No end to their errors
Celtics' repeated mistakes a lesson in frustration
OAKLAND, Calif. -- When asked to rate his level of frustration on a scale from 1 to 10 following Monday's 110-106 loss to the Warriors, Paul Pierce said, with little hesitation, "10." Given the circumstances, it was an understandable answer.
Although the Celtics did not squander a substantial lead against Golden State -- as they did against Sacramento on the first game of this trip -- they still came up short against one of the worst teams in the Western Conference. The Celtics let one of the lowest-scoring offenses in the league tie its season high with 42 field goals and surpass the 100-point plateau in regulation for only the third time this season. Pierce & Co. sealed their fate by taking ill-advised, quick shots, especially late, with the game hanging in the balance.
So, after the disappointments of the last two games, and with a long learning curve ahead, would Pierce's frustration level ever reach 11? "It can't get to 11," said Pierce. "If it gets to 11, then I'll be sitting with Ron Artest."
But a couple more losses like these may push Pierce closer to 11 than he would like. The captain's frustration results from how the Celtics lose more than the end result itself. In his postgame comments, Pierce briefly interrupted himself and said, "I know I'm repeating myself, but . . ."
Therein lies the biggest problem; Pierce cannot help but repeat himself because the Celtics keep making the same mistakes. It should come as no surprise that in losing to Golden State, Boston reverted to individual play, abandoning the unselfish disposition essential for the read-and-react, up-tempo offense coach Doc Rivers wants to run.
"Right now, it's an equal-opportunity offense," said Pierce. "There's a tendency, at times, when things aren't going well, to try to go off on your own. If we can just grow up from that and believe in each other and not get down on each other when times get rough, that's going to be the biggest key. [We have] to know that we're not too far away, that we're knocking at the door of really turning this thing around, and that's what we're going to do."
Despite the frustration, Pierce sounded, for the most part, optimistic following the loss to the Warriors, especially considering what transpired during the final minutes. Although Boston trailed for much of the second half after leading by as many as 8 points in the first quarter, it was a one-possession game down the stretch.
The Celtics staged an 8-2 run to pull within a point (105-104) with 1:04 remaining. The teams traded baskets -- a 21-footer from Derek Fisher, a layup by Pierce -- and Boston had a chance to take the lead after regaining possession with 20 seconds remaining. But a forced 18-footer by Pierce didn't fall.
Golden State clung to a 1-point lead (107-106), until Marcus Banks fouled out and put Fisher on the line with 5.8 seconds remaining. Fisher made the first, then missed the second. But Jason Richardson swooped in for an inexplicably unobstructed tip-in that left the Celtics facing a 4-point deficit with 4.9 seconds remaining. With the perimeter well-protected, Boston couldn't even get a shot off in the closing seconds. The end of the game represented all that went wrong for the Celtics against the Warriors.
"We're so flawed in the execution part of the game that we just have to keep talking about it, keep teaching it, keep reminding," said Rivers, who conducted a limited practice with the younger players yesterday at the team hotel. "Their last five baskets were our mistakes. I don't mind if somebody makes a shot on you.
"We were switching everything. One of our guys forgot to switch and a guy gets a three. We come off the free throw line, tell everybody to box out -- no box out. Shots down the stretch, even the final one, guys are wide open, we [don't pass and] take the shot anyway. That's just execution and trust.
"We're going to get it. I believe that. I swear I believe that, but we don't have it right now. I don't think anybody on our team is selfish. They want to do the right thing. I don't think they know how. It's my job to teach them how.
"Some of them are just young and I can't fault that. Some of it is focus. Some of it is breaking old habits. I believe this team is going to be a good team, but we're a long way from that. I mean a long way from that."
The way the Celtics tossed up shots against the Warriors showed a considerable lack of patience on the court. The question remains whether the patience of Pierce, Rivers, and others will wear thin off the court.
Asked if he would run out of patience with the rebuilding process, Pierce said, "I don't know. It's tough. I'm in my seventh year and it's frustrating. It's definitely frustrating for me. I've just got to keep playing and try to be the best player I can for this team and see what happens."
Pierce hopes he sees something new from the Celtics in Portland tomorrow night. Repeat performances have been far from entertaining.