Commentary

Celtics done in by turnovers

Updated: April 20, 2013, 10:43 PM ET
By Chris Forsberg | ESPNBoston.com

NEW YORK -- When the Boston Celtics settle into their hotel ballroom on Sunday morning to watch film of Saturday's 85-78 loss to the New York Knicks in Game 1 of an Eastern Conference first-round series, the first thing that will likely greet them is a montage of their 21 head-shaking turnovers.

Players will bury themselves in hooded sweatshirts or slump low in their chairs as Rivers pauses the tape to hammer home all the terrible entry passes, two traveling violations, two offensive fouls and a shot-clock violation. The common thread in most of the transgressions they'll see: The Celtics were their own worst enemy.

As Paul Pierce summed it up, "I think some were forced, but some were just boneheaded plays."

[+] EnlargeJeff Green
Debby Wong/USA TODAY SportsJeff Green had a big first half, scoring 20 of his 26 points, but committed four of his team-high six turnovers in the fourth quarter.

Coming into the playoffs, Rivers stressed that maybe his biggest concern was not having a point guard after losing Rajon Rondo to a season-ending ACL injury in January. It's one thing to get away without a pure ball handler in the regular season, but Rivers believed the Knicks would apply full-court pressure on Avery Bradley with hopes of preventing Boston from simply getting into its offensive sets.

On Saturday, Boston's sloppiness had very little to do with the fact that Rondo was on the sideline wearing a loud yellow cardigan under a blazer. The Knicks barely even applied full-court pressure. Yes, New York forced its fair share of second-half turnovers with double-team pressure in the paint and stripping the ball free, but the majority of Boston's miscues were self-inflicted.

Despite the fact that Rivers had implored his team in the days leading up to Game 1 to value the ball and maximize every possession, the Celtics couldn't stop shooting themselves in the foot.

Maybe the fourth quarter summed up Boston's futility best: The Celtics had as many points (8) as turnovers in the frame (both alarming numbers). According to the wizards at ESPN Stats & Information, it's only the sixth time in the past 15 years that a team has had as many turnovers as points in a quarter.

"We had bad turnovers tonight," said Rivers. "If we have those turnovers in any game, we probably should lose the game. And we did.

"We were making post passes from the other side of the floor. I mean, those are just not good passes. Again, all we have to do is trust, make the next-guy pass, let that guy make it. I thought early on even, I thought we did in the first half as well. We were trying to get the ball to Kevin [Garnett]. I think we threw three passes from half court to the post. I mean, you're going to turn the ball over when that happens instead of just making the next pass, letting that guy make the pass when he's in the passing area.

"We work on it every day. We stepped backwards doing it today. Give [the Knicks] credit, they got in and pressured the ball a little bit, but I thought we had our chances to do it."

Here's a closer look at what the Celtics will find on film:

If you're a glass-half-full kind of person, you'll cling to the fact that much of Boston's turnover woes can be cured with a little more discipline. If you're a glass-half-empty person, you're angry that Boston let a winnable game get away and you could really use some more water.

During the regular season, Boston tied for 12th in team turnover percentage by giving the ball away on 15.3 percent of total possessions. During Saturday's loss, Boston had giveaways on a staggering 23.2 percent of its possessions.

You don't win in the postseason without taking care of the ball, especially when you're a team that struggles to consistently put points on the scoreboard. The Knicks, the league's leader in ball security, turned the ball over 13 times, leading to just 10 points. Boston's 21 giveaways accounted for nearly a quarter (20 points) of New York's total offensive output.

"It's very frustrating," said Bradley, who had four turnovers. "We had a lot of turnovers tonight. As a team we don't want to turn the ball over -- I think we had [21] turnovers -- we don't want to turn the ball over [21] times. We've got to take care of the ball and play the right way."

Jeff Green, who committed four of his team-high six turnovers in the fourth quarter amid a quiet second half, said the Knicks were "more aggressive" when he caught the ball. Paul Pierce, who had six turnovers said of the pressure in the paint, "We're aware that's what they do. ... We have to be better, more conscious of that [and] protecting the ball."

Asked what went wrong during Saturday's game, Garnett cut right to the chase.

"Turnovers, man. Twenty[-one] turnovers," said Garnett. "That's too much. ... You don't give yourself a chance to win like that."

Chris Forsberg

Celtics reporter, ESPNBoston.com

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