Rondo: 'We're making the same mistakes in our defense'

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Rondo: 'We're making the same mistakes in our defense'

BOSTON Lay-ups. Dunks. Jumpers out of the pick-and-roll.
You name a means of scoring, and there was a very good chance the San Antonio Spurs found success with it against the Boston Celtics.
And the end result was a 112-100 Celtics loss, a game whose score offers a glimpse into how problematic things are right now for the Celtics defensively.
"We pride ourselves on defense," said C's point guard Rajon Rondo. "And we're just not getting it done."
And it has left C's coach Doc Rivers searching for answers as to what it will take to remedy the defensive struggles his team continues to find itself in on a seemingly game-by-game basis.
It was suggested that maybe the Celtics simply need to play harder to snap out of their defensive doldrums.
Rivers shot that theory down quickly.
"We've got to do our coverages better; bottom line," Rivers said. "Harder and all that, that sounds great. That's what everyone says when you lose; 'you've got to play harder.' Well, we've got to play smarter, we have to know our coverages better, and when that happens everybody is on the same page and it allows our rotations to be freer, it allows our bigs to get back to the paint."
Still, the C's do tend to allow players too much freedom and comfort when they attack the rim.
"We're not taking away anything," Rondo said. "We have to do a better job -- not to hurt anyone -- but not let guys finish at the rim. We have to make them go to the line. It's a collective team effort. It starts with me. I have to do a better job on pick-and-roll coverage and try to get back and help my bigs rebound."
Many of the C's breakdowns came about in their pick-and-roll defense that the Spurs essentially picked apart all game long.
San Antonio had 58 points in the paint compared to Boston's 34. When it came to second-chance points, the Spurs crushed the C's, 17-2. The second-chance points discrepancy spoke volumes about how lopsided the game was on the boards with San Antonio holding a 41-25 advantage.
"It's tough, it's tough," said Kevin Garnett when asked about seeing such lopsided numbers put up against the C's defensively.
Garnett said Wednesday's game was indeed a blow to the Celtics' defensive identity.
It's hard to argue otherwise when you consider they've given up 100 or more points in five games this season, and three of the last four.
"But you know what? It's not going to be the first time (the C's give up a lot of points)," Garnett said. "But it is some positives to this. I'm sure Doc will pull them out and we'll pull them out as a team as we gather and get ready for our next game."
Maybe so, but for those who were a witness to the C's being dismantled in just about every way imaginable on Wednesday, finding anything positive moving forward is a lot easier said than done.
If Tony Parker wasn't dropping a soft floater from the middle of the paint, he was finding one of his big men open around the basket for a lay-up or dunk.
When Boston took those away, San Antonio shooters were relatively open for corner 3s.
"We've been a little out of sync on offense the last 2-3 games, but I thought tonight we played well offensively," said Tony Parker who had a game-high 26 points to go with six assists. "We moved the ball and shared the ball and defensively we were pretty solid."
And there was little the C's appeared capable of doing about it.
"They did a good job at everything," Rondo said. "We didn't take away anything we wanted to tonight."
And yet with all the problems Boston was having with its defense and rebounding, they were trailing by just six points (104-98) with 3:16 to play courtesy of a 10-2 run fueled in large part by Rondo who led the C's with 22 points and 15 assists.
"We were right there because nobody could stop anybody on either team," said Rivers, whose team shot 53 percent compared to the Spurs who connected on 58 percent of their shots from the field. "To me, that was fool's gold, because the way we were playing defense you're not going to get a stop, you're not going to win a game."
And sadly for the C's, the problems defensively have been pretty consistent all season.
"We're making the same mistakes in our defense, night in and night out," said Rondo. "We have to do a better job of focusing in during our shoot-arounds in the morning, when we're given an assignment."
The C's will take Thanksgiving off and get right back at it on Friday against Oklahoma City which will pose as big -- if not a bigger -- a challenge than San Antonio.
For Rivers, there's plenty to work on and review between now and Friday night's tip-off against the Thunder.
Picking apart what the C's need to do specifically to improve is not easy, not when there are so many areas defensively that need to be shored up sooner rather than later.
"You know, offensively you score 100 points, 53 percent (shooting from the field), you're pretty happy," Rivers said. "But we just let a team shoot 58 percent against us. We let a team shoot 50 percent from the three against us. And it's tough to win a game. You shouldn't win a game, if that happens."

Patriots pregame rituals: Step-by-step with the players on game day

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Patriots pregame rituals: Step-by-step with the players on game day

What goes through Dont'a Hightower’s mind in the minutes before he takes the field and lowers himself into a cauldron of collisions, pain and exultation?

Not a thing.

“I rest. I literally rest,” said the Patriots Pro Bowl inside linebacker. “I don’t do anything else. I sit at my locker, I don’t listen to music. I don’t do anything out of the ordinary. I don’t look at film, I don’t look at notes. I’m just relaxed. Calm before the storm. I’ve done enough preparing, I’ve done enough notes, I’ve done enough of that stuff during the week. If I don’t know it by now, I don’t know it. It’s not gonna help me last minute. It’s only gonna make me play slower.”

By the time an NFL team hits the field – in the Patriots case, runs out of a giant, inflatable helmet while Ozzy Osbourne’s “Crazy Train” blares – they are primped, polished, taped and glistening.

But what is their day like leading up to that? I asked a few Patriots to take me through their game-day prep from wakeup to anthem to give me insight into what we don’t see.  

You can hear Hightower, Nate Solder, Alan Branch, Devin McCourty and Rob Ninkovich detail the steps they take to get game-ready. French toast is involved. So are naps. And sock preparation.

It all builds to that moment of theater that Ninkovich says is what players truly miss when they leave the game – that feeling of euphoria.

“When we finally get to run out, that’s the most exciting time in the world,” says Solder. “The crowd wasn’t there earlier when we went out there and all of a sudden, the crowd is there. Very exciting, very fun, especially with the guys you work so hard with.”

Says McCourty, “I always think when I run out of the tunnel to look up and say, ‘Thank you’ just to be able to play.”

Listen to them tell their stories here:

Belichick's game-day ritual: 'Try to coach and play good'

Belichick's game-day ritual: 'Try to coach and play good'

FOXBORO -- Bill Belichick was not in any mood to start revealing his behind-the-scenes pre-kickoff routine on game-days. The air of focus he's exhibited during his media-availability periods this week continued on Friday, particularly when he was asked about his Sunday rituals. 

When a reporter wondered if there was anything in particular Belichick does before a game, he initially said simply, "No."

A follow-up about superstitions was tossed Belichick's way next. He swatted that aside as well.

"Try to play and coach good," he explained. "Goes a long way."

There you have it. An easy-step-by-step guide on how to approach a game like a future Hall-of-Famer.

For more on Patriots pregame prep, click here.