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: Thomas isn't a starter, but new All-Star voting is an improvement

Blakely: Thomas isn't a starter, but new All-Star voting is an improvement

BOSTON – There’s certainly some disappointment among Celtics Nation that Isaiah Thomas just missed out on being an All-Star starter in the East.

But one thing we can certainly see with the new voting system … it works way better than the old way of choosing starters.

This was the first year that the NBA decided to allow current NBA players as well as a select panel of media choose who the starting five in the Eastern and Western Conferences would be.

The fan vote would count for 50 percent while media and players would each represent 25 percent of the final tally.

From there, the players would receive a fan ranking, a media ranking and a player ranking.

Because of the aforementioned breakdown – fans count for 50 percent while media and players represent 25 percent of the vote – the fan ranking would be counted twice while the media and player rankings would be counted once.

Let’s look at Isaiah Thomas’ situation which ultimately came down to him and Toronto’s DeMar DeRozan for the final starting spot in the backcourt.

Thomas was fourth in the fan voting, second in the player voting and first among guards in the media voting. So when you add the fan voting (4 *2) + player voting (2 *1) + media voting (1*1), you get a total of 11 which is then divided by 4 to arrive at a score of 2.75.

Now let’s look at DeRozan.

He was third in the fan voting, third in the player ranking and second in the media voting among guards. So his score when you add the fan voting (3*2) + player voting (3*1) + media voting (2*1), you get a total of 11 which when divided by 4 brings you to a score of 2.75 – same as Thomas.

The tiebreaker was the fan vote which meant DeRozan and not Thomas, would get the starting nod in next month’s All-Star game.

As much as it may suck that Thomas lost out because of this system, he would not have had a shot at being a starter under the old system in which the fans were the ones to pick starters.

In fact, it would have been Chicago’s Dwyane Wade in the starting lineup under the old system.

No disrespect to D-Wade, but he has not had an All-Star worthy season. And had the old system been in place, he would be an all-star and thus take up a roster spot of another player who frankly, is more deserving.

And if you take a glance out West, they too would have had a starter who has not had an All-Star caliber season.

Golden State’s Zaza Pachulia finished second in the voting among Western Conference forwards, fueled in large part to his home country, Georgia, voting early and often for him. Because of the media and player voting, Pachulia wound up sixth among Western Conference big men which is still too high when you consider some of the players behind him – Memphis’ Marc Gasol, Minnesota’s Karl-Anthony Towns, San Antonio’s LaMarcus Aldridge and Los Angeles Clippers’ DeAndre Jordan – who are all having better seasons.

While no one would say this new system is perfect, considering how this year’s voting would have panned out under the old rules, this change by the league is a good one that should stick around.

NOTE: I was among the media panelists selected by the NBA to vote for this year’s All-Star starters. My selections in the East were Cleveland’s LeBron James, Kevin Love and Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo in the frontcourt with Cleveland’s Kyrie Irving and Boston’s Isaiah Thomas in the backcourt. My Western Conference selections were Kevin Durant of Golden State, Anthony Davis of New Orleans and Kawhi Leonard of San Antonio in the frontcourt, with Houston’s James Harden and Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook in the backcourt.