Doc Rivers Seeks Difficult Combination of Faster Pace, Fewer Turnovers


Doc Rivers Seeks Difficult Combination of Faster Pace, Fewer TurnoversWALTHAM, Mass. — Green was a fitting color for the Celtics
last season, as their style of play resembled that of the tortoise who raced
the hare. Slow and steady almost won the race, with the Celtics riding their
excruciatingly slow pace of play to within one victory of the NBA Finals.

With such a deliberate style, it was no surprise that the
Celtics' points scored and points allowed were extremely low. Despite being passable
offensively given their reliance on outside jump shots, the Celtics simply did
not tally enough possessions in the course of most games to top 100 points on a
regular basis. They cracked triple-digits only 18 times during the regular
season and only five times in 20 playoff games.

Celtics coach Doc Rivers would like to see that change, of
course, and the additions of Jason Terry and Courtney Lee, coupled with the
return of willing runners Jeff Green and Chris Wilcox, has Rivers optimistic that
his team can push the pace this season. He has set a high standard early in
training camp to not only increase the tempo, but also cut down on turnovers.

"We need to increase our pace," Rivers said Sunday
at the Celtics' practice facility. "We turned the ball over too much last
year. I thought more than anything that hurt our offense. When you look at our
efficiency, when we actually got a shot up at the basket we were pretty good. I
would like to increase our pace of play a little bit. I just think we're a
different team."

The Celtics were the second-most efficient defensive squad
last season, holding opponents to 95.5 points per 100 possessions. They were
only 24th in offensive efficiency, however, scoring 98.9 points per 100
possessions — worse than the Nets or Kings and just a smidge better than the
Raptors or Hornets.

Two big reasons for the Celtics' offensive struggles were
their slow style and a high rate of turnovers. The Celtics used only 92.3
possessions per 48-minute game, the fourth-lowest amount among playoff teams. Almost
15 percent of those possessions ended in a turnover, which limited their
scoring chances even further.

Lee was aggressive in projecting a goal for the Celtics'
fastbreak attack, saying he would like to add 10 to 12 transition points per
game. That would be an 80 to 100 percent increase over last season's average,
yet early in training camp the players seem willing to make the running game a
priority. Terry has always favored an up-tempo style, and less than two weeks
removed from his 35th birthday, the shooting guard has expressed no desire to
slow down.

Rajon Rondo has taken ownership of the turnover issue, but upping
the pace might be tricky. While most of the Celtics may want to run,
36-year-old Kevin Garnett and 34-year-old Paul Pierce remain two of the team's
best players. Both players have thrived in a steadier style of play in recent years,
which could complicate plans to pick up the pace.

"You just keep trying to push it and talk about
it," Rivers said. "We've had guys that have really wanted to run, and
I think we have more of those guys now."

More running tends to lead to more turnovers, but for now Rivers
is not interested in tendencies. He wants the best of both worlds, and with
nearly a month to go before the start of the regular season, he sees no harm in
setting the bar high.

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