WALTHAM — Following a day off Sunday to reflect on a stunningly bad performance in a 104-96 loss to the hapless Nets, Doc Rivers  played the part of coach/philosopher/team psychologist on Monday at Celtics  practice as his team prepared for Detroit on the road Tuesday night.
‘I would like it not to but this is basketball and these are teams,” Rivers said of a possible wake-up call courtesy the six-win Nets. “It happens. We’re not used to it happening here but it happens. I’m not going to overreact to it. I can tell you that. But we just need work on it and we need to see it. Sometimes you can see it on film, sometimes you can see it on the floor and sometimes you’ve got to get your butt whipped a couple of times before you realize it’s a problem. I’m hoping all of those are going to help us.’
The Celtics are 36-21, a half-game behind third-place Atlanta in the Eastern Conference. But a closer check of the standings reveals that only the Cavaliers  appear clearly out of reach. The Celtics have just one more loss than second seed Orlando in the East and Denver in the West. Dallas, Boston, Utah and Atlanta all have 21 losses.
[Click here  to listen to Doc Rivers break down what’s been bothering him and his team.]
‘We’re a game behind Denver, three or four behind the Lakers. As bad as we ‘so called’ have played, we’re still in the thick of things, and that’s what you want at this time because we haven’t played well. In some ways, maybe we’re lucky in that way that other teams have faltered in other places as well. But we have a lot of games to get it right and we’re going to have to do that.’
But Rivers did isolate one area that needs to improve. The Celtics are just 16-11 at home. Of the 13 teams in the NBA with more losses on their home court, only No. 8 Portland in the West would be a playoff team.
‘I don’t know why. Blame the wives.” Rivers joked before offering perspective. “It is troubling. Of all the things to me, even with the rebounding and everything, is how we have performed at home. If you ask me, the one thing that has bothered me more than anything is that because I don’t care what your injuries are, whatever, you should win at home. On the road, it becomes difficult. At home, you should win those games. And we haven’t.’
So, in short, the Celtics coach has the mother of all motivational jobs ahead of him, with a talented team that is clearly underachieving right now.
“It’s a great challenge,” he said. “Obviously, you would love it to be easy but if you want to do something special, I don’t think it’s ever going to be easy. You’ve got to get your hands dirty. You have to dive into it and see what you can come out with. It’s a good challenge. It really is.”