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."

Don't expect to see Celtics shy away from 3-pointers

Don't expect to see Celtics shy away from 3-pointers

BOSTON – There were a bunch of numbers from Boston’s 121-114 loss to Detroit on Wednesday that stood out. 

Among the eye-grabbing stats was the fact that the Celtics had taken 42 3s (with 15 makes), an unusually high number of attempts that we may see matched or even surpassed tonight against the Sacramento Kings. 

Don’t count head coach Brad Stevens among those surprised to see the Celtics attempt a lot of three-pointers. 

Last season the Celtics took 26.1 three-pointers per game which ranked 11th in the NBA. 

This season they’re up to 31.2 three-pointers attempted and 11.3 made which both rank fifth in the NBA. 

You can count Kelly Olynyk among the Celtics pleased with the team's increased emphasis on shooting 3s. 

The 7-foot led the NBA in shooting percentage (.405) on 3s taken last season.

"We play a lot of spread offense with four shooters, four perimeter guys," Olynyk, who is shooting 38.1 percent on 3s this season, told CSNNE.com. "We're trying to make teams shrink their defense and spray out and hopefully make shots. You're making extra passes, giving up good ones for great ones. And we have some pretty good shooters on our team. That's the way we're trying to play. It's just a matter of us making shots."

And the Celtics face a Kings team ranks among the NBA’s worst at limiting 3-point attempts with Sacramento opponents averaging 28.4 three-pointers taken per game which ranks 25th in the league. 

One of Stevens’ main points about three-pointers is while it’s an important shot for them, they need to be the right shot, the right basketball play at the right time. 

And when asked about the 42 attempts against the Pistons, he was quick to acknowledge those were for the most part the right shots to be taken. 

“They are,” Stevens said. “At the end of the day we want lay-ups. And if we don’t get layups, we want the floor to be shrunk. If the defense shrinks in, you’re able to touch the paint and kick out. Two of our last three games, maybe three of the last four, two-thirds of our possessions we touched the paint or shrunk the defense with a roll. That’s our objective. We’re not a team that gets to the foul line a lot. We’re not a team that rebounds at a high rate. And we haven’t scored in transition. To be able to be sitting where we are offensively, a big reason is because we space the floor.”

Barnes, Cousins trying to keep 'emotions and energy focused'

Barnes, Cousins trying to keep 'emotions and energy focused'

BOSTON – No one is proclaiming DeMarcus Cousins’ demeanor is all that radically different than past seasons. 

But the volatile nature that has often overshadowed his on-the-court-brilliance, doesn’t seem to shine as brightly as it used to. 

Maybe he’s growing up. 

Maybe he’s finally comfortable with his team. 

And then there’s the almighty dollar which was the incentive for one of his teammates, Matt Barnes, to clean up his act as far as racking up technical fouls and being fined by the league. 

I asked Barnes whether there was a light bulb moment or a teammate or player that helped him get on track and not draw so much attention from officials and the league office. 

“It was all the money I was being fined,” he said. “I think I lost like $600,000 over my career for fines. It was time to kind of wake and say ‘hey, they don’t like you so you have to stick to the book.’”

With Barnes returning to Sacramento (he played for the Kings during the 2004-2005 season), he finds an intense, kindred spirit of sorts in Cousins who like Barnes has had his share of technical and fines handed down by the league office. 

This season, Cousins is the NBA’s leader in technical fouls with six. 

“I’ve always had a good head on my shoulders,” Barnes said. “I’m just a passionate player. I play with my emotion on my sleeve. I think DeMarcus does the same thing. What I’m trying to show him now, we have to keep our emotions and energy focused towards the right things. That could be detrimental to the team if it gets out of hand.”

First-year coach Dave Joerger has been pleased to see how different Cousins is to be around on a daily basis as opposed to how he’s perceived. 

“He gets credit for his talent. He gets credit that he’s improved in the league,” Joerger said. “I think he doesn’t get enough credit for the way that his approach to the game and the way that he’s carrying himself and conducting himself has greatly improved. He’s a good person. Now being with him, I see improvement over the last three years, the way that he goes about his business. I think that’s very positive.”