With 8:06 remaining in yesterday’s fourth quarter, the Celtics were struggling to erase a deficit they’d faced almost the entire game. Eddie House had gotten hot for a couple jumpers, Ray Allen hit a pullup in the lane off a curl, and Kendrick Perkins’ bucket from an Eddie House dime had put the C’s down only four points, 75-71. It looked like the Celtics might finally pull into the lead against the game Chicago Bulls.
Then Doc Rivers got a little creative, deciding to sub Pierce in for Glen Davis at power forward, leaving the Celtics with this lineup:
- Rajon Rondo
- Eddie House
- Ray Allen
- Paul Pierce
- Kendrick Perkins
A minute and a half later, the Celtics were down ten points when Doc decided his little experiment had failed, turning to Brian Scalabrine to put a more conventional lineup on the floor. Just like that, the Celtics’ comeback was over. They would never get within six points the rest of the game.
The Celtics, who had already been undersized with Ray Allen struggling to guard the 6’9″ Luol Deng, turned to the smallest lineup they’d used all season.
They were giving up size at every position, and the thing was… the C’s didn’t have a particularly athletic lineup out there. Even with their lack of size, they didn’t have much — maybe any — speed or quickness advantage. The Bulls were able to take advantage of their size, but the Celtics had no advantage of their own to counter it. Had Doc thrown Tony Allen, Bill Walker, Rondo, Pierce and Perk out there and simply beaten the bigger, slower Bulls down the floor every time, the lineup might have worked. But with no discernible edge in quickness or speed, the Celtics just couldn’t keep up with the longer, bigger, just-as-athletic Bulls.
So why did Doc do it? Well, first of all, the Bulls have very limited inside scoring. Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson, their bigs at the time, can score garbage buckets and wide open midrange jumpers, but neither is known as a scorer.
I’m sure Doc felt Pierce would be able to do a fine job on Gibson, and create a mismatch on the other side of the court. Pierce should have been able to go to work against Gibson, but he never really got the chance; the Bulls’ quick run forced Doc to pull the plug on his quick switch to the new lineup.
I’ve actually been calling for Doc to use Pierce at PF against certain teams… but it comes with a disclaimer. If the C’s use Pierce at PF, they have to have some considerable size in the backcourt. If Pierce had been surrounded by Marquis Daniels, Ray Allen and Tony Allen, for instance, that lineup might work. Boston would have been giving up size only at the power forward position, and would have been able to counteract it with a big backcourt and some long athletes.
But they can’t trot out the miniature three-guard trio of Rondo, House, and Ray Allen.
It just won’t work.
Anyway, it’s amazing the lineups injuries can force Doc Rivers into trying.