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CELTICS NOTEBOOK

Numbers don't add up to wins

Rivers vows to get Celtics on right path

WALTHAM -- The doc did some numbers crunching yesterday.

"We're fourth in the league in field goal percentage. We're sixth in the league in scoring. But we're 26th in the league in turnovers and then 29th in the league in rebounding," said Celtics coach Doc Rivers after yesterday's practice at HealthPoint.

His diagnosis?

"That's what makes you inconsistent," said Rivers of his 16-20 team, which takes on old friend Antoine Walker and the 6-26 Atlanta Hawks tonight at the FleetCenter. "We've been a bad rebounding team and we've been a bad turnover team. We have yet to take care of the basketball. I think we should be better. Where I think I have failed so far is getting our guys to consistently play together. That's been where I've failed, and I have no problem saying that.

"But we're going to get it right. There's 10-minute stretches where you love this team and then there are 10-minute stretches where you say that's not the same group of guys that just played the last 10 minutes. My goal is to be over .500 by the end of the season. I think we can be."

Stumbling once again in their pursuit of a break-even record, the Celtics dropped a 104-93 decision in Toronto Wednesday while exhibiting little patience offensively. On 78 of their 90 possessions, the Celtics utilized two or fewer passes before a shot -- not a formula for success.

"I really thought our defense was poor because of our bad offense," said Rivers. "I don't know any team that's going to win a game that way unless the team you're playing is the worst defensive team of all time and most of those shots are layups. I thought our shot selection allowed them to shoot the ball well at the other end because we were in terrible rebounding positions and terrible transition defensive positions."

Forward Walter McCarty agreed. "We have to move the ball around and not shoot off one pass or two passes," said McCarty, who played 20 minutes, all consecutively, in Toronto. "Whenever we do that, we don't win ballgames. When we do the opposite, we win ballgames big. We have to make teams work. Defensively, we have to take a stand and not give up so many layups. We just have to trust each other. We're working at it because whoever plays defense consistently is going to win this division."

Rivers, his staff, and the players spent a good deal of time yesterday analyzing their breakdowns against the Raptors on film. "A bad shot to me, especially against running teams, is very close to a turnover because you're out of position, you don't have floor balance, and you can't get back on defense," said the coach. "But I understand you can't build Rome in a day. And you look at our offense -- we have changed our philosophy. We're one of the more efficient offensive teams in the league. We've been successful that way. But what happens is that when we're bad offensively, we're horrible defensively. That's where we have to be better as a basketball team.

"But I will say this: Someone [in the Atlantic Division] is going to make a run, eight games, nine out of 10, and separate themselves. Are we capable of doing that? I think we are, but maybe with our youth that would be very tough. I do think we can put a string together. When, I don't know. But we're edging that way right now. Someone's going to do it and I hope it's us."

Test run
Six weeks after surgery to repair his broken right hand, rookie guard Delonte West scrimmaged for the first time yesterday, and then spent extra minutes practicing his shooting. West, who said he will continue to wear an open-palm protective glove for at least a month, could be activated in a week or two. According to Rivers, West underwent an MRI before getting clearance to practice. "It felt great to get back in," said West. "It's Day One and all I can do is get in there, do what I can, and get off that [injured list] sooner than later. It's a matter of me getting in there, getting familiar playing with the guys. Running and cardio is a lot different than game shape. I tried not to do too much. The biggest thing is to work your way back in and let the game come to you." West said veteran Gary Payton has been a mentor. "He's really helpful. He shares his experiences," said West. "He's not a selfish player and that goes a long way." . . . McCarty is looking forward to seeing Walker and Tony Delk, who is on the Hawks' injured list with a broken hand. The three played together at the University of Kentucky as well as with the Celtics, and Delk was McCarty's college roommate. "It should be a lot of fun," said McCarty, who said he speaks to Delk several times a week. "Antoine was a great leader and a great player here. He did a lot for the community. His last two or three years here he understood that playing team defense was the way to go." 

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