Celtics compete level not where it should be

Celtics compete level not where it should be
February 20, 2012, 4:24 am
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AUBURN HILLS, Mich. Inside the visitor's locker room, it was quiet, the kind of quiet that we're all getting used to following yet another loss by the Boston Celtics.

The fact that they're losing is troublesome, for sure.

They're turning the ball over at an alarming rate. They're getting their butts kicked - badly - on the boards, and it's not something you can just pin on the big men, either.

When they miss shots, you can literally see the exasperation on their faces.

And when a call or two didn't go their way - and there were plenty in Sunday's 96-91 loss to Detroit - they grumble and gripe instead of gathering themselves and grind out.

"Some way, some how, we just have to be mentally tougher than that," said Paul Pierce. "I was very disappointed with the way we competed."

Sound familiar?

It should.

It's been like Groundhog's Day with the Celtics, with many of their losses this year having come about because the other team played harder and seemingly wanted to win more than they did.

For a team filled with players accustomed to deep playoff runs and being the squad that others aspire to be like, it's a humbling reality as to where this franchise is at this moment.

"Nobody likes to lose," Pierce said. "But at the same time, nobody likes to lose when you don't feel like you're competing. At the end of the day, if you can go out there and say that you gave your best effort and we lose to a better effort or a better team, then yeah, hats off to them. But I think we're a better team than Detroit. They just played harder than us tonight."

And if you've got a huge lump in your throat with those last few words from Pierce, it's understandable.

Nothing cuts to the heart of an NBA player more than being told that they're not competing that is, unless the players say so themselves.

And it's not the media or fans calling them out about their competitive nature lacking of late.

They're the ones doing it.

"We're not competing consistently enough," said Ray Allen. "When you look at over the course of 48 minutes in a game we don't have consistency throughout a whole game and it doesn't matter who we play."

Said Chris Wilcox: "At the end of the day, we gotta compete better."

But Sunday's loss was in many ways a microcosm of their season.

The Celtics showed flashes of brilliance and flirtation with the kind of greatness we've come to enjoy and expect from past conquests, only to be pummeled by the realization that those moments are fleeting ones and sooner rather than later, will be nothing more than a memory.

This is the '12 Boston Celtics, a team that's still in search of an identity - or at least one that's different than the one they currently have as a team that gets out-worked and doesn't compete hard enough.