Rivers: It's an error if Celtics are relying on history

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Rivers: It's an error if Celtics are relying on history

ATLANTA With the all-star break less than a month away, the Boston Celtics find themselves for the second year straight year fighting their way from a sub-.500 hole record-wise.

That team rebounded with a strong regular season finish after the all-star break that catapulted them into the postseason and eventually the Eastern Conference finals.

While there are indeed parallels to be drawn between the two, it becomes a dangerous comparison if relied upon too much.

And no matter how much Doc Rivers preaches that this team is different than that, his fellow coaching brethren repeatedly remind him that the C's have had their problems during past regular seasons only to play some of their best basketball when the games truly mattered - the playoffs.

"Not this group," Rivers said following Friday's 123-111 double overtime loss at Atlanta. "The groups in the past, yeah, we had to do that. We had to not play Shaq many minutes, or rest Rasheed (Wallace, now with the New York Knicks) and Kevin (Garnett) and Ray (Allen, now with the Miami Heat) and Paul (Pierce). We got nine new guys here. They've never done this."

But Rivers wouldn't rule out that some of his players may in fact be relying on the C's track record for bouncing back from slow starts, as for the reason they don't play more consistently or with a greater sense of urgency.

"They may be thinking that," Rivers said. "If they are, it's an error."

Kevin Garnett agrees that past success doesn't necessarily make it an accurate predictor of the future.

During the lockout-shortened 2011-2012 season, the Celtics went into the all-star break with a record of 15-17 only to emerge from it by posting a 24-10 record.

"Man, we can't rely on that," Garnett said. "That's the past. This is a whole different group of guys. Guys in the past, that's the past. We're dealing with the present. If we're sitting around waiting on that, then that's a joke. It's about now. It's not about tomorrow, it's about now. Everybody has to look at themselves and see what they can do better to help this team."

Rajon Rondo was instrumental in the Celtics' ability to turn around their season a year ago.

Ditto for Garnett, whose move to center full-time was arguably the biggest adjustment the C's made during their post all-star break surge last season.

But this season has presented the Celtics with a different set of challenges that will make the team's efforts to rebound from a poor start that much tougher.

Boston lost games last season in part because they rested players, similar to San Antonio's Gregg Popovich has done at times this season with Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker.

But there has been no reduction in minutes or sitting core guys this season.

Which means they may not necessarily be as fresh for this second half run as they were last year or in past seasons.

'I don't try to compare any teams of the past of how we turned things around," Rondo said. "It's a different year."

But there is one thing he would like to carry over from past turn-arounds.

"Like in the past, we do have to stay positive," Rondo said. "Try to continue to move forward and dig our way out of this hole."

Beyond the numbers: 'Game is slowing down' for Isaiah Thomas

Beyond the numbers: 'Game is slowing down' for Isaiah Thomas

Just about every part of Isaiah Thomas’ game offensively has seen tremendous growth this season.

But what has really separated him from earlier versions of himself, has been his 3-point shooting.

He comes into tonight’s game against the Washington Wizards shooting a career best 38.4 percent from 3-point range.

When asked about how he has elevated his game this season, the answer isn’t that simple.

“I don’t know” he told reporters prior to tonight’s game. “The game is slowing down for me. My teammates put me in position, my coach does … and I’m just knocking down shots.”

Because of his shot-making, Thomas has made it difficult for defenses to give him a steady diet of any style of play in trying to limit him.

And because they have to change things up with regularity, that has created more scoring opportunities.

“Sometimes they forget what they want to do (defensively) and leave me open for a three,” Thomas said. “Those are the the types of shots I need to knock down and I’m being aggressive.

He added, “I need to get to the free throw line, trying to make plays for my teammates. It’s one of those things where I’m in a really good zone now; a really good rhythm.”

A good rhythm?

According to NBA statistics guru Dick Lipe, Thomas is the first Celtic ever to make at least four 3-pointers in five straight games. Taking it a step further, he has made at least three 3-pointers in seven straight games which equaled Antoine Walker’s streak in 2001.

Thomas has also attempted 11 three-pointers in five straight games which is a franchise record. There have only been three longer streaks in NBA history - Golden State’s Stephen Curry (7 straight games, 2016); Washington’s Gilbert Arenas (7 straight games, 2005) and Dallas’ George McCloud (6 straight games, 2006).

He’s also averaging 3.1 made 3’s per game which would be a franchise record that’s currently held by Antoine Walker who averaged 2.7 during the 2001-2002 season.

And all those 3’s have added up to Thomas scoring at least 27 points in seven straight games, something that hasn’t been done by a Celtic since Larry Bird had eight such games in March 1988 as well as the 1987-1988 season.

Crowder on Wizards' all-black 'funeral' plans for Celtics: 'That's cute!'

Crowder on Wizards' all-black 'funeral' plans for Celtics: 'That's cute!'

The Washington Wizards plan to roll into tonight’s game against the Celtics donning all-black clothes, as in a funeral procession, a sign of solidarity and an omen of sorts for a game that they hope ends with them burying the Celtics.
 
When Jae Crowder was asked about the Wizards all-black gear, his initial response...“That’s cute!”
 
More than anything, the Wizards (24-20) are putting a significant amount of value into tonight’s game. A victory would extend their home winning streak to 14.

Meanwhile, the Celtics (26-17) come in looking to snap a two-game losing streak.
 
“This is definitely not Game 7 or the playoffs,” said Isaiah Thomas. “But if they want to take it that serious, they can.”
 
The idea to arrive at the Verizon Center donning all-black was hatched by Bradley Beal, who has some contentious moments, to say the least, with the Celtics recently.
 
Celtics coach Brad Stevens knows all about the funeral talk which to him is just that, talk. He’s more concerned with his team doing what they need to do in order to win.
 
Nothing more.
 
Nothing less.
 
“At the end of the day, good basketball teams are physical,” he said. “There’s a line you don’t want to cross. Ultimately, you have to be appropriately physical at a high level. It’s about playing well, focus on your next task at hand. This is a great opportunity to see where we’re at.”

In the Celtics' 117-108 win over the Wizards on Jan. 11, Beal was whistled for a flagrant-1 foul after getting into it with Marcus Smart.
 
Last season, Beal was on the receiving end of a left forearm to the face from Smart, who was driving to the basket at the time. The blow resulted in a broken nose for Beal in addition to spending time in the league’s concussion protocol program.
 
And then there’s his backcourt mate John Wall.
 
He was fined $15,000 for his role in a postgame incident with Jae Crowder (who was fined $25,000). Crowder pushed Wall’s nose with his finger, which led to Wall retaliating with a slap towards Crowder’s face.
 
And when the two met back on Nov. 9, Wall was hit with a flagrant-2 foul (an automatic ejection) when he threw Smart down hard to floor in the final moments of a Wizards win.
 
The Celtics have a few games that have become more physical than others recently, but there’s something about this Celtics-Wizards matchup that brings out an elevated level of feistiness.
 
“It’s just all talk; that’s all it is,” Thomas said. “I guess they taking it and running with it. I don’t know what it is. I [saw] the funeral and the all-black thing last night and I just laughed about it. We’ll be there tonight for a game, not a funeral.”