NEW YORK — High on the Celtics’ list of adjustments as they prepare for Game 2 of their first-round series against the New York Knicks here Tuesday night is to establish Kevin Garnett as a force.
That plan isn’t exactly top secret, nor is it unexpected.
But it’s very necessary after Garnett missed eight of his 12 shots in the Celtics’ Game 1 loss, leaving coach Doc Rivers to say that the team needs to do a better job spacing the floor to help Garnett.
“We have to create for him,” Rivers said before the team’s Monday practice at Madison Square Garden. “Kevin can’t dribble and pass it to himself.”
Paul Pierce took it a step further when it comes to Garnett, saying that they need to do this establishing of Garnett early, unlike in Game 1. Specifically, Pierce said, they need to give Garnett the ball on the first four or five possessions to get him going.
“We get off to a good offensive rhythm when he’s touching the ball and we’re moving it, and that’s what we’ve got to do if we don’t want to continue to struggle on the offensive end,” Pierce said.
“And, also, early in the fourth quarter we’ve got to do the same thing like we did when we start the game — get the ball to him.”
Floor spacing is, Garnett said, crucial for the Celtics, especially when Pierce and Jeff Green are on the floor.
In Game 1, Garnett said, “A lot of times we found ourselves, I don’t want to say discombobulated, but uneven at times, clearing the elbow out, doing certain things we went through in practice before this whole series started.”
Discombobulated is one way to put it. The Celtics scored 25 points in the second half, the lowest total in a half in franchise playoff history, and their 8 points in the fourth quarter tied a postseason franchise low.
Garnett played 37 minutes in Game 1 and Rivers didn’t bring any reserve big man off the bench, either Chris Wilcox or Shavlik Randolph. Rivers said he might bring one of those two reserves in Tuesday night if the game dictates it.
“They stay small most of the game,” Rivers said about the Knicks, “so you don’t have to do that.”
Randolph, who joined the Celtics in February after playing in China, has little playoff experience: four total minutes in two games when he played for Philadelphia in 2007-08.
Randolph is like several other Celtics in that regard, leaving Rivers with the choice of playing his older players (such as the 36-year-old Garnett) heavy minutes or playing younger players like Randolph on a stage that’s relatively new to them.
“You want to play your key guys as many minutes, and that’s the key,” said Rivers, who previously had said there would be no minutes limit for Garnett and the other veterans. “Then after that, you figure out the rest of the guys, where do they play?”
Aside from Garnett, the other key cog in the Celtics frontcourt, Brandon Bass, played so well in Game 1 that Rivers described the forward’s performance as “the perfect game.”
The stat line for Bass’s so-called perfect game included 4 points and 10 rebounds in 33 minutes, most of which he spent matched up to Carmelo Anthony on defense.
“He guarded Melo well, he took shots when he should have,” Rivers said. “He moved the ball a lot, because they were coming. I don’t see anything he did wrong.”
Bass, who averaged 8.7 points during the regular season and 12 points during the team’s final 19 games, took only two shots, making both.
Rivers said they’d like Bass to take more — if those shots are there for the taking.
“You don’t have to worry about Brandon not taking a shot — that’s a fact,” Rivers said. “But what’s good about it, he didn’t think about it. He didn’t try to force it. I thought of all our guys, he played the perfect game for us.”
A “perfect” game?
“Then I want to be better than I did last game,” Bass said when informed of Rivers’s comment.
While grateful for such praise, Bass admitted that it wasn’t exactly a perfect game.
“We didn’t win, man,” he said. “I still feel like there’s ways I can help this team more. Extra possessions. Get some offensive rebounds. Defend better. Things of that nature to help us get a win.”
His to-do list is more or less how Garnett describes Bass.
“Brandon is high energy, he keeps a lot of balls alive,” Garnett said. “His offensive rebounding is very similar to [Jared Sullinger]. He obviously has range up to 17 feet, can shoot the basketball very well, can drive.
“He’s like glue. He does the small things that you don’t normally see on the stat sheet. He’s a big part of our team.”
In Game 1, Bass was especially effective on Anthony. After the Knicks forward made his first four shots, Bass closed in tighter, invading Anthony’s airspace, making it hard for him to catch the ball and get a clean look at the basket.
Anthony missed 15 of his next 20 shots, many of them with Bass in his grill.
“I can’t even tell you how I do what I do to do that, but I’m going to do what I do to make it work for us,” Bass said of his defense against Anthony.
Bass paused, reflecting on the eloquence of his words.
“And you can put that in the paper,” he said.
. . .
The Knicks’ J.R. Smith won the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year Award Monday. Celtics guard Jordan Crawford received a first-place vote for that award.
It was the only vote Crawford received. Five other players received first-place votes, led by Smith (72) and followed by another Crawford, the Clippers’ Jamal (31).
Jordan Crawford played in his first career playoff game Saturday, which he headed into wondering whether the intensity level would be as high as everyone had told him it would be.
He wasn’t impressed.
“I thought there was going to be a little more excitement, but it was cool, actually,” he said.
Crawford is known solely as a shooter and a scorer, but he didn’t take one shot in that game. Was he hesitant?
“No, I wanted to make sure I made my first shot,” he said, wryly.
Reserve guard Jason Terry plans to bounce back from his scoreless performance in Game 1.
When asked why he wasn’t involved more in the game, Terry said, “I have no idea, but I’m going to get involved, whether we do it or we don’t. Whatever happens, I will get involved.”