Celtics look to bounce back after lackluster effort

Celtics look to bounce back after lackluster effort
March 22, 2013, 2:00 pm
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Doc Rivers was legitimately pissed off after Wednesday night’s loss to the Hornets, and of course, he had every right to be. The Celtics had just blown a five-point lead with less than two minutes left against one of the worst teams in the NBA. It was the second time they’ve lost to New Orleans this year, adding to an ever-growing list of pathetic defeats that the C’s have suffered over the last five months.
Rivers' explanation for the latest disappointment was a familiar one.
"We messed the game up, our spirit. We thought we were going to win the game when we got the lead," he told reporters. "You could see it. I told our guys at halftime [and] you could see it in the middle of the second quarter. We went from being a solid good-looking basketball team to showtime . . .”
Doc continued: “And once you do it, you can't turn it back on. But I thought once we activated them, you could see the difference in the speed, the way they were playing and the way we were playing in the fourth quarter. We were trying to, 'Come on ... ' no, you can't do it now, you turned it off. And you turned them on. So I thought they ran a great play at the end, but we were asleep and we deserved it. I thought we absolutely deserved to lose the game. Whether we won it or not, we deserved to lose the game."
And he was right. They did. But while I’m not looking to provide an excuse for why the Celtics let Wednesday’s game slip away, I think it’s important to note that the “on/off” mentality isn’t limited to the players.
Let’s be the clear: Over the course of this last month, the Celtics — as an organization — have shifted focus from the regular season to the playoffs. Doc Rivers has led the charge, noting time after time that there’s nothing more important than health and pacing for the postseason; they’re willing to sacrifice present day success in exchange for greater potential in the future.
On one hand, I agree with this strategy 100 percent. There’s no doubt that if Pierce and KG had maintained the intensity and effort they were giving in the immediate aftermath of Rondo’s injury that neither would be conscious by the time the playoffs roll around. I think it’s important to find ways to give both of them (and even Jason Terry) an extra night off when you can, and not waste time or effort trying to manipulate playoff seeding.
But on the other hand, there are consequences that come with that approach. How many times can a team hear “it’s all about the playoffs” or see their best players given random nights off (or in the case of the stars, “be given the night off”) before urgency fades, bad habits kick in, and games unravel the way they did on Wednesday night in New Orleans?
It’s going to happen.
And honestly, I don’t think it’s a huge deal. That’s because, like I said, this strategy is still the right one. All that matters is getting to the playoffs with KG and Pierce in the best possible condition, so that they’re ready to put this team on their back the same way they during that seven game stretch in February.
At that point, messes like Wednesday will be a distant memory.
In the meantime, a win tonight in Dallas can help move the process along.