DENVER Somewhere in the first chapter of the NBA manual on playercoach cliches, you'll find some reference to what happens on the floor being "a game of adjustments."
Well the Celtics can attest to that following Tuesday's 97-90 loss to the Denver Nuggets.
Denver was still smarting after last week's 118-114 triple overtime loss in Boston, a game that Nuggets head coach George Karl makes no secret about feeling as though his team should have won it.
"I think our guys know we should have won that game in Boston," Karl said prior to the game.
As much as emotions such as revenge and redemption might come into play, the bigger contributor to the Celtics loss was some of the subtle and not-so-subtle adjustments made by Denver in comparison to last week's game.
Nobody experienced this more than Paul Pierce who had just 10 points on 2-for-14 shooting from the field. He also had six rebounds and six assists after fouling out after picking up - yup, you know it - his sixth personal foul.
Following the loss, Pierce acknowledged the Nuggets were doing some things differently in trying to limit his impact.
"In the pick-and-rolls, they trapped a little bit more," Pierce said. "They switched out, loaded up on defense a little more. Driving lanes definitely weren't there. But I have to make the extra pass and find guys. There's other ways I can beat teams other than my scoring. I have to do a better job at that."
Those adjustments put a greater amount of pressure on those around them to step up; specifically Courtney Lee and Avery Bradley who had 15 and 17 points, respectively, against Denver.
"We were just playing off each other," Lee said. "We were able to get stops and get out and run. We were executing on the offensive end. When you got KG and you got Paul, they're going to draw a lot of attention. They draw doubles, so me and Avery are open."
There were other adjustments that were even more subtle, like Nuggets head coach George Karl constantly telling his team to pick up the pace, well aware of how short-handed the Celtics are because of injuries.
"George knows what he's doing. He's been around a long time," said C's coach Doc Rivers. "There's a reason he didn't call a time-out. He could see us. The one time I was trying to get Kevin (Garnett) off the floor, and George, you could see him ... he looked like Roy Williams today, just waving, let's go. You could see us starting to go downhill."
Rivers added, "Pace in this place is rough."
So is the dealing with the altitude in the Mile High city that often leads to players becoming fatigued sooner than usual.
"It's hard," Rivers said. "I always thought as a player, it's more the first half. Honestly today it was the second half. It got to us. You could clearly see it. We had to rest Kevin several times when we probably didn't want to, but we had no choice in the matter."
Rivers added, "they're so deep. They just keep bringing in guys. They play at that pace and I thought it got to us tonight."
Boston faces the Los Angeles Lakers only 24 hours later, and like Denver they too will look to make some adjustments with the goal being to exact revenge on the C's after Boston handed them a 112-105 loss in a game that was not as close as the final score might lead one to believe.
That loss, the fact that it's Boston-Los Angeles and it's their first game after the All-Star break is enough subplots to work through.
Throw in the fact that it'll be an even more emotionally-charged game due to the recent passing of team owner Dr. Jerry Buss, and the C's will indeed have their hands full.
"It's a lot of stuff to handle," Rivers said. "And we're going to be right in the middle of the firestorm. That's the league. You know how that works."