Trust equaling wins for Celtics

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Trust equaling wins for Celtics

BOSTON After spending part of the preseason overseas and gathering for pick-up games in California this past summer, the foundation was set for this Boston Celtics team to be a close-knit group.

It's one thing to hang out and get to know someone and learn to like them as a person.

It's a completely different matter transforming that bond into trust on the basketball court.

And for all that has gone the Celtics' way of late, the emergence of their trust in one another - at both ends of the floor - is quite apparent.

Even head coach Doc Rivers senses that the team's level of trust now is on a different level than what he saw earlier this season.

"The trust may not have been there throughout the team early on," Rivers said following Boston's 116-95 win over the Los Angeles Lakers.

With more than half of the roster new this season, Rivers thought there were times when the ball would swing to one player and not another simply based on trust; or in some instances, a lack of trust.

"I thought guys at times would look and uh, 'I'm not going to throw it to him, I'm going to throw it over here,'" Rivers said. "Now they're just letting the ball go and it's finding the open shooter."

While some might try and point to Rondo's departure as being a factor in the team's increased trust, remember the Celtics' turn-around to their season began with their defense.

And that improved play defensively began in January when Rondo was still in the lineup.

If anything, his torn right ACL injury left the Celtics little choice but to trust one another more than ever.

Adversity has a trickle-down effect on a team, with increased trust at times being one of the byproducts.

"This is all we got right here, in this locker room," Celtics big man Chris Wilcox told CSNNE.com. "We're here for each other, fighting for each other, every game. That's the only way we can get to where we want to be."

Smart: 'Can’t blame the officials for the outcome of the game'

Smart: 'Can’t blame the officials for the outcome of the game'

The fact that the James Harden of the Houston Rockets went to the free throw line 18 times which was more than the entire Celtics roster (12 free throw attempts total) certainly fired up conspiracy theorists among Celtics Nation. 
 
But what seemed to draw the most ire was what appeared to be a 3-pointer by Avery Bradley late in the fourth quarter that was initially called a long two-pointer. 
 
And after it was reviewed by the good folks in Secaucus, N.J., they allowed the ruling to stand because there wasn’t enough proof in the many replay angles for them to overturn the original call. 
 
The missed lay-ups by Al Horford and Isaiah Thomas in the closing seconds stand out, obviously. 
 
But the 3-pointer that wasn’t a 3-pointer was one of the more talked-about topics in the Celtics locker room afterwards. 
 
“From the angle we saw, it was a three,” Boston’s Marcus Smart told reporters after the game. “We definitely thought it was.”
 
Said Jae Crowder: “I thought it was a three. Nothing we can do about it now.”
 
It was that kind of game for the Celtics, one in which plays that could go either way more often than not, went against them. 
 
And while Bradley’s questionable two-pointer certainly was a factor in the game’s outcome, as was the free throw discrepancy and the late-game misses, ultimately the blame for Monday’s loss falls upon the Celtics players who were still in position to win despite all those setbacks.

They simply didn't get it done, when it mattered.
 
Smart, who had 13 points off the Celtics bench, understands that fans like to blame the officials when a game ends like Monday’s loss to Houston. 
 
“Officials, they did their job,” Smart said. “You can’t blame the officials for the outcome of the game. We made some costly plays down the stretch. Give credit to the Rockets. They made plays and executed down the stretch.”

Stars, studs and duds: Celtics 'still have a long ways to go'

Stars, studs and duds: Celtics 'still have a long ways to go'

Al Horford missed a game-winning shot at the buzzer. Moments earlier, Isaiah Thomas missed a lay-up that was challenging but should have been made. 
 
As much as those plays hurt Boston in its 107-106 loss at Houston, there were a series of gaffes prior to that which proved to be just as impactful on the game’s outcome. 
 
Boston led 96-88 in the fourth quarter but Houston rallied with a 14-6 spurt. 
 
When asked about what the Rockets did to get going, Celtics Jae Crowder said there was confusion among the five players on the floor. 
 
“We had confusion on a couple of play calls,” Crowder told reporters after the loss. “That’s on us. Three guys on the same page, two guys doing something differently. We didn’t know exactly what we were doing.
 
Crowder added, “all five guys on the court have to be on the same page and we weren’t. That turned into turnovers and points on the other end. That’s how they got back into it.”
 
Monday night’s loss serves as a reminder of while the Celtics are improving, there’s plenty of room to grow when it comes to late game execution. 
 
“We still have a long ways to go,” Crowder said. “We have to keep working at it. We can’t have that situation kill us at the end of the game. Missed shots, that’s OK. But miscommunication and turnovers, we can’t have.”
 
Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from Monday night’s game. 
 

STARS
 
James Harden

The “beard” once again chopped down the competition with a dominant performance. He led all scorers with 37 points to go with eight rebounds, eight rebounds and finished with a not-so-great double-double of points scored and turnovers (10).
 

STUDS
 
Al Horford

Missing the game-winning lay-up summed up the kind of night it was for Horford who still managed to finish with 21 points and a game-high nine assists with six rebounds and two blocked shots.  
 
Eric Gordon

When Harden went to the bench, Gordon did a nice job of keeping the offense flowing for the Rockets. He would finish with 19 points off the bench on 6-for-11 shooting with four 3-pointers. 
 
Isaiah Thomas

He finished with 20 points but like Horford, he too missed a lay-up in the closing seconds that could have potentially won the game for Boston.
 
Trevor Ariza

It was a quiet but effective night for Ariza who had 15 points to go with eight rebounds and two blocked shots.   
 
Celtics bench

They have been a much-maligned group for most of this season, but they kept this game from getting out of hand in the first half with strong play from Jaylen Brown and Terry Rozier (seven points each), and got strong plays at both ends of the floor from Marcus Smart (13 points).
 

DUDS
 
Amir Johnson

He was replaced in the starting lineup by Jonas Jerebko, and was just as ineffective coming off the bench. He was scoreless in less than five minutes of playing time, committing as many fouls (2) as grabbed rebounds (2). It remains to be seen whether he will be in the starting lineup when the Celtics play at Orlando on Wednesday.