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

Stevens’ first practice observation: ‘We’re going to be able to fly around’

Stevens’ first practice observation: ‘We’re going to be able to fly around’

WALTHAM, Mass. –  Before the Celtics fully stretched prior to their first practice of the season, coach Brad Stevens had his players go 5-on-5 in a not-live breakdown while going at about 30 percent full speed or similar to what they would do in a walk-through.

“If that was 30 percent, we’re going to be able to fly around,” said Stevens. “I think it was just a misjudging of what 30 percent is. They were flying early on in practice. We have to be able to fully rotate, we have to guard different positions, you gotta be able to read the game instinctively and obviously there’s an athletic component that allows you to do so effectively.”

Regardless, the Celtics are a team that will rely more on their athleticism in past seasons in order to be effective and live up to the lofty expectations so many have for them this season.

“We have a real good team, real athletic at a lot of spots,” Celtics forward Amir Johnson told CSNNE.com. “We definitely got a couple more high-flyers in the building this year.”

He’s speaking about Gerald Green, a former Slam Dunk champion, and Jaylen Brown, who is considered one of the more athletic players among this year’s rookie class.

And that athleticism was indeed on display in the early moments of the team’s first practice of the season.

But what makes the Celtics a team that could potentially be a major player in the East, is that the increased athleticism is now married to a team whose skill level is underrated.

Talent and athleticism is certainly a bonus for any team.

But the Celtics know the road to being among the game’s elite is long and winding, a journey that they are just beginning to embark on right now.

And while there are plenty of directions that Stevens can put a greater focus on in these early days, it doesn’t appear the Celtics' leader will go that route.

“We’ve got a lot being installed,” Stevens said. “We’ll keep the emphasis on being a blue-collar team and playing together.”

 

 

 

Brad Stevens podcast: 'Only goal around here is a championship'

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Brad Stevens podcast: 'Only goal around here is a championship'

Mike Gorman and Brian Scalabrine talk with Boston Celtics Head Coach Brad Stevens at Celtics Media Day about raised expectations for the upcoming season, how Al Horford will fit, can Isaiah Thomas build off an All-Star season, and how high are his goals. 

Plus, Kyle Draper and A. Sherrod Blakely discuss whether or not some critiscism could come Stevens' way if the Celtics doesn't perform well in the playoffs.

MORE PODCAST Isaiah Thomas: ‘Just getting to the playoffs in Boston isn’t good enough’

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