Struggling Celtics look to Big Four

191544.jpg

Struggling Celtics look to Big Four

By: Rich Levine
CSNNE.com

WALTHAM Doc Rivers isnt blaming anyone for the Celtics' recent struggles.

If anything, he says he can only blame himself for the mental lapses and general apathy that led to the teams latest frustrating lossFriday night against the Bobcatsas well as their overall inconsistent play down the stretch.

But while not blaming any specific player, Rivers says that its up to four players to help the team collectively overcome. And not just any four, the Big Four.

Im not blaming anybody, but it is their responsibility, always, Rivers said before practice on Saturday. It always starts with your best players, and everyone else follows. Thats how we constructed this team, on purpose. It was the Big 3, and now Rondos been added to that group, and they all have their own responsibilities.

Touching more on the recent slump, and the post-game interview when he called the Celtics out for being selfish, Rivers was very clear on where the the issues lie, but also reassured that he has complete confidence in his team pulling through.

Its all mental, he said. Theres no physical.

We just have to play better and act better. Well get there. I have no doubt about that. But were not there right now.

Ray Allen believes that the key to breaking through these mental blocks lies in the art of communication. This Celtics team has never shied away from being brutally honest with each other. Its the reason theyve been able to achieve so much in the face of other turmoil over the last three-plusand theyre not about to stop now.

You come into the locker room, you look your teammates in the eye, and you conversate, Allen said. Communication is big because on the flip side of it, on bad teams, you come in the locker room and youre mad at everybody but on our team you just come in and have a conversation. You might not even talk about the game, you just have to remember to stay brothers and communicate.

You just have to take whatever it is, and move forward, in terms of criticism.

And he agrees with Doc that moving forward is only possible if the Big Four takes them there.

Between the four of us we need to play better. Whether its making a shot down the stretch or making a defensive stop, we have to be better. We have to be vocal because were trying to get other to understand what were doing, Theres no point when you cant be a leader, both on and off the floor.

On the other hand, Rajon Rondo isnt ready to put as much of the burden on the teams stars. He obviously realizes that the team can only be better if he, Allen, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett do, but also thinks that only way they can get through the tough times is if the entire team steps up.

Its up to the team, he said. It starts with me, it starts with them but its still a team game, no one guy is going to win it for us. Statistically you could say its the Big Three, but its a team effort.

Everybody has to do a better job of just taking care what they have to take care of individually, he continued. We all have to take a look in the mirror and get better. Its frustrating right after the game but today is a new day. Weve got to look forward.

And with the Celtics set to take the court against Sunday night in Minnesota, Rondo knows theres only one way to make that happen.

With a win, he said.

Rich Levine can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrlevine33

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.”
 

WATCH: Celtics vs. Wizards

WATCH: Celtics vs. Wizards

Tune into CSN to watch the Celtics play the Wizards in Washington. You can also click here to watch the Celtics livestream presented by McDonald's on the NBC Sports App. Coverage begins at 7 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live Presented by ACE Ticket.

- Game Preview: Rivalry in the making?

- Channel Finder: Make sure you know where to watch

[SHOP: Gear up, Celtics fans!]

- Live Extra FAQ: All your questions answered

- Latest on the Celtics: All of the most recent news and notes

- Talk about the game via social media on CSN's Pulse, presented by Ford