Following each of the Celtics ‘ first 52 losses this season, Brad Stevens  always seemed to find the silver lining. Avery Bradley ‘s defense. Chris Johnson ‘s effort. Even Chris Babb‘s shooting. You name it. But after a 111-102 home loss to a Sixers team fresh off a 26-game losing streak, a dark cloud hung over the coach.
The captain knew it. “They were playing harder than us,” admitted Rajon Rondo .
The rookies knew it. “They scored more points than us,” added Kelly Olynyk, “and we didn’t play that hard.”
And the coach sure as heck knew it. “They played well,” said Stevens. “We played not well. That’s it.”
Including Wednesday’s 26-point debacle against the Wizards, the Celtics  just suffered perhaps their two worst losses — or best, depending on how you look at it — and that’s saying something in a season full of defeat.
“I’ve had no problem with our effort prior to these two,” said Stevens, “but these two we got the result we deserved.”
Whether it’s the result they wanted is an argument for a different day. After laying an egg in the nation’s capital two days earlier, Stevens expected more from these burnt Celtics . He got less. Sure enough, they were toast.
Stevens admitted there’s a contingent of Celtics  that may have already called it quits with six games left on a lame duck schedule, but refused to name names — other than to say Phil Pressey is not among them. As any good coach will do, he accepted his share of the blame for losing a locker room that can see the end in sight.
“We’re not pulling in one direction right now, and that’s got to be the responsibility of the head coach,” said Stevens, pausing between almost every word as if coming to grips on the podium with the reality of the first losing season in his head coaching career. “So, yeah, you’re assessment of our play tonight is spot on.”
Stevens chooses his words carefully. So, when he belabors a point, it should resonate for anyone willing to listen.
“I don’t think we’ve been a great detail team all year,” he said. “Obviously, as a coach, you expect everything to run perfectly, but I think we can get a lot better in that area. And the last two games I thought we just were a little bit more behind in that area. And, again, the responsibility of everyone pulling in one direction is on me.”
There’s enough blame to go around. In fact, things have gotten so bad Stevens can’t even begin to conjure up a lineup that would solve the questions surrounding this team. “I don’t know the exact answer to that to be quite candid,” he said. “I don’t know exactly who to put in there to make that happen. I wish I did, but I don’t.”
Not even Rondo, who submitted his first triple-double of the season, is safe from criticism. After all, the Celtics have won 44 percent of their games without their All-Star point guard the past two seasons and 36 percent with him.
“He’s had his moments,” said Stevens, “but like all of us he can get better.”
In these final six games, Stevens is hoping to discover who’s with him and who’s not. Rondo appears to be on the same page. “We have everything to play for,” said the point guard. “We have pride. I have pride. We have pride as a team, Celtic pride, and right now we’re not displaying that at all.” As Stevens said, each loss stays with him “somewhere around forever,” and it’s not easy to see the light after 53 of them.