Where, oh where, is “Big Game” Brad?
Brad Stevens made a name for himself because he got his Butler Bulldogs to a pair of NCAA National Championship games. Those teams took things to a higher gear when there was more at stake, and they thrived under do-or-die pressure.
So far in Boston (hard to believe it, he’s been here since 2013), Stevens has done just the opposite of what he did in college. The sample size is still small, but Stevens so far is nothing more than a regular season wonder in the NBA.
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He’s Mr. January, in a league where the playoffs don’t heat up until Memorial Day.
Stevens’ Celtics were swept badly by the Cavaliers two years ago as the average margin of victory for Cleveland in all four games was 9.25 points.
Last year in the playoffs, the Celtics looked woefully unprepared in a Game 2 loss to Atlanta, scoring seven points in the first quarter and 72 overall. They rebounded in the series against the Hawks, tying it, 2-2. But in Game 5 at Atlanta, the Celtics were again blown out – this time by 27 points.
In a do-or-die Game 6 against the Hawks at the Garden, Stevens’ Celtics died. The Hawks built a 28-point lead at one point and ran away with a 104-92 series-clinching victory.
Stevens didn’t do anything egregiously wrong in those losses, or in the Game 1 loss to the Bulls on Easter night this year. It’s just that many Green teamers are convinced that Stevens is – as Wile E. Coyote used to say – a “Super Genius.” And when someone is consistently labeled a “Super Genius,” you expect that genius to show up on the big stage. So far, that simply hasn’t happened for Stevens in Boston.
Now, it’s not really on Stevens that the Celtics were destroyed on the boards Sunday against Chicago (65-44 rebounds in favor of the Bulls). That’s more of a Danny Ainge problem.
Stevens can scream at his guys until he’s blue in the face that they need to box out, but height often helps in these matters – and the Celtics don’t have much of it.
Still, “Super Genius” Stevens should be able to find different ways to win a game – especially against an inferior opponent (in their last regular season meeting on March 12, the Celtics clobbered the Bulls 100-80).
The playoffs should be Stevens’ time to shine, his time to coach circles around these other dummies – particularly a seat-filler like Fred Hoiberg. Instead, though, there was a different former college star coach who stole the “best young mind” award this past weekend.
Utah’s Quin Snyder refused to call a time out in the closing seconds of Game 1 vs. the Clippers and he came out beautifully. Synder ID’d a mismatch with LA’s Jamal Crawford (one of the worst defenders in the NBA) still on the floor. Calling a timeout would have allowed old friend Doc Rivers to get Crawford out of the game, but Synder rolled with what was on the floor and Joe Johnson was able to exploit Crawford for a game-winning, buzzer-beater.
It’s extremely early in his pro basketball coaching career, but the record right now shows that Stevens is an ugly 2-9 in the postseason.
The Celtics could really use their resident genius to show up Tuesday night at the Garden in a must-win Game 2 (8 p.m., CSNNE, TNT).