Consistent problems

CHICAGO — The consensus feeling in the Celtics locker room is that this team is talented enough to compete in the Eastern Conference. The issue is focus and coach Doc Rivers has challenged his players to be more consistent.

A listless 100-89 loss to the Bulls Tuesday night only added to their maddening inconsistency. The first 24 games have been unpredictable and the Celtics have dropped three straight, disappointing losses to Houston, San Antonio, and Chicago, in which they sparkled in one quarter and wilted the next.

With another game Wednesday against the Cleveland Cavaliers, forward Kevin Garnett had a message for his teammates.

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“Sense of urgency man,” he said after the loss to the Bulls. “No time to be messing around, playing around. I know we’re in December but games are games and you gotta win them, man. We gotta figure out what we’re going to do and be consistent with it.”

After a positive practice Monday at United Center, Rivers was encouraged but hardly satisfied. And that practice meant little after their performance against the Bulls.

“Yeah we did [well], but I want to see it for a month,” he said. “One or two days is great [but] people know when the coach wants you to do something for an hour. But it’s gotta be part of our fabric and our habits. We’re not there yet but we want to get there and the guys want to get there. They have to be pushed more.”

Captain Paul Pierce said the approach has to be better in practice.

“It’s got to be mental,” he said. “It has to be the consistency in what we do out here in practice, too. We talk about we have our schemes, we just need to do them right on a consistent basis and we wouldn’t be inconsistent.’’