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Celtics Notebook

O’Neal: It’s time for a talk

J. O’NEAL Expects meeting J. O’NEAL Expects meeting
By Gary Washburn
Globe Staff / February 20, 2012
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AUBURN HILLS, Mich. - Jermaine O’Neal believes it’s time for a meeting. Captain Paul Pierce doesn’t believe it’s that time quite yet. They both agree that something has to change if the Celtics are going to make any impact on the playoffs in eight weeks.

A disappointing 96-81 loss last night to the Pistons, their second to struggling Detroit in five days, has the Celtics reeling. After running off nine wins in 10 games, the Celtics have lost five of six, and have looked lethargic.

“We’ve got to get it right because we don’t have an 82-game season, there’s no backing into the playoffs,’’ said O’Neal, who picked up 11 rebounds in 27 minutes. “If you are going to back into the playoffs, you are going to be out of the playoffs in the first round.’’

The Celtics have been wildly inconsistent all season and believed their winning streak eradicated those issues. Last night, they went 5:59 without a point in the third quarter after cutting the Pistons’ lead to 5, and Thursday against Chicago they scored 2 points in a seven-minute span.

“You see it around the league, teams get hot and all of sudden they are cold. It’s hard to work your way out of a funk during a game,’’ O’Neal said. “But at the same time, you have to work your way out of a funk during the game, if you are not practicing. It’s one of those things where you say, ‘I’m going to hang my hat on this excuse, or go play.’ ’’

O’Neal said that with 36 games left and a demoralizing .500 record, the Celtics should discuss matters.

“I think at some point over the next 48 hours, I’m sure we’ll have a conversation just amongst our team in terms of where we’re at mentally,’’ he said. “Because that’s the key, mentally for us right now. I don’t care what’s going on, we shouldn’t lose to Detroit twice in a five-day span. They’re playing good basketball but they shouldn’t beat us twice.’’

When asked if he will organize the players to meet, Pierce said: “I don’t see me calling a meeting right now. I’m not going to use the excuse that we didn’t have [Rajon] Rondo for the second half or missing out on [Kevin Garnett] or Brandon Bass. We just have to be more competitive. It doesn’t take calling the guys in for that.’’

Rivers still believes

The Celtics have been frustrated with their inconsistency, including those games in which they appear on the verge of blowing out an opponent but slip in the second half or allow a fourth-quarter run to cost them a victory. Coach Doc Rivers maintains that he likes his team and that it is capable of making a run toward the upper echelon of the Eastern Conference.

“I believe everybody has the confidence, everybody knows what we need to do, it just doesn’t happen and you have to make it happen every night,’’ guard Ray Allen said. “Everybody just has to have that consistent energy and effort every night. We’ve been inconsistent coming out. Whether it’s the difference in opponents or whatever it is, we’ve got to stay consistent with the things that we do.’’

Allen got off to another slow start last night but managed 13 points in 36 minutes, but the Celtics again played spotty, showing signs of life in the first and third quarters before breaking down to the Pistons’ aggressiveness. Detroit attempted 46 free throws to the Celtics’ 15.

Garnett may miss Mavericks

Garnett practiced with the Celtics Saturday in Chicago and then boarded the team flight to Detroit that night. But he left the team because of a family matter, did not play last night, and may not be available for tonight’s matchup with the Mavericks in Dallas.

“It’s tough, especially when you go on this road trip and you just want to be healthy and you want to be right and you just haven’t had that opportunity,’’ Rivers said. “This is a road trip I’ve really been looking forward to - we thought a week ago Kevin was going to be good, Brandon [Bass] was going to be healthy and we don’t have either one for one of the games already, maybe two. And that makes it a tough trip.’’

First ejection for Rondo

Rondo was ejected for the first time in his career, picking up technicals six and seven for the season while arguing a non-call with three minutes left in the third quarter. He also played with a bandage covering his chin after hitting the floor during Saturday’s practice . . . Rivers picked up his league-leading fifth technical of the season in the second quarter after the Celtics were called for their 15th personal foul of the game compared with the Pistons’ six . . . Chris Wilcox also picked up a technical after arguing his fourth foul call in the first half.

Gary Washburn can be reached at gwashburn@globe.com.

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