Celtics' worst performance of season in 93-77 loss

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Celtics' worst performance of season in 93-77 loss

By A. Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com

HOUSTON Leave it to Doc Rivers to unearth a silver lining in an otherwise dismal 93-77 loss to the Houston Rockets.

"Well, we accomplished one thing," the Celtics coach said. "Minutes played by the regulars were low."

So were the Celtics' points, rebounds, assists, effort, energy . . .

It was a game that as lopsided as the final score was, the Rocket's dominance of the C's was even more decisive.

Boston fell behind by as many as 29 points, and seemed well on their way to suffering their largest defeat of the season which remains a 17-point loss at Phoenix on Jan. 28.

A Jeff Green lay-up with 29.5 seconds to play was just what the C's needed to avoid that dubious distinction.

Whether it was 16 points or 60 points, the Celtics were beaten badly in every way imaginable by a Rockets team that's fighting to move up to the eighth and final playoff slot out West.

"We just got our ass kicked; point-blank," said Boston's Glen Davis, who had 16 points and seven rebounds off the bench. "They just out-manned us. They beat us bad. We couldn't' get a stop. They were making every shot. When we needed a shot, they made a shot."

Fortunately for the Celtics (48-19), Friday's loss won't have any impact in their chase for the top record in the Eastern Conference as the Chicago Bulls (49-19) also lost on Friday which means the Bulls will maintain their half-game lead over the Celtics.

Regardless of where the loss put the C's in terms of the top record in the East, a disturbing trend is developing at a time when the C's need to string together as many strong performances as possible.

Friday's loss was Boston's fourth in the last six games, with all of those defeats coming against teams either out of the playoff hunt or fighting for one of the last playoff spots in their respective conference.

It's not a coincidence that the Celtics struggles come at a time when some players are returning to the lineup, others are trying to understand their changing role with the team, all the while game-planning for opponents who have far more at stake on most nights than the Celtics, evident by most playing with the kind of intensity and passion you expect a team that's trying to claw their way into the postseason will bring to the game.

"This component, you're dealing with a lot of different variables," said Boston's Kevin Garnett. "Mixing in, putting things together we're not going to make any excuses. We gotta figure it out, and try to put it together as soon as possible and get back to winning."

While there have been a number of issues that have impacted the Celtics lack of success lately, on Friday it came down to their inability to make shots early in the game.

As much you the Rockets deserve credit for doing a solid job defensively, Rivers showed his team video at halftime of the many shots they took in the first half that should have been made.

"We showed them (at the half) seven, point-blank baskets that didn't go in," Rivers said. "I thought we got a little frustrated because we were missing shots."

That frustration offensively carried over into the way the C's defended, which is a recipe for defeat more often than not.

When asked about whether the offensive woes impacted the team's defense, Garnett said, "I want to say no because we are a defensive team and we can't let offense dictate defense. But it certainly seemed that way. They got into an early rhythm, and it was hard to turn them off."

Several Rockets players gave the Celtics problems, but none more than Houston's backcourt of Kyle Lowry and Kevin Martin who had 20 and 25 points, respectively.

Not only were the Celtics struggling to score and get defensive stops.

They couldn't even get into the heads of the opposing team's younger players, something the C's are one of the best at in the NBA.

When you look at the way the Celtics were struggling, it was just a matter of time before Garnett would get into it with one of Houston's young bigs, probably get a technical foul and just like that, the C's would start rolling.

That is indeed how things played out - sort of.

Garnett and Houston's Chuck Hayes had an exchange in the second quarter that resulted in both players being whistled for a double technical.

Moments later, Glen Davis was shoved from behind into the front row near the basket. He immediately got up and started to charge towards the man who pushed him, Jordan Hill.

But Rondo showed some heads-up thinking and came into between Davis before he reached Hill.

Hill was charged with a personal foul, while Davis was whistled for a technical foul.

Even when Martin made the technical foul free throw, you had the sense that, based on the past, the Celtics were about to go on a nice run and make this game competitive.

Oh, there was a run by the Rockets.

Boston retained the ball after Martin's free throw, but immediately gave it away when Hayes stole the ball from Garnett.

And moments after that, Garnett was whistled for a personal foul that sent Martin back to the line for two more free throws.

The Celtics continued to fall further and further behind, as Rivers emptied the bench in the fourth quarter with eye towards tonight's game at New Orleans.

"I know this team, and I know what type of competitors they are," said Paul Pierce. "We don't really worry about the record and how we play in back-to-backs. After a humiliating loss like this, I know we'll bounce back (against New Orleans)."

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.