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News » Celtics: A few worries

Celtics: A few worries

Celtics: A few worries
OAKLAND, Calif. - The Celtics' recent 19-game winning streak and 27-2 start were historic, but also deceptive.

No Celtics team had won that many games in a row and no NBA team had started that strongly. One would expect that with such achievements, Boston would have earned major breathing room over its main Eastern Conference challengers. But all that winning only kept the Celtics slightly ahead, as Cleveland entered yesterday just one game back in the East, while Orlando was a mere three.

"Everyone was talking about the Lakers," said coach Doc Rivers. "I'm not worried about the Lakers. If we play the Lakers again after March, we'll all take that right now. But I couldn't care less about the Lakers. We are worried about Cleveland, Orlando, and Detroit. They're on our heels.

"If you think about it, we won 19 games in a row and we gained one game on Cleveland. That tells you how well Cleveland is playing. We gained [three] on Orlando. So, we didn't gain anything."

The Celtics are in the midst of their toughest challenge thus far this season after losing back-to-back games to the Lakers on Christmas night and the struggling Warriors Friday night. Boston (27-4) has a prime opportunity to get back to its winning ways tonight at Pacific Division cellar-dweller Sacramento (7-23), which has lost five straight.

But if the Celtics were to lose again tonight and the Cavaliers were to beat visiting Miami, Cleveland would lead Boston by percentage points (.023). And with the importance of home-court advantage in the playoffs, the Celtics are definitely concerned about winning the top spot in the conference.

"That just shows how tough the competition is," said Celtics guard Rajon Rondo. "We have a three-game lead over Orlando [entering last night]. To win 19 games in a row and only be up one game [on Cleveland] is crazy. A lot of people are talking about us, but a lot of teams are right behind us.

"I'm not concerned, really. We just have to take care of our business. We are in control of our own destiny. If [our East foes] are rolling, we just have to make sure that we are rolling."

While the Celtics didn't get too high while they were winning 19 straight, they aren't getting too low now, either.

"We just have to think about how we can improve for the future," said guard Ray Allen.

Said guard Eddie House, "It's two losses straight. Hey, [stuff] happens. We just have to go back to the drawing board and figure out what we need to do."

So, what's wrong with the Celtics now after so much went right? Fatigue is a factor. Entering last night, Boston was the only Eastern Conference team to have played more than 30 games. Center Kendrick Perkins sprained his surgically repaired left shoulder in the first quarter against the Lakers and missed his first game of the season against Golden State. Although the games against the Lakers and Warriors were day-night, back to back, with a short plane ride from Los Angeles to San Francisco, Rivers believes it took its toll on his players, so he gave them yesterday off.

"I would have rather had the day off [Friday]," Rivers said. "[The Lakers game] was a hard-fought, emotional game. We didn't play very well. But it was still hard-fought. It was one of those rare games during the regular season where guys have a lot of emotions invested into the game. I would have much rather had a day off.

"I'm not worried about us, psyche-wise. I'd just like more rest. I'd like to have a practice to [get back on the right page]. We need a practice. But we may not have one this entire West Coast trip. We may squeeze one in, in Portland [where the Celtics face the Blazers Tuesday]. But everyone goes through these schedules and these types of things."

The Celtics also weren't themselves offensively in the two losses. After averaging 102.3 points in their first 29 games, the Celtics scored just 83 points against the Lakers and 89 against the Warriors. The Celtics are 3-4 when they score 89 or fewer points. Allen was averaging 18.7 points entering the game against the Lakers but has averaged just 10.5 points in the last two games. The Celtics also were outscored in the fourth quarter, 21-16, by the Lakers and, 35-17, by the Warriors.

"Three of the games we lost, Denver, [Golden State], and the Lakers, there is a point in the fourth quarter where we could win the game or go up a couple points and there is a certain junction where we just end up losing the game or we didn't stop or we didn't score," Allen said.

Said House, "Offensively, our flow is off at times."

Perkins said Friday he expects to play tonight against the Kings ... Celtics president Danny Ainge said all is quiet on the trade and free agent fronts.

Author: Fox Sports
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Added: December 30, 2008


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