They don't call Paul Pierce "The Truth" for no reason.
I think that’s the one thing this team lacks, that mental toughness, man. When we lose our confidence, I’ve never been on teams like that. We got to stay together, we got to play with confidence.
Yeah, definitely, it hurts me to say that. It’s like I really sometimes don’t believe it.
Undoubtedly, it "hurts" Pierce to admit it, but he has to.
Boston was supposed to contend for titles, not fight, and ultimately fail, to stay above .500. The Celtics were supposed to be a much-improved offensive team, not rank 27th in points scored per 100 possessions. Halfway through the season, they weren't supposed to have lost three or more consecutive games on three separate occasions.
It wasn't supposed to be like this. But it is.
And Pierce said plenty:
Everything revolves around playing hard consistently.
We got a system in place and a game plan in place, and then we look at the film and we aren’t always following it.
We don’t have the discipline night in and night out, the consistency to maintain a game plan and play hard night in and night out.
That’s been our problem all year long and that’s why you are going to see us go up and down until we are able to maintain that, have the discipline to play hard every night.”
The Celtics were in need of an unfiltered reality check, and Pierce provided it. A six-game winning streak all but proved Boston was capable of contending for a title, yet their teetering efforts still say otherwise.
During that winning streak, the Celtics didn't let up 100 points. Not once. In their past four games (all losses), they've done so twice. More troubling is those points were totaled by two bottom-half ranked offenses in the Detroit Pistons and Chicago Bulls.
For a team whose success is predicated upon strong defensive sets, such lapses aren't a happenstance—they're the result of a deficient effort.
Boston isn't playing like a cohesive unit. At all. It's dependent upon the efforts of a few to carry the many, and it shows.
In fact, with Rondo on the floor, the Celtics are scoring just 101.3 points per 100 possessions, compared to 103.9 with him off. Last season, the team posted 104.4 points per 100 possessions with Rondo on the floor and a beggarly 96.7 with him off.
That's not just cause for concern, it's cause for the team to look within themselves and attempt to understand why one of the best point guards in the league can't positively impact their offense.
The same goes for defense.
Garnett has proven to be Boston's defensive cure-all. With him on the floor, the Celtics are allowing just 100.3 points per 100 possessions, which would give them the third-best mark in the league. Once he steps off, however, that number skyrockets to 108.6, which would stand as the fifth-worst mark in the league.
It's never acceptable to depend solely on the defensive efforts of one individual (see the Los Angeles Lakers), but given Garnett can barely log 30 minutes a game, it's even more disturbing on the Celtics' behalf.
So of course something needs to change, and it's not necessarily the personnel, but rather, their attitudes.
But there good ole' Kevin was after Boston's loss to Cleveland, demanding (via A. Sherrod Blakely of CSNNE.com) more from himself and no one else:
For Garnett, those soul-searching moments have yet to reveal the solution that he's so desperately seeking to discover.
"I don't know man; I don't know man. I want it so bad. I have to find a balance. Some of the things I messed up on tonight, that's not me.
"I have to be better. I have to do better. I have to be more effective for 48 minutes, regardless.
"You can find yourself wanting this a lot to the point where you mess up and make mistakes. It's a human game. You gonna make mistakes. I just have to be better, period. No excuses. No (bleep). I have to be better, period."
Are you kidding me?
Garnett has had his fair share of struggles this season, but these comments followed a performance in which he had 16 points, five rebounds, three assists, one steal and a season-high five blocks in just 31 minutes. Still, the Celtics were a minus-three with him on the floor against the Cavaliers.
I repeat: Are you kidding me?
Boston's misfortunes are not ones that can be attributed to just Rondo, Garnett or even Pierce. They're on everyone, yet not everyone possesses the same kind of urgency as this year's version of the Boston Three Party.
I didn't see Jeff Green demanding more of himself after scoring just five points in 21 minutes against the Cavs. Nor did I see Courtney Lee (nine points), Jason Terry (four points) or Brandon Bass (eight points) concede as much, either.
And that must change.
Was Paul Pierce right to rip his teammates' lack of effort?
Are they afflicted beyond repair?
Obviously not, but that's the problem.
We know that Boston is capable of more. We've seen as much this season. But we've also borne witness to the Celtics' lethargy and seeming indifference.
Which at this point means more than their six-game winning streak ever could.
*Stats in this article are accurate as of January 22, 2013.