In search of an answer to the Boston Celtics' static second-half offense, coach Doc Rivers Wednesday expressed as candid and straightforward a conclusion as you'll hear from a coach in the postseason. The Knicks, he said, looked like they wanted it more than the Celtics.
That's the impression that Rivers said he had after watching the video of his team scoring only 23 second-half points en route to an 85-71 Game 2 loss on Tuesday night. The rout dropped the Celtics into a 2-0 hole in the best-of-seven, first-round series.
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"We have to play harder," Rivers said from Boston during a conference call with reporters Wednesday afternoon. "I thought clearly the Knicks came out in the second half and acted far more desperate than we did and I thought it showed in the way they played."
The Celtics led the Knicks by six points at halftime on Tuesday, so only 24 minutes of basketball stood in the way of them heading home with the series evened. But instead of embracing the situation, the Celtics came out flat in the third quarter, just like they did in Game 1.
Rivers wishes he could pinpoint why his team has totaled only 48 points on 22-percent shooting (14-for-63) in the second half during the first two games. He admittedly doesn't have the answer.
"We have to do something because we've come out flat, period," Rivers said. "We did all the other stuff but we've come out flat in back-to-back halftimes and I don't know what that is. As a coach, that's an alarm, and I don't know what it is. We have two days to figure it out."
After the Celtics scored only 25 points in the second half of their 85-78 Game 1 loss Saturday, Rivers blamed his team's poor spacing on offense and their carelessness with the basketball. They did a better job of not turning the ball over in the second half of Game 2; this time, they just couldn't hit shots.
Kevin Garnett said after Game 2 that the Celtics' offense "stagnated" in the second half and he refused to offer any theories on why that is. Paul Pierce added, "We just didn't come out aggressive in the third quarter."
And just as everything started going haywire for his team, Rivers said his players failed to match the Knicks' intensity, one of the most frustrating developments of all.
"At the end of the day we cannot be outplayed in the effort department and the desperation department," he said. "In the second half of that game I really thought the Knicks played like their season was on the line. And I don't think we answered that."
Now the Celtics are back home for the first time in what Rivers said "feels like a month," and the coach can only hope that his team being back in Boston could be the catalyst that sparks a better second-half effort.
Asked if the pressure's on for a more effective halftime speech, he laughed.
"If it's going to come to that," Rivers said, "we're in trouble."