanta, the Celtics seem to be going through the motions. The Hawks youth and athleticism killed them. In a playoff environment, playing on the road, are the Celtics being exposed for being aging, and able to win only in ideal circumstances? 

Cassell has been a disaster, and why Eddie House isn't playing more is beyond me. He simply cannot stay with the quicker and younger guards. Davis and Powe seem to be able to compete with Horford and Smith, and Powe can guard the perimeter. Both can throw some bodies around. At the moments when the Celtics can use their young energy, they should do so in small stretches. 

Josh Smith is having the series of his life, but KG should be eating him up on offense. Not sure why Doc has KG shooting jump shots, and the rest of them spread out on the perimeter. As a result, the Hawks are able to take off down the court after a missed shot and score quickly.  

How the hell was Ray Allen allowed to stay on Joe Johnson while getting torched? Even after a timeout? Then Cassell came into the game for Rondo, at a time where they probably could have used Rondo's penetration and distribution skills. Pierce looked as if he was bewildered by his incompetent coach's decision at the end of the game.  

I also think Pierce should accept responsibility for not attacking the basket and taking over the game. Granted, it's not the most favorable matchup for him (against a young and athletic Atlanta team), but he can still create for others, force a defense to adjust for him, and get to the foul line. 

Instead, the only ones who wanted to shoot in Game Four were Posey (who kept the C's in the game), and KG, who tried to establish a post presence, but it was too late. Atlanta was allowed to push the Celtics around on both ends of the floor, and the Celtics were creating their own mismatches with their questionable substitutions. This series should be over already.

Doc’s decision making is the only thing that can defeat the Celtics in the playoffs, if they are healthy and playing like they have all season. The Celtics' experience in Atlanta parallels what Detroit is going through against a young and athletic Philadelphia team, and having to reconcile the coaching of their own “Doc,” Flip Saunders.

In Game Five, the Celtics returned to their style of play, with a swarming defense, and Pierce finally asserted himself offensively. If they keep the same energy on the road Friday night, there should be no reason why they can’t repeat the same performance. The Hawks have been playing over their heads right now, and it showed last night.