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

Ainge: Winning more important than All-Star bids

Ainge: Winning more important than All-Star bids

BOSTON -- When it comes to NBA awards and accolades, players in contention often try to play it cool when asked about whether they are deserving.
 
And then there’s Boston’s Isaiah Thomas, who gives a definitive response whenever the question about whether he should be an All-Star starter is raised.
 
We’ll find out later today if Thomas will in fact be named as a starter for the Eastern Conference All-Star team when the East and West starters are announced. 
 
“It’s a little bit refreshing in that he is open about it,” Danny Ainge said on 98.5 the Sports Hub’s Toucher & Rich show this morning. “But every player wants to be acknowledged by their fan base, by other players in the league, coaches. You come into the league and as a young player you want to earn the respect of your peers and then you want to get paid and then you want to be an All-Star; maybe that’s the wrong order; and then nothing more important than winning.
 
Ainge added, “Isaiah is having a great year. He’s talked a lot about it. At some point in his career, he’ll talk about the most important thing and that’s winning championships.”
 
Ainge pointed to when Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen were all Celtics, there was no mistaking that winning came before anything else.
 
But where those guys were in their careers in terms of individual achievements and just age, were major factors in their focus being so deeply rooted in winning.
 
“Along the way they all want to win, but when you get to the point where Paul, Ray and KG were in their 30s, they didn’t care about any of that other stuff because they had it all, already,” Ainge said. “They had multiple All-Star games, they had big contracts, winning became the only thing that mattered.”
 
In other Celtics-related news, Ainge said that there’s no timetable for when Avery Bradley (right Achilles strain) will return to the floor. He has missed five of the last six games with the injury which includes last night’s loss to the New York Knicks which was a game in which the 6-foot-2 Bradley was a last-minute scratch from the lineup