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Doc: ‘Those are the basketball gods punishing you’

02.27.10 at 5:34 pm ET
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Doc Rivers has been preaching to the Celtics all season long to avoid taking shortcuts on defense and to play with energy and purpose.

He warned that if they didn’t, eventually it would catch up to them.

Well, on Saturday — in a 104-96 stinker vs. the Nets — it didn’t just catch up to them, it barreled them over in stunning fashion on their home court in the form of a 5-52 team beating them soundly and thoroughly.

Perhaps most troubling from the final box score were the 41 free throws the Nets attempted, compared to a measly 11 for the Celtics.

Afterward, there was no hiding for the Celtics coach.

“Like I said before, I still believe in this team,” Rivers said. “I just know for a fact we’re not playing well. But I do believe in this team. But I don’t think you change just to change. I don’t think we need it. I think we need to change our approach and the way we play.

“And tonight you could see it early, even though [at the] beginning of the game we jumped out and after that you just — you know, we had that sense that ‘we’ll get back into it.’ And you know what happened? They actually did try. I thought our guys gave a great effort in the second half, but then they started making shots, and then we’d have the defensive breakdown with three seconds on the shot clock over and over again. Every time we got it down to six or four, a guy would make a 3, a bobbled ball would go to it. I talk about it a lot with our guys: ‘Those are the basketball gods punishing you; you have no right to get back in this game. I thought all those little breaks went to them, and I thought the basketball gods were saying that they deserve to go to you.’ … If you believe in that.”

Other notable remarks from Rivers postgame:

“Well, they played better than us. It’s not hard to explain; it really isn’t. I thought they played — I thought we started out the first three minutes of the game, it was like, ‘OK, let’s play.’ We got out, I think it was 12-2, and then I thought that the turnover right after that, the three-point play got them back to 12-6, changed the game early. But then after that, you know, you get a team that’s desperate and has a chance to win and beat us, they came to life. They made a lot of shots. But we just gave up 104 points again. What did they shoot, 41 free throws, to our 11? In a home game. So that’s on us. It’s on us. And one of the things we told them, we told them yesterday, ‘It ain’t the system. It’s our heads. It’s between the ears. And we’ve got to come out and play. Everyone wants to beat you, you can bank on that.’ So, we’ve just got to play better. We’ve got to play with more of a sense of urgency. We’ve got to understand execution and the value of it. And then we’ve just got to keep playing.”

How much did Rondo’s early foul trouble hurt? “I don’t know. It could have. But hell, we’ve got other guys and I didn’t think Nate [Robinson] played bad in that stretch that he was in there. Actually, I thought he played well, defensively. I thought he had a nice little stretch. So, whenever one of your starters gets in foul trouble it has an impact. But I honestly don’t think that that was the reason.”

Does he think about change in lineup? “No, no. Not really. No.”

On Garnett’s play: “Early, especially, I liked that he was aggressive. Kevin is so unselfish, as everyone who’s been here knows. One of the things we have talked to him about is I know what he’s trying to do. Kevin is so 100 percent about the team, he’s always thinking ball movement early. And one of the things we told him, ‘We are moving it. To you. And we want you to look at it.’ And I thought he did a great job of that early on. And then I thought he went a long stretch without touching it, and that’s on us.”

On whether sick players have weakened the team: “No, no, no. Everybody’s sick right now. We just didn’t play very well.”

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