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Celtics encouraged despite losing five straight

01.17.12 at 10:13 am ET

Monday night’s loss to the upstart Thunder marked the first time in the Big Three era that the team has lost five straight games, and it’s also the second time in the young season that Boston has lost three games in the span of four days. Even though the natural inclination is to panic, collectively the Celtics feel the team is improving.

“I really like the effort we had tonight,” said Paul Pierce. “I was the telling the guys if we compete like that night in and night out — we’ll get closer to where we want to be.”

Certainly it’s easy to point to Boston’s 4-8 record and feel underwhelmed at any notion of optimism, but the Celtics are starting to click individually. Now, the team needs to find some semblance of consistency.

“We’re still chasing putting four quarters of good basketball together,” said Kevin Garnett, who finished with 12 points and 12 rebounds against the Thunder. “I know y’all are probably tired of hearing this, and I’m sure if y’all rewind your tapes, I’m in a different outfit saying the same thing, but we’re going to continue to work and we’re going to continue to get this thing better. I really believe that, and you’ve got to believe that.”

Ray Allen and Brandon Bass helped carry Boston earlier this season. Bass, in particular, was a pleasant surprise. Through the first seven games of the season he averaged 14 points off the bench. However, during this five-game losing streak, Bass has seen his production cut in half, only averaging 7.4 points per game.

Meanwhile, Allen is averaging 9.5 points the last four games, after averaging 20.4 points during his first seven games. Bass and Allen combined for only 10 points on 3-of-12 shooting Monday night. Boston’s scoring options are scarce. Allen and Bass re-discovering their form is essential to the Celtics getting back on track.

Then there’s Pierce, who admittedly said he’s playing himself into basketball shape because of a right heel injury that kept him out of the shortened preseason. He had one of his best games of the season Monday against the Thunder, scoring his 24 points in a variety of ways. Additionally, Mickael Pietrus scored 14 points in his fourth game with the Celtics, and is proving to be a reliable bench contributor.

As a team, Boston still struggled out of the gate offensively, only scoring 17 points in the first quarter Monday night. Furthermore, the Celtics had 18 turnovers, which were critical to the loss. “Our turnovers are killing us,” said coach Doc Rivers. “Every quarter I thought we had a two-minute stretch where we went on a turnover binge. And that’s frustrating.”

Pierce said the Celtics have to compose themselves and execute better late in games. “The little things are really killing us,” said Pierce. “The turnovers — obviously if we can just clean that up, keep teams out of transition, and control that better, I think we’ll be great. But you have to go out there and do it.”

There were other encouraging signs. For example, two aspects that have plagued the Celtics this season were second-chance points and rebounding. Monday night, Boston outrebounded the Thunder, 48-40. Moreover, Boston scored 20 second-chance points and limited Oklahoma City to just nine.

“We did a lot of good things tonight,” said Pietrus. “We have to be patient, we can see our chemistry coming. We just need that one win to get it going and to turn the page.”

Last Friday night, after the Celtics lost to the Bulls, Pierce said Boston does not believe in moral victories, and results were the only thing that mattered. By that logic Monday is just another failure, but Pierce did believes sometimes failure can make a team stronger down the road. “[There is] plenty of time to turn the ship around,” he said. “Sometimes a little adversity is great. You get to see how a group responds.”

Read More: Boston Celtics, Brandon Bass, Kevin Garnett, Mickael Pietrus
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