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

With Thomas drawing attention, Stevens turns to Rozier in big moment

With Thomas drawing attention, Stevens turns to Rozier in big moment

BOSTON – Prior to Saturday’s game, Terry Rozier talked to CSNNE.com about the importance of staying ready always, because “you never know when your name or number is going to be called.”

Like when trailing by three points in the fourth quarter with less than 10 seconds to play?

Yes, Rozier was on the floor in that scenario and the second-year guard delivered when his team needed it.

MORE:

But Rozier’s fourth quarter heroics which forced overtime against Portland, did not provide that much-needed jolt that Boston needed as the Blazers managed to fend off the Celtics in overtime, 127-123.

For Rozier’s part, he had 15 points on 6-for-13 shooting.

The 15 points scored for Rozier was the most for him since he tallied 16 in a 30-point Celtics win at Orlando on Dec. 7.

But more than the points, the decision by head coach Brad Stevens to draw up a play for him in that moment, a time when most of what Boston does revolves around the shooting of Isaiah Thomas who has been among the top-3 scorers in the fourth quarter most of this season, was surprising to many.

And at that point in the game, Thomas already had 13 fourth-quarter points.

Stevens confirmed after the game that the last shot in the fourth was indeed for Rozier, but Thomas’ presence on the floor was important to its execution.

“He (Thomas) also draws a lot of attention,” Stevens said. “So I think you just weigh kind of … what kind of shot you’re going to get, depending on who it is.”

Rozier had initially screened for Thomas, and Thomas came back and screened for him.

“I was open as soon as I caught … and I let it fly,” Rozier said. “Coach drew up a play for me and it felt good to see the ball go in.”

Being on the floor at that time, win or lose, was a victory of sorts for Rozier.

He has seen first-hand how quickly the tide can change in the NBA for a young player.

After a strong summer league showing and a solid training camp, Rozier had earned himself a firm spot in the team’s regular rotation.

But a series of not-so-great games coupled with Gerald Green’s breakout night on Christmas Day, led to his playing time since then becoming more sporadic.

Rozier, in an interview with CSNNE.com, acknowledged it hasn’t been easy going from playing regular minutes to not being sure how much court time, if any, he would receive.

But he says the veterans on the team have been good about keeping his spirits up, and one in particular – Avery Bradley – has been especially helpful.

Like Rozier, Bradley’s first couple of years saw his playing time go from non-existent to inconsistent. But Bradley stayed the course and listened to the team’s veterans who continued to tell him that his hard work would pay off sooner or later.

Those same words of wisdom Bradley received in his early days, he passes on to Rozier.

“It’s big,” Rozier told CSNNE.com. “He (Bradley) tells me things like that. I felt I was ready for this (inconsistent minutes) after all that he told me. It’s big to have a guy like him that has been through it all with a championship team, been around this organization for a while; have him talk to you is big. It’s always good. That’s why I stay positive, and be ready.”

Which is part of the reason why Stevens didn’t hesitate to call up a play for the second-year guard despite him being a 33.3 percent shooter from 3-point range this season – that ranks eighth on this team, mind you.

“He’s a really good shooter,” Stevens said of Rozier. “I think with more opportunity that will show itself true, but he made some big ones in the fourth quarter. We went to him a few different times out of time-outs, and felt good about him making that one.”

And to know that Stevens will turn to him not just to spell Thomas or one of the team’s other guards, but to actually make a game-altering play in the final seconds … that’s major.

“It helps tremendously,” said Rozier who added that his confidence is through “the roof. It makes me want to do everything. You know defense, all of that. It’s great, especially to have a guy like Brad trust you."