BOSTON -- As the opponents' points on the scoreboard continue to rise, the Boston Celtics are looking less and less like the defensive-minded team they have been over the past years.
The change is not lost on seventh-year Celtic Rajon Rondo.
"We're not playing it (defense)," the point guard said following the Celtics loss to the Memphis Grizzlies on Wednesday. "I don't know (why). We've just got to try to take it one step at a time. It starts with me so I've just got to hold myself more accountable."
Rondo has been through the struggles of an 18-game losing streak and the triumphs of the 2008 NBA championship. He is one of only three players left from the title-winning squad, and he remembers the teams that rallied around one another and left no question they were bought into the Celtics foundation.
"Just our trust, our trust isn't there," he said. "When we do make a mistake, we don't make up for one another. In the past, a guy may be off the dribble or a guy might have an open shot, a guy might run from no matter where and cover up and contest the shot. Right now, we're just standing watching our guys take open looks."
The Celtics (14-17) are being outscored by their competition, 97.9 points to 95.5, this season. They allowed over 100 points in their previous three losses, a drastic change from the team that would hold their opponents to under 90 points with ease (or at least they made it look that way). Now, they are struggling on both ends.
"Teams are making us pay," said Rondo. "When we we play good defense, and they have great ball movement, swing the ball on our guy, get a wide open three and makes it, it messes your confidence up defensively. But you've still got to go back and defend on every other possession."
As for Rondo himself, head coach Doc Rivers would like him to focus on his offensive game amid the team's defensive struggles. Rondo suffered a bruised right thigh and hip and missed one game during the Celtics west coast trip. He played 40 minutes against the Grizzlies, recording a double-double with 11 points (4-11 FG, 0-4 3PG) and 10 assists.
"I thought Rondo, as far as health-wise, I thought he was fine," said Rivers. "With the way were not scoring, and you could see Kevin (Garnett) struggle today with his shot, we really need him to be more aggressive in our pick-and-roll package, in our offense. It was funny, the beginning of the game he did that. At the very beginning, he called quick pick-and-rolls, we were attacking, then he got away from it. Thats not second-nature to him, to be an aggressive scorer, but we really need him to be that. We need him to get in the open court, attack the basket, look for baskets in transition instead of guys shooting threes that arent going in. And thats something weve just got to keep pushing.
Said Rondo, "I'm out there playing. Everybody's fair game. I don't really blame anything on my injury."