Celtics fall flat against the Nets, 88-79

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Celtics fall flat against the Nets, 88-79

By A.Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com

NEWARK, N.J. Consider the Boston Celtics among the privileged that the playoffs do not consist of back-to-back games.

Keeping true to form, the C's once again stumbled in the second game of a back-to-back set, losing 88-79 to the New Jersey Nets.

With the loss, Boston (47-18) has now lost three of its last four games.

Even more significant, the C's are now in a tie with the Chicago Bulls for the best record in the Eastern Conference.

Coach Doc Rivers has maintained that he's not nearly as concerned or worried about having the best record in the Eastern Conference.

A year ago, the C's went into the playoffs as a fourth seed and advanced all the way to the NBA Finals where they lost to the Los Angeles Lakers in seven games.

But this year, well, is different.

And yet some things, like struggling to win back-to-back games, remains a constant.

With Monday's loss, Boston is now 6-8 on the back end of a back-to-back set of games.

And when that back-to-back set consists of the first game at home and the second on the road, Boston's has lost five of six.

"It does bother me that we're not mentally tough," Rivers said. "To me, all back-to-backs are is a mental toughness thing. We've struggled all year. If you take the back-to-backs out, we'd have the best record in the NBA."

But here's the thing.

Back-to-back games count just like every other game counts.

And when the season is over and the win totals are tabulated, there's no doubt that the C's struggles in back-to-back games will stand out for all the wrong reasons.

"It's still losses, and you're losing ground by losing games," Rivers said.

Making the losses even more frustrating was that at various points in the game, the Celtics were sticking to the game plan . . . and it was working.

In the opening minutes of the first quarter, the C's made a conscious effort to feed Kevin Garnett the ball.

He responded by scoring the Celtics' first six points of the game.

After making his first three shots in the first 72 seconds of the game, Garnett got just one shot for the rest of the quarter.

"We got away from it. Kevin was scoring the ball at will," said Glen Davis, who had his fifth double-double of the season with 16 points and a team-high 14 rebounds. "As a team, we have to notice the mismatches, the things we can do on the post. We didn't do well at that."

The Celtic whose play stood out, for all the wrong reasons, was Rajon Rondo.

The 6-foot-1 point guard, who left the game briefly to get his right ankle re-taped, has been in a bit of a funk lately.

Both Rondo and Rivers said it's not health-related.

"He's fine," Rivers said. "Rondo's fine."

Rivers added, "I don't know if he's slumping. But he's not playing great right now. He's just going through a stretch. It's a long season."

"I haven't put the ball in the basket well lately," Rondo told CSNNE.com. "No excuse."

He's right.

There should be no excuses for Monday's lackluster performance.

Also, by no means should the Celtics' struggles be squarely placed on the shoulders of Rondo, even if he did miss 9 of his 10 shots from the field and finished with two points and nine assists.

Paul Pierce wasn't much better, scoring seven points on 2-for-10 shooting from the field.

Jeff Green, who has been solid off the Celtics bench recently, had seven points on 3-for-11 shooting.

Even with the recent setbacks, along with now being tied with the Bulls for the top spot in the East, the Celtics understand it's a long season and there's still plenty of basketball left to be played.

"We're just not playing well right now," said Rivers. "You go through that. Sometimes you just have to wait for your team. Right now, I'm waiting for them to kick back into gear."

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

NBA's a global game, and the Celtics are all in

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NBA's a global game, and the Celtics are all in

BOSTON – The NBA has become more of an international game as teams scour the globe in search of the next big basketball talent.

While some franchises such as the San Antonio Spurs have been poaching talented international players for years, other franchises have been more locked into adding American-born ballers.

The Boston Celtics have paid close attention to the best international players for several years.

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But more often than not, additions to their roster through the draft have come from the college ranks with an occasional international player added via free agency.

This season's team will definitely have a certain international flavor to it with overseas additions coming by way of players they drafted and signed as free agents to bolster what should be one of the deeper teams in the East.

Boston has six rookies with guaranteed contracts for this upcoming season, four of which were born outside of the United States.

And of those four rookies, three of them – Guerschon Yabusele (16th overall pick); Ante Zizic (23rd overall pick) and Abdel Nader; 58th overall pick) – were selected in the 2016 draft but didn't join the team immediately. 

Yabusele who is originally from France, spent most of last season in China and came to the States and played briefly with the Celtic’s Gatorade League affiliate, the Maine Red Claws. He will be among the bevy of young players competing for minutes off the Celtics bench. 

Zizic, born in Croatia, spent last season playing in his native country as well as in Turkey. The 7-foot center will come into training camp competing for playing time, possibly as Boston’s starting center.

And then there’s Nader, a G-League all-star as well as the G-League’s rookie of the year last season. The Egyptian-American wing player showed promise in each of the last two summer leagues which is in part why the Celtics signed him to a four-year, $6 million deal with only the first year fully guaranteed. 

They each have different strengths that only add value to a Boston squad that’s being built to play just about every style of play imaginable.

But the Celtics didn’t limit their pursuit of international talent to just the draft.

Boston has also signed German Forward Daniel Theis. 

Unlike the international players drafted by Boston, Theis is a bit of a mystery to most Celtics fans.

Last season he averaged 10.7 points and 4.6 rebounds for Brose Bamberg of Germany, while shooting 41.0 percent from 3-point range and 59.8 percent from the field.

And that season ended with a German championship, just like the previous two seasons for the 6-9, 243-pound forward who is expected to come in and compete for playing time off the bench for a Celtics team that’s looking for