Celtics Drifting, But Who’s Going To Count Them Out?

DALLAS – The Celtics were in no mood to hear about a Heat hangover as an excuse for never leading in Friday’s 104-94 loss, their second straight road disappointment since letting Miami off the hook Monday night in Boston.

While the Heat pushed their win streak, one that the Celtics fail to view as particularly impressive, to 25 in a row on Friday, Boston took another step in the wrong direction. The Celtics lost for the third consecutive time to the Dallas Mavericks and the fifth time in seven games — a southerly drift that could ultimately lead to a first-round matchup with guess who?

“It’s a tough losing streak right now, three games, but we’re going to try to bounce back,” said Paul Pierce, who had a tough night with 16 points, but just seven through three quarters. “We’ve been through it before. This team is mentally tough and we’ll weather through the storm.”

Boston (36-32) moves on to a tough back-to-back at Memphis Saturday night with just two games separating it from the eighth-place Milwaukee Bucks. The Celtics will hope to have available starting point guard Courtney Lee, who sprained his left ankle late in the fourth quarter. After reaching the bench he was able to apply pressure and walk to the locker room on his own. He’s hopeful any swelling will be limited and that he’ll be ready to play.

No one would be foolhardy enough to count this stubborn, old Celtics team out. But at some point the emotional and physical toll of battling shorthanded night-in and night-out has to come home to roost. In consecutive games, they’ve fallen at New Orleans (the West’s last-place team) on a last-second tip-in, and on Friday they were out-hustled to loose balls and beaten on the boards by the light-rebounding Mavs, a team that’s played better of late but still sits 10th in the West.

“I just think we gave one away the other night in New Orleans, that was self-inflicted, and tonight they took it,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. “They won the game. We didn’t play great. We missed a lot of open shots, we missed layups, but overall I’ll take those. I thought we played pretty hard. I wasn’t real happy with our defense and we’re going to have to clean that up.”

Dallas center Brandan Wright, in and out of the rotation all season, although playing more and quite well of late, lit up Boston’s interior defense for a season-high 23 points and a season-high-tying eight rebounds. Shawn Marion, back after missing eight games with a calf strain, had 11 points and 13 rebounds.

“I can’t wait to watch the film. I think we got crushed in the 50-50 game today,” Rivers said, referencing the loose balls that could go to either team, but mostly wind up in the hands of the players with more jump. “Some of those rebounds will count as rebounds, the long ones that were way out to the free throw line, we didn’t get any of those. They got them all. Shawn Marion, I don’t know what his numbers are, but he hurt us with his effort.”

Pierce played 40 minutes Monday against Miami, 33 at New Orleans and another 35 at Dallas. Kevin Garnett (16 points, 12 rebounds) logged 29 minutes in each of the last two games after sitting out two with a thigh injury, but Boston could have used him for 39. Off the bench, Jeff Green had 10 points, giving him 23 in the last two games after hitting Miami for 43. Jason Terry, in his return to Dallas, had little to say after scoring eight points on 3-for-9 shooting.

“All I was worried about was the win,” Terry said. “We have to end this road trip on a good note. Right now we’re just not getting it done.”

Resolve can be a powerful tool to beat back adversity, but eventually the absence of All-Star point guard Rajon Rondo — and even rookie Jared Sullinger to help on the boards – will wear down the older Celtics team. When Lee went down looking like he, too, could become a casualty, it had to be nothing short of disheartening.

“Since I’ve been here, we’ve had so many ups and downs and always were able to find a way,” said third-year guard Avery Bradley, who missed the first half of this season recovering from shoulder surgery last May. “Last year we had  a lot of issues that people didn’t know about, a lot of injuries and we still were able to find a way, and still had an opportunity. It just shows what kind of organization we have.”

Finding a way this time will be an even tougher dig than a year ago when the Celtics clawed all the way to Game 7 at Miami in the East finals.

Still, nobody’s counting out the Celtics just yet. No, not even the Heat.

19 Comments

  1. Brian scalbraine says:

    I love the celtics, but they have no chance in defeating the heat without Rondo, in the playoffs last year who was leading the charge for the c’s, it was there best player (aka Rondo). Without him there chances have disappered.

    • gerald martin says:

      i am a knick fan but i would love to see boston win or even wear down boston in the first round.

  2. Sonics 4 Life says:

    Now Garnett and Lee are day to day? For only having a few over 30 players, the Celtics sure are getting hosed by injuries yet again.

  3. Ash says:

    The Celts are winners. They will continue to grind their way through.

  4. Sonics 4 Life says:

    2nd half shooting hurts the Celts more than anything. Then rebounding.

    So many games have been given away because the Cs get cold and can’t hit shots, so they look like a different ball club after halftime.

  5. Gustavo says:

    I wonder if Coach Rivers is doing this on purpose to see the heat in the first round. It would make sense to see them early as opposed to the conference finals where they would probably be worn out and the Heat playing with more and more confidence and one step closer to the finals. Either way they’ll loose , just saying this might be a plot.

  6. me says:

    most unpredictable team in the NBA, I know I’m not counting em out cos you never know with those guys

  7. theholyspectator says:

    by the way its looking for the celts…if they keep stumbling they will play the heat…but if they stay steady they will face indiana or new york…if they face miami in the first round, thats an automatic entry to off season…they face indiana..same thing…they face new york..hmmm…maaaaaybe have a shot to advance..no scenario for the celtics winning the east and makin it to the nba finals tho….the days of the c’s are long gone and over..

  8. ko0kie says:

    I can’t see them making the 2nd round if they can’t reach the 6th seed.. no chance vs. Miami nor Indiana.

  9. Bob says:

    Hey Dan, I do remember that Heat series. It was an outstanding series, a true grind it out, defensive intensity and big players making big plays at big times. I, also, remember Rondo playing out of his mind. After that series, I thought that Rondo was the best PG in the league, just above CP3.
    I just can’t see losing him and winning a series.

  10. Kamote says:

    Boston has what it takes to beat any team in the Eastern Conference in the playoffs. The key is to avoid a first and second round match-up with the defending champs. I still think that Boston has the best chance to compete with the Heat in the East (would’ve been better if Rondo and Jared are healthy). And it would be best if these two teams slug it out in the conference finals :).

    • Dan says:

      I think the entire country would like a heat celtics conference finals

      • Logic says:

        The only reason they even have a chance to reach the finals (or even playoffs) is because the eastern conference is weak. Also don’t be too quick to forget just how much help they had in last years finals to make it there. They had an easy draw and Rose went down allowing the to play the mighty….. 76ers…. who they still got taken to game 7 by.

  11. woof says:

    I love my celtics!!!

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  13. Bob says:

    I’m counting them out. No Rondo, no defensive backcourt pressure, no series winning team.

    • Dan says:

      Hey bob …dont know if you realized but are percentage has been better since rondo went down, and no backcourt pressure? avery bradley isnt the best on ball defender in the game or anything. i dont know if you remember last year but we took the heat to 7 games as bad as we looked during the regular season.