Celtics' ideal playoff roster still not together


Celtics' ideal playoff roster still not together

By A. Sherrod Blakely

BOSTON Figuring out the Boston Celtics playoff rotation is pretty easy for coach Doc Rivers.

Getting them on the floor in the same game?

Now that's another story.

The return -- and then loss -- of Shaquille O'Neal, who missed the previous 27 games because of a right Achilles injury, highlights the challenges Rivers faces in preparing the Celtics for what they hope will be a long playoff run.

O'Neal came off the bench in Boston's 101-90 win over Detroit on Sunday. He played six minutes before suffering a right calf strain that the team says will sideline him indefinitely.

Whenever he returns, and when he gets back into playing shape, he is expected to regain his starting job at some point between now and the playoffs.

In addition to O'Neal, the Celtics' starting five will include Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett.

Coming off the bench, Rivers will go with Delonte West, Jeff Green, Glen Davis and Jermaine O'Neal for sure.

As much as Rivers understands the need to get those guys as many reps with one another, he also knows that developing some type of flow is just as important.

"What we have to do is get everybody on the same page, rhythm-wise," Rivers said. "As far as rotation and the bench, I know it. It's set. But we just have to get it together."

And it's that latter point that, maybe more than anything else, will challenge the C's in these final six games prior to the playoffs.

"That's the biggest dilemma here," said Kevin Garnett. "We are dealing with the health issue here and I think sometimes it's messing with the inconsistency of what we're doing. Obviously the team out there and the guys out there on the court have to be accountable with what we are doing. At the same time, teaching guys new schemes, our schemes, and on top of that trying to understand the rotation and who is healthy. We are multi-tasking here."

Among those tasks, is to continue racking up victories leading into the playoffs.

"Every game is important; we're trying to win out, trying to get ready for the playoffs," said Paul Pierce. "But the most important thing . . . is us getting healthy right now. I'm feeling pretty good, some of the other guys are feeling pretty good, some guys are banged up, so that's important right now, as this next week goes by these guys staying healthy."

A. Sherrod Blakely can be reached at sblakely@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Sherrod on Twitter at http:twitter.comsherrodbcsn

Blakely: Celtics not as feared as they were last season

Blakely: Celtics not as feared as they were last season

BOSTON -- On more than one occasion Monday night, the Boston Celtics were a discombobulated bunch with some players thinking they were running one play, while others were thinking the play called was something totally different.
You see that stuff in the preseason and to a certain extent in the regular season for a lot of teams. It is in those moments that we’re reminded that this Boston Celtics team is a work in progress on so many levels.
Because of that, we all need to hit the pause button when talking about them as a team inching closer towards Eastern Conference supremacy.
After the first month of the season, they have yet to show that they are going to be better than last season’s 48-win ball club.
The big problem a year ago was the offense bogging down and for the most part, not making shots. This year, it’s the team’s defense that has let them down on many nights.
And with that comes a sobering reminder this crew is good, but at best are maybe top-five in the East.
As a team on the rise, beating teams you’re not supposed to has to happen with some semblance of regularity.
There were only three teams on the Celtics’ docket this season thus far that they should have been beaten by without there being any argument: Golden State, San Antonio and Cleveland.
They were beaten in all three, two of which (Golden State and Cleveland) had final scores that did not indicate the level of dominance they had over the Celtics.
The average margin of defeat in the three games was 9.3 points, but two of them (San Antonio and Golden State) were at the TD Garden, which is supposed to be the equalizer for upset-minded teams.
But in each game, Boston put up a decent fight only to fail to emerge victorious.
The struggles against the upper echelon teams of the NBA has nothing to do with not having a superstar or a great rebounder or any of the kazillion reasons/excuses offered up as to why they’re not better.
It’s hunger.
It’s effort.
It’s about being blinded by the internet clicks that tout them as one of the best teams in the East, and them not seeing the danger that comes with embracing all that patting on the back.
It makes you soft.
It makes you fat and happy.
And maybe most significant, it creates a false sense of arrival before you’ve left the tarmac.
That’s where the Boston Celtics are right now: a team that seems to have forgotten why they were the team nobody wanted to play last year.
It wasn’t that teams feared playing them. It was the fact that they knew playing the Celtics would be tough, and it would force them to play a lot closer to their full potential than they were used to if they wanted to win.
It was because everyone knew that to beat the Celtics, you don’t have a choice but to play hard because you damn well knew they would.
Not anymore.
They bring that toughness to the game in small doses, like an intra-venous drip full of hope and promise, providing just enough to life to keep their fans optimistic but not nearly enough to kill the noise of their haters and critics.
And while the season is still young, the Celtics need to start racking up some quality wins.
Right now, their most impressive win is a toss-up between beating Charlotte 104-98 on Oct. 29, or a 94-92 win at Detroit on Nov. 19.
Boston plays at Orlando on Wednesday, a team that’s likely to be back in the lottery again. But after that, they travel back to Boston where they’ll host Toronto -- a game that they desperately need to not only to pad their win total but also provide a much-needed boost of energy and confidence going forward.

The Celtics have to find that hunger, that collective desire that we’ve seen in the past which has propelled them to greater heights than we’ve seen thus far.
Avery Bradley, Jae Crowder, Isaiah Thomas, Al Horford… you can go down the roster and the mission for all of them has to be the same: play harder, for longer, and be smarter about it, because this team has too much collective talent to be just three games above .500.
At 12-9, Boston is third in the East and trail conference-leading Cleveland by three games for the best record in the conference. But then you look at the teams behind the Celtics and realize that they’re only two games out of having the ninth-best record in the East.
It speaks in part to the season still being in its infancy stage. But it’s also telling as to how Boston does not have a huge margin of error when it comes to losing winnable games.
And as we’ve seen thus far, the Celtics can play with any team in the NBA and hold their own.
But beating them is a totally different narrative that this squad has yet to write.