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PRO BASKETBALL


PRO BASKETBALLBOSTON

As they muddled through the worst stretch of the early season two weeks ago, losing three straight Friday night home games, dropping four out of seven and looking old and lost and discombobulated, the Boston Celtics drew the kind of scrutiny that never sits well.

This was, after all, a team that had added some impressive pieces, had welcomed back a future Hall of Famer to reunite with a couple of other future Hall of Famers, and was ready to be run by a point guard who was on his way to stardom.

"We weren't playing well, and that's your job," coach Doc Rivers told the media after Tuesday's 98-89 Garden victory over the Milwaukee Bucks.

"To overreact."

He was joking, yet it wasn't so much an overreaction as an observation.

"I saw it like you guys," said the coach, "but I wasn't concerned. In my mind we were nowhere near where we were going to be."

Now, a couple of weeks later, the Celtics followed up an impressive 4-0 road trip with this one, when they finished with a Rajon Rondo-directed 12-3 flourish in which the Bucks were unable to score a single field goal for the final 4:51.

The Celtics have won eight straight and are about to head back out onto the road with a renewed sense of confidence.

The problem, though, is that the Celtics have high expectations, an eight-game streak be damned, and they're still struggling to meet them.

Many of the eight victories have been highly imperfect. In San Antonio they were destroyed on the boards, the Spurs taking a 20-2 offensive rebounding advantage. Against the Bucks, despite their tremendous closing surge, the Bucks took an overall 44-35 rebounding advantage.

The Celtics came into this game ranked 29th in the 30-team NBA in rebounding, at 38.0 per game. Part of that is because they're also a league leader in shooting percentage, which cuts down on their own offensive rebounds (where they're last), but they're also ranked 24th solely on the defensive boards. The frontcourt alone is ranked 27th in rebounding.

It hurts and it has to stop and it's one reason why the Celts will struggle somewhere down the road.

"It's interesting," Rivers said. "At halftime, we were shooting 58 percent and they were shooting 43 percent. Usually 43 percent says their offense wasn't that good, but it was. They got every loose ball, they got every long rebound. And they scored more off the secondary action than the offense. That's just awareness, quickness, but, again, it's the physicality that we have to get to.

"I thought there was the one stretch in the fourth quarter where you could physically see bodies on bodies. And we got all the rebounds. And we've just got to get better at it. We've always been a good rebounding team over the last couple years and right now we're not. It's that simple. And we can get away with winning now, but we're not going to win in the long term if we don't start rebounding."

It's hard to explain, this rebounding thing, given that Kendrick Perkins is a tough dude, as are Garnett and even Paul Pierce. It's just not happening, though. The Bucks took a 14-5 edge on the offensive boards.

"I thought they did well on offensive rebounds," Pierce said. "That is something that is an issue for us that we have to get better as time goes along. And if we are ever able to clean up those two things, then I think we would have been able to open this game up a little sooner.

"It starts with all five guys, and our bigs are really doing a great job, putting bodies on men. It's a problem with the guards. We have to do a better job at coming back and helping the bigs, especially on long rebounds. That is where we get beat the most, on the long rebound issue. Between me, Ray (Allen) and Rondo we have to do a better job at that."

By the way, Rondo and Garnett had nine rebounds each. Rondo also added 11 points - all in the fourth quarter - and 13 assists.

So, these guys can play. There are just some areas to clean up, rebounding chief amongst them. Perhaps it's a matter of expectations being so high.

"We're the same team," Allen said. "I don't think we have anything we were worried about. "Its just a matter of us ... we caught a hot team in Phoenix, and Atlanta came in and played well. Teams that beat us played well against us, so we didn't panic. I expect you guys (media) to ask the questions. We've got to come out here and do our jobs and when we don't win, we can point to the small little things we need to do to get better. Even in wins we still think that way, that's where we want to get home court advantage and continue to play well."

"I think we won whatever (six straight) at the beginning of the season," Garnett said, "and that set the tone for what the season could be. We are not a flawless team and we do make mistakes and teams that are out there are good and do have good players on their team and some nights we are going to look bad and some nights we are not going to win.

"I just think that this team has been a work in progress."

This work in progress is now 17-4.


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Author: Fox Sports
Author's Website: http://www.foxsports.com
Added: December 11, 2009

 

 
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