Doc: Losing teams 'playing for their careers'

Doc: Losing teams 'playing for their careers'
April 6, 2013, 2:15 pm
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WALTHAM -- Don't let the records deceive you.

With six games left in the regular season, there is still no letting up for the Boston Celtics, even as they face three teams who will not be advancing to the playoffs.

Over the next two weeks the Celtics (39-37) will play the Washington Wizards (29-47), Orlando Magic (19-58), and Toronto Raptors (29-48). They are going up against clubs that still have something to prove, even if the games do not have postseason implications for them.

"They're free," Doc Rivers said before practice on Saturday. "They're not playing for anything except for themselves. It's serious for everyone, though. The guys on Washington, the guys on Cleveland, they're playing for their careers."

The games the Celtics are "supposed to win" on paper have proved challenges. They are 1-2 in April, losing to the Minnesota Timberwolves (28-47) and Cleveland Cavaliers (23-52). Last month they were defeated by the Charlotte Bobcats, who have the worst record in the NBA.

Shorthanded and battling through injuries, the C's are taking on teams hungry to prove their worth while piecing together rotations without many of their key players. Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce returned to practice on Saturday, but there is still no date set for Garnett's return from left ankle inflammation. Opposing teams are looking to take advantage of these absences and attack.

Rivers knows their mentality. Six years ago -- just one before the Celtics won the 2007-08 championship -- he coached a 24-58 team.

"I've always laughed when people think a non-playoff team doesn't play hard," he said. "These guys, most of them are free agents and every night is an audition. They're auditioning for me when they're on the other team, so it's hard."