Celtics Overtime is a postgame feature providing analysis from each game. Boston beat the Philadelphia 76ers, 107-91, Wednesday in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
Remember those peg boards you played with when you were a kid, the ones where you had a circle, a square and a triangle and you had to fit them into the right hole? Well, picture Kevin Garnett as one of those pegs (we'll say a circle). On Monday night, the Celtics weren't putting the circle (a.k.a. Garnett) in the right hole, according to coach Doc Rivers.
"We never established the post," Rivers said after Monday night's 82-81 loss to the Sixers.
That would change on Wednesday, though, as Rivers utilized his circle correctly, fitting it snugly into the right position. But enough about the shapes, let's move on to basketball.
Garnett, who had 15 points (but really 12) and 12 rebounds in the Game 2 loss to Philadelphia, certainly did his part to help re-establish the post in Game 3 of the series on Wednesday at the Wells Fargo Center, scoring 27 on an efficient 12-of-17 shooting while grabbing 13 rebounds to lead Boston to a statement 107-91 win and a 2-1 series lead.
"I thought we got shots the right way," Rivers said. "I thought we played in-to-out basketball for the most part, even if it was drives in-to-out or posts in-to-our. I thought a lot of guys tonight came and they didn't think about what they were not doing well. I thought a lot of guys just came and played."
Garnett, who made half of his baskets in the post, isn't just effective when he's scoring near the bucket. Rivers looks to Garnett to create plays down low with his passing abilities, which he again did in Game 3. Nearly half of the Celtics' total points (50) came in the paint.
"We did it the right way," Rivers said about his team's post production. "I thought we did it through execution, we did it through space. I thought the first two games, especially, we tried to do it, but we did it out of random, and our spacing was poor. We also did it through posting the ball early. We posted Paul up early and we posted Kevin up early, and that's the right way to play. That's who we are."
Of course, a team could get all of the good looks they want, but that's only half the battle.
"Now, listen, the shots have to go in. That makes you a lot better," Rivers added. "At least the shots were the shots that we wanted instead of the ones, because our offense was so poor, that we had to take. I thought that was the big difference."
Boston missed its first six shots, but Garnett, Paul Pierce (24 points, 12 rebounds) and Rajon Rondo (23 points, 14 assists) took control and led Boston to an 11-point halftime lead (60-49), which it never looked back from. The Celtics shot 51.9 percent from the floor (40-for-77) and won the battle on the boards, 44-37.
Going back to Rivers' earlier point about players putting their struggles behind them, Pierce was 2-for-10 from the field in the opening half and had nine points, all of which came in the opening quarter. Usually counted on for most of the scoring, Pierce still found a way to make himself useful, scooping up five offensive rebounds to keep possessions alive.
Said Rivers: "When we talked about it before, if what you do well is not there, what else are you going to do to help the team as a group? Paul was a great example for that. I thought a lot of guys had those type of games."
Boston also benefitted from the aggressiveness of Rondo. All but one of Rondo's nine made baskets came inside the paint, and his ability to drive to the hoop helped to open up other shooters, as displayed by his 14 assists.
"It's really important for us," Rivers said about Rondo's aggressive play. "Team's dictate their defense by trying to play off Rondo and do different things, and when Rondo becomes an offensive threat, then Kevin becomes a better offensive player, Ray [Allen] and Paul become better offensive players because you can't spend the game trying to help off of him.
"I thought he set the tone for us. Rondo was extremely serious in shootaround this morning. I thought he really set the tone for our mental approach, and that's what we need to stay in."
When the rubber met the road, the Celtics were just in the right mindset, and it paid off.
"I don't know if we were tougher, but mentally ... we were in the right place," said Rivers.