Monday, January 5, 2009

Doc Rivers rears his ugly head once again

The Celtics skid now stands at four losses out of six games. Granted, five of these were road games, four of which on a west coast swing, so a grain of salt is necessary, but we can still take this as a sign of future problems. I know where I'm starting to look: Doc Rivers.

Now, I'm usually in favor of not giving a coach too much credit for success or blame for failure, and I'm not saying Rivers has caused this recent slide, but he's not necessarily helping it either, especially when it comes to bench management.

The Celtics bench, as heavily reported, has been very sub-par this year after losing James Posey, PJ Brown, and Sam Cassell (sort of) from last year's title squad. To quantify this, I took a look at the last ten games played, which included the six games from this "skid", three home blowouts, and the tight Celts-Hawks game.

In these games, the Boston Bench played 77 minutes per game (49 low, 105 high) compared to opponents' 81 minutes per game (41 low, 127 high). Opposing benches outscored the Celtics 33.2 to 28.5 in this span.

Applying the bench point-per-minute numbers to a full quarter (12 minutes) for five players (broadly assuming starters play 3/4 of the game), the failure of the bench becomes incredibly telling. One of the ten games was to the Celtics advantage (the blowout @Sac), while the three biggest deficits came in losses: -17.1 tonight @NYK, -12.0 @Port, and -6.6 @Lakers.

Despite using less bench minutes, Doc has still reverted back to playing all twelve players regardless of situation, as noted in prior seasons by a certain overzealous fan. Seemingly every time the Celts build up a lead, the bench gives it right back when the starters rest.

Brian Scalabrine, a man with no discernible skills other than being the only white guy on a team in a racially challenged city, continues to average ten minutes per game. Listed as a power forward, Scal has shot under 39% for his career, which would be bad for a guard. He ranked dead last in Hollinger's PER rating for PF's last year, and is sitting pretty at 6.17PER for the year right now.

It could be said that Rivers is coaching the team for the playoffs, not the regular season, and resting his stars while he can, knowing full well they'll make the playoffs. It's also tough to form a second unit or rotation when Eddie House, a player built to run and rain threes off-ball, is handling the ball at point.

But this still doesn't excuse the lack of cohesion on this bench, whether it's Scalabrine tossing up aimless threes, Tony Allen dropping his head down and charging toward the basket without recourse, or Glen Davis dropping passes in the post. This should be a focus in practice, and Rivers needs to make it happen before Boston complacently slips to the 3rd seed in the East, or worse.

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