Frustration mounts as Celtics lose big in L.A.

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Frustration mounts as Celtics lose big in L.A.

LOS ANGELES Just outside the Boston Celtics locker room, not a sound could be heard.

Once inside, silence was still the pervading sound of choice.

After a humbling 106-77 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers, the scoreboard said it all.

There is no masking the disappointment that such losses can bring about in a team as prideful as the C's.

Beyond winning games, the Celtics will be challenged in the coming days and weeks in keeping that disappointment from turning into frustration which is never a good thing.

"If you're a competitive player like I am, it's frustrating to lose," said Celtics guard Rajon Rondo. "It's frustrating, but at the same time you have to move forward. It's the NBA. We don't have two weeks to linger on this game. We have to move forward and get ready for Golden State."

"On to the next one" is a once-popular Hip-Hop song by rapper Jay-Z. It's also an appropriate title for where the Celtics' heads have to be right now in what is clearly the darkest day in what has been a season full of overcast-like moments.

More than a third of the way through this season, and the Celtics are a .500 team.

The reasons for their most recent setback vary.

Head coach Doc Rivers believes his players were thinking too much, and not just playing the game.

"I really thought we out-thought the game," Rivers said. "I could hear all the talk about different coverages ... we play the same defense every night for the most part. I just thought we were out-thinking ourselves tonight."

Kevin Garnett felt the C's weren't "firm" enough with their play consistently enough.

"We got away from stuff that we had been doing, that's been working for us," Garnett said. "We weren't firm enough; you have to be firm."

Regardless of the reason, the one lesson the Celtics can take away from Thursday's game is clear.

The Clippers are the better team - much better team - at this point.

And if there were any doubts about that, they should not exist after Thursday's thumping.

"We know at this point in the season, they're a better team than us," said Celtics guard Jason Terry. "That's the way they played. For us, you're not going to get frustrated. You just move forward, and keep grinding."

While that sounds good in theory, it too is a recurring theme with this team as they continue to make little to no progress from one game to the next in terms of winning.

"For us, it's the same old story," Terry said. "Win one and then you lose one. Until we break that cycle, we're not going to take that next step. And we know that. For us, we have to win this next one."

Sixers' success against C's defense shows Boston still has room to grow

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Sixers' success against C's defense shows Boston still has room to grow

Avery Bradley was a member of the NBA’s All-Defensive first team a year ago. And Al Horford has been among the league’s best interior defenders for a number of years.

But as talented defensively as they may be, the Celtics are still learning how to play with each other as well as off of one another.

Injuries have slowed down the chemistry developing as quickly as some might expect. Horford missed nine games due to a concussion, and another game due to wife giving birth to their second child, Alia Horford.

And in Boston’s 107-106 win over Philadelphia on Saturday night, defensive chemistry -- not only among Horford and Bradley, but with all of the players -- remains a work in progress for sure.

Boston had a number of defensive issues in the first half which factored in the Sixer shooting 46.1 percent from the field while shooting 9-for-18 from 3-point range.

But the second half was an entirely different story as Boston’s defense picked up his intensity and focus level which would prove to be just enough to beat a scrappy Sixers team.

The Celtics (12-8) are four games over .500 for the first time this season currently have the third-best record in the Eastern Conference behind Cleveland (13-5) and Toronto (14-6). 

And while the players point to a handful of games that they felt they gave away, Avery Bradley reminds all that the success of this team this season has for the most part come with key players out of the mix or limited in some capacity.

“We haven’t played that many games with the full roster,” Bradley told reporters after the win. “We’re still learning how to play with each other.”

Bradley pointed out a moment in Saturday’s victory where a miscommunication between him and Horford led to a defensive miscue.

Boston has had similar mistakes made on offense this season, too.

“We haven’t really been in pick-and-roll that much,” Bradley said. “Every single game we need to improve.”

And that improvement has to continue evolving on the defensive side of things for this team to achieve its goals this season which include being among the last teams standing in the East.

Doing that will likely mean Boston re-establishing itself as a defensive force, something that should come with time and experience playing with each other.

Horford, who signed a four-year, $113 million deal with Boston in the offseason, says it’s an ongoing process for all involved.

“I have to learn to play with our concepts, the guys have to learn to play with me,” Horford told reporters after Saturday’s win. “We just have to make sure we keep playing the right way, be more consistent with that. I feel like we’re getting better but there’s still some work that we need to do.”

Stars, studs and duds: Thomas churns out another strong fourth quarter performance

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Stars, studs and duds: Thomas churns out another strong fourth quarter performance

The pressure that comes with a tight game in the fourth quarter can be a weighty proposition for some NBA players.

Then there’s Boston’s Isaiah Thomas who continues to save his best work for the fourth quarter.

Saturday’s 107-106 win at Philadelphia had yet another Thomas-like finish for the Celtics as the 5-foot-9 guard was at his most dominant state in the game’s final minutes.

Thomas finished with a season high-tying 37 points which included a stretch in the fourth in which he scored 12 straight.

“I just love the fourth quarter,” Thomas told reporters following the win. “I just want to win. Whether it’s making plays for myself or making plays for my teammates, it’s about making the right play. I get ultra- aggressive in that fourth quarter. That’s what I’ve always done.”

And his teammates appreciate how Thomas elevates his play in the game’s most pivotal moments.

“A lot of the credit is to Isaiah, how he was able to finish the game tonight,” said Avery Bradley. “He was able to make shots when we needed him to.”

And while Thomas knows his shots won’t fall all the time down the stretch, his fourth quarter mentality does provide him with a level of confidence that no matter what the defense does to him or what the score may be, he can swing the game’s momentum in his team’s favor.

“Some guys get a little tight, they get a little timid (in the fourth quarter),” Thomas said. “I embrace it. I want to be great. I want to be somebody my teammates can call on when the game is close.”

Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from Saturday night’s game.

STARS

Isaiah Thomas: There was no more dominant player on Saturday night than Thomas. He finished with a game-high 37 points along with seven assists.

Dario Saric: It was a breakout game for the 22-year-old rookie who led the Sixers with 21 points as well as 12 rebounds for his third double-double this season. Both his points and rebound totals tied his career highs in those categories.

STUDS

Avery Bradley: Boston’s surge towards victory did not kick in until the third quarter which is when Bradley elevated his play offensively. In the third he scored 10 of his 20 points on the night, to go along with a team-high nine rebounds.

Ersan Illyasova: He finished with 18 points which included a pair of three-pointers in the closing seconds of the game. He also grabbed six rebounds and two assists.

DUDS

Celtics first half defense: There wasn’t much to like about Boston defensively in the first half. The Celtics struggled to take away or limit Philadelphia’s only strength Saturday night which was three-point shooting. The Sixers nailed nine of their 18 three-point attempts in the first half in addition to hurting the Celtics’ transition defense which gave up seven fast-break points to Philly compared to Boston scoring just one point in transition.