Boston Celtics' Mentality Will Kill Them

Loscy LoscyContributor IApril 3, 2010

BOSTON - MARCH 31:  Rajon Rondo #9 of the Boston Celtics directs his teammates in the fourth quarter against the Oklahoma City Thunder on March 31, 2010 at the TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. The Oklahoma City Thunder defeated the Boston Celtics 109-104. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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Yes. We’ve finally heard it all from Doc Rivers this year, and this latest piece of brilliance is the last thing you want to hear coming from your coach:

“We played like a high school team at times.”
-Doc Rivers, after the loss to Houston...

As a basketball fan, it’s always more fun and exciting to attend tightly contested games that come down to the stretch. But two close games in two nights with two losses might be a little bit too much for this blogger.

From the plebe’s section up top, I had a great view of all of our offensive and defensive deficiencies.

Unfortunately, they were plentiful throughout both evenings. Five things stuck out to me from both losses (along with many, many other losses against above-.500 teams this year): we can’t finish quarters strong, we are missing defensive rotations when the opponent’s ball movement is quick/crisp, we can’t close out on long-balls, we can’t rebound in the stretch, and we can’t compose ourselves to recover when teams break our flow/tempo in the game.

Shall we?

We can’t finish quarters strong.

Are the Celtics tired? Are the Celtics mentally not able to keep momentum going through an entire quarter? Is the Celtics’ mentality simply, “we’ll get ‘em next quarter?”

Lord help us if the last question is truly embedded into their playing psyche. Telling themselves that they will “make up ground later” is simply rolling over and letting their opponent do whatever they want, whenever they want in the moment... Which is, unfortunately, what we as fans are seeing out of this team.

This is nothing but bad news. It means that there is a loser’s mentality: if this is the case, they have resigned during moments that they just aren’t as good as the other team.

We are missing defensive rotations when the opponent’s ball movement is quick/crisp.

It’s so easy to see: when teams move the ball well in the half-court, we have some serious issues catching up with it and being where we are supposed to be.

In recent strong-side, double-team/traps, the “free-safety” (often Kevin Garnett) doesn’t have the lateral movement to recover. Kendrick Perkins can’t pick up smaller, faster guys without fouling. Ray Allen doesn’t have the defensive awareness to know if he needs to switch or stay on when someone puts the ball on the floor. Rajon Rondo continues to gamble. Unselfish teams that pass a lot stand a great chance of shredding apart our defensive.

We can’t close out on long-balls.

This is like the last observation: we are too slow to move and catch up with the ball. While OKC was only 5/11 from behind the line, there were plenty of open looks—including two Jeff Green daggers late in the fourth quarter that sealed the deal on Wednesday.

Again, we are just too slow on defensive rotations and at times, even lacking that instinctual anticipation to close out on where the ball is going.

Houston was a blistering 12-of-18 from the three-point line...12-of-18! Chase Budinger (what a freakin’ name) was 6-of-8 from long distance, and out of those eight shots, at least five of them were wide open, clear looks.

Yes, trash-talking Celtics, a seriously white rookie by the name of Chase Budinger (giggle, giggle) lit you up last night.

We can’t rebound in the stretch.

Why even go into this? We can’t rebound for garbage.

We can’t compose ourselves to recover when teams break our flow/tempo in the game.
This is, perhaps, the most troubling observation made during the games. No one on the team, NO ONE, can compose this team when their run ends or when they have lost control of the tempo in the game.

Aaron Brooks had the not-so-secret strategic move last night when the Celtics scored a bucket: push the ball as fast as possible down the throats of the Celtics defense, right up the gut or ripping down the sideline. From there, he would pull up a 24-footer, drive in for an easy lay up, or dish out. Brooks kept us honest and was converting more often than not: 30 points and nine assists.

Whoa. We had no answers on offense. We had no answers on defense. 

What to take away from this? What are the essential points here?

The Celtics are old, old, old. The team keeps talking about how they are a a team built for playoffs, and I sure hope they’re right. I have used that rhetoric before: the 2010 Celtics are built for the playoffs.

In Marc Spear’s recent piece on the Celtics:

"Through it all, however, Pierce remains confident the Celtics will get better in the playoffs. They won’t have to worry about playing back-to-back games in the postseason, a concern for any aging team. The playoffs also become more of a half-court game, which could benefit the defensive-minded Celtics. 
'To be honest with you, I think our team is really built for the playoffs,' Pierce said. 'You get into a series, the game slows down. …The scoring isn’t as much. I just think that’s the way our team is built. We got a lot of older vets. That’s what playoff basketball is – executing in the half court.'"

The team has done a good job of selling me on this idea that they might be a better playoff team than a regular season team. But... is that just simply deferring the truth? That the Celtics just aren’t that good anymore?

Bad habits are made in practice and they show up in games. Bad habits are made in regular season games and make their way into the playoffs. If you can’t steadily do something right, how is it going to suddenly fall into place when the calendar changes and your mind tells you one thing, but it’s so conditioned to do the opposite?

So what if we don’t have to play back-to-back games? That just means more rest for the younger teams that will turn each game in the playoffs into a freakin’ track meet and just run.

That’s it. There’s the blueprint for winning against the Celtics: just run. Run and pass the ball around the perimeter. Run and pass the ball to get it moving from outside-in-outside-in-outside.

There you go.

Milwaukee? They can run.
Atlanta? They can run.
Charlotte? They can run.
Miami? They can run.
Cleveland? They can run.
Orlando? They can run.

Boston? They cannot run.

I’m not giving up on this team. I’m not.

But I’m frustrated.

I’m frustrated that the Celtics cannot consistently execute on either end of the floor. The offense looks out of tune, the defense is inconsistent.

That doesn’t mean there aren’t flashes of great basketball on either’s just happening in small bunches, and the Celtics can’t maintain it.

You can’t rule out a team like the Celtics, because they’re capable of playing great basketball and everyone has seen times.

That’s the thing, we’ve only seen it at times. If they’re going to rely on luck to make their good play habitual, then we will look forward to an early exit from the playoffs. If they’re waiting for “the next quarter,” in this case that next quarter being the playoffs...then, oh boy.

Like I said, a bad mentality to have.


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