December 18, 2004
Doc Rivers has been preaching ball movement and selflessness since the day he became the Celtics coach last summer. Finally, 23 games into the season, the Celtics last night gave the 15,504 on hand at the FleetCenter a glimpse of Rivers's vision in Boston's 114-106 victory over the Jazz.
"It was a great, great, great win," said Rivers, who talked about taking care of business at home and about how last night's victory - which certainly wasn't as close as the final score - was something he would like his team to build on. But what impressed Rivers the most was how his point guard initiated the ball movement. The box score will show that Gary Payton scored a season-high 27 points and dished off 11 assists, tying a season high for the 36-year-old veteran.
But his teammates followed his lead and did a simple thing: they looked for - and found - the open man. "Offensively, we were as good as you can get," said Rivers, who thought the 27 assists "was beautiful. Gary Payton was the dominant player tonight. But we still thought that as many points as we scored - the ball movement - when you think we had seven guys in double figures and all five of our starters were in double figures, that's the type of ball movement and basketball we've got to play every night." "We distributed the ball very well and I think we kept everybody in the flow. So when everybody touches the ball, then we're a good basketball team," said Payton. Rivers said Payton "was awesome. No, he probably can't [play this way every night]. I don't know if we need it every night, either. We needed it tonight; tomorrow night, maybe someone else steps up."
That someone could be anyone, such as Mark Blount (18 points before fouling out) or Raef LaFrentz, who collected 10 points and 10 rebounds. But usually, you would expect it from Paul Pierce or Ricky Davis. "When you think about it, Ricky Davis had 11 and Paul [Pierce] had 13," said Rivers. "So most nights, one of those two are going to have bigger nights. Tonight was Gary's night." Payton was a blitzkrieg from the opening tap. He hit 10 of 13 from the floor,
including both his 3-pointers. He also connected on all five free throws and pulled down six rebounds. "I was pushing the ball and everybody was getting out," said Payton. "We just got to understand that we got to do that night in and night out. We did a great job at it. We kept forcing it. When they made baskets, we forced it right back at them."
He established control from the outset, hitting 5 of 7 from the floor in the first 12 minutes and handing out four assists as the Celtics built a 29-17 advantage. Pierce had nothing but praise for Payton. "GP is Hall of Fame," said Pierce, who said the early plan was to feed Payton. But Payton was more concerned with taking the best shot. "When we're not taking good shots, then it's very difficult [to win] so tonight everybody got to the basket a little bit easy," said Payton. "We did a lot of good things, good things on offense. I don't think we played defense very well. In the third quarter, they were scoring back-to-back on us. But I think we did a good job overall."
Still, all that Rivers wanted to talk about was the distribution.
"The ball movement - it was just beautiful," said the coach.