Celtics drop 'should-win' game to Bobcats, 83-81

191544.jpg

Celtics drop 'should-win' game to Bobcats, 83-81

By A. Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com

BOSTON Beating the Charlotte Bobcats should have been easy.

Stephen Jackson (hamstring) was out. Tyrus Thomas (ribs) was out. Gerald Wallace is with the Portland Trail Blazers now.

This is a Charlotte team that's bad on so many levels.

And the Celtics did what the Celtics have done far too often against bad teams - they played down to their level.

"I always say it, you screw around with the game and the game will screw around with you," said Boston's head coach Doc Rivers.

That's exactly what happened on Friday, as the Charlotte Bobcats went on a 16-0 run in the fourth quarter that set the stage for an 83-81 come-from-behind win.

Boston's Ray Allen had a chance to steal the victory for the Celtics, but his 3-pointer from the corner in front of the Bobcat's bench was off the mark.

The loose ball wound up in the hands of Kevin Garnett.

But his hurried shot hit the back of the rim, and took a high bounce outside the rim as time expired.

It was a fitting finish for the Celtics, who looked as though they took the banged up Bobcats for granted.

"Our attitude, shocks me," said Celtics coach Doc Rivers, who acknowledged he can't recall the last time he was as disturbed about his team's play as he is right now. "We're just not ready to win any games now the way we play, the way our approach is to basketball games."

Friday's loss was Boston's second straight, both at home against teams that aren't anywhere close to being considered elite-caliber opponents.

But against the Celtics, well, that's a different story.

After the game, the Bobcats - losers of four in a row and 10 of their last 12 prior to Friday night - celebrated what was arguably their biggest win of the season.

"Everyone was so elated," said Charlotte coach and ex-Celtic, Paul Silas. "It's just kind of indescribable, the feeling that we had to beat a team like Boston who is a great team. We hung in there and got the win."

Meanwhile, all the Celtics did was hang their hands, most of the night, as they continue to lose a grip on the No. 1 seed in the East to the fast-charging Chicago Bulls whose control in the East grows with every slip-up by the Celtics.

There are plenty of areas to point to in explaining the team's struggles lately.

Boston's lack of ball movement certainly stands out.

Against Charlotte, Boston had just 15 assists as a team.

There have been nights when Rajon Rondo has that many or more assists by himself.

And while players talked about the team's struggles defensively down the stretch, that's a hard case to make when you give up just 83 points.

Rivers has a theory as to what the problem is.

"I just think we've become very, very selfish," he said. "Not just as far as trying to get our own, but everything is about how we're playing individually. Instead of how the team is playing. You can see it; a guy struggles, he pouts ... everything is 'me, me, me on our team right now."

Paul Pierce believes the team lacks a sense of urgency right now.

"It has to come from all of us," Pierce said. " One player can come out here and say it and "hoo-rah" around the locker room, but it has to come from everybody."

Ray Allen believe the team is over-thinking the game.

"We've just got to go to work," Allen said. "We just need to go play basketball."

Regardless of what's at the root of the Celtics problems, all are in agreement that something has to change, and quickly.

Because this team began the season with visions of making another title run and bringing home Banner 18.

Despite their play of late, that dream remains alive and well.

Rivers has often been credited with his ability to connect with players, and get more out of them than they possibly knew they had to offer.

But what's going on now, is different.

This isn't about X's and O's, or some big, as Pierce would put it, "hoo-rah" speech.

The NBA is a player's league.

And in times like this, they - not the coach, not Danny Ainge, not Celtics Nation - will have to dig themselves out of this malaise they're in.

"I've used it before, but sometimes you have to find your way," Rivers said. "The guys have to. They have to be honest with each other first though. Until that happens, we are going to have these results."

A. Sherrod Blakely can be reached at sblakely@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Sherrod on Twitter at http:twitter.comsherrodbcsn

Report: Celtics offer Pacers deal for Paul George

Report: Celtics offer Pacers deal for Paul George

The Celtics reportedly have offered the Pacers a deal to acquire star forward Paul George.

According to Adam Kaufman of WBZ News Radio and 98.5 The Sports Hub, the Celtics offered the Pacers the first-round pick they received from the 76ers, either the 2019 Grizzlies or Clippers’ protected first-rounder, Jae Crowder and a money filler.

Kaufman also noted Avery Bradley could be on the move as well for financial reasons.

The C's, as reported by The Vertical's Adrian Wojnarowski, are also working to sign Gordon Hayward this summer.

Blakely: Ainge's patience may hand Celtics a double payoff

Blakely: Ainge's patience may hand Celtics a double payoff

BOSTON -- When it comes to public opinion, Danny Ainge has never been one to be consumed by it or let it trickle into a decision he was thinking about for the roster.
 
So you can understand why the "What are they doing?" cries from Celtics Nation when he traded away the No. 1 overall pick earlier this month never resonated with him.

MORE ON GEORGE/HAYWARD


And you can understand why Ainge, when the Chicago Bulls became serious about moving Jimmy Butler on draft night, never put forth a competitive offer even though he had more than enough trade chips to do so.
 
He has patiently waited for his vault full of assets to increase, like blue-chip stocks, to a point where they had real value to a team open to moving a superstar talent to Boston.
 
That time appears to be now, with the Celtics well-positioned to add not one but two All-Stars in Utah’s Gordon Hayward and Indiana’s Paul George.
 
The Celts are pursuing both simultaneously, knowing they have to secure Hayward first in order to arrange to have enough salary-cap space to make a trade with the Pacers for George.
 
Not surprisingly, the first move in this 1-2 step is the hardest.
 
Boston will have to convince Hayward, who played for Celtics coach Brad Stevens at Butler and was named to his first All-Star team in February, to bypass an extra year and about $40 million --- which he could get by staying in Utah -- to sign here. The advantage the C's have, in addition to the lure of playing for his ex-college coach, is that the path towards the NBA Finals is a lot more realistic with them than with the Jazz, who are on the rise but not quite close enough to where they are a legitimate threat to the NBA champion Golden State Warriors.
 
Meanwhile, the Celtics are coming off a season in which they finished with the best record in the East and advanced to the Eastern Conference finals. They also return the core from last year's team, led by two-time All-Star Isaiah Thomas.
 
It’s likely that at least one member of the team’s core will be included in a trade for George, a pending free agent whose representatives informed the Pacers he was not going to sign a long-term contract with Indiana and that his preferred destination for 2018-19 (and beyond) was his hometown Los Angeles Lakers.
 
The Lakers don't have the kind of assets the Pacers are hoping to secure for their four-time All-Star. The Celtics, however, are in position to potentially overpay for George and not have it devastate their growth in both the short and long term. They also feel that once they get him here, they can convince him to stay . . . and, indeed, some people in George's camp feel Boston is a better landing spot than Los Angeles.
 
However, the key in all this is Hayward, who will also get a strong pitch from the Miami Heat.
 
Complicating this even further for the Celtics has been the salary cap coming in at just $99 million as opposed to what most anticipated would be a couple million dollars more.
 
“It is hard,” Ainge, Boston’s president of basketball operations, told CSN’s Kyle Draper and A. Sherrod Blakely recently regarding the salary cap for this season. “With the cap going down, it’s a little bit of a jolt. It doesn’t seem like a lot and every team has to deal with this. But we were planning pretty close to the dollar, to have a good team this year but to max cap space flexibility going into the offseason.”

In order for the Celtics to pull this off, it likely means they will have to part ways with at least one of their core players to ensure there’s enough cap space.
 
But considering what they could look like roster-wise on opening night, having to trade a player because of the decreased salary cap is the kind of the collateral damage that the C's can live with.