9.17.2014

Rivers Encouraged Despite Skid

12/11/04

SEATTLE - While dealing with a three-game losing streak on the West Coast, the Celtics enjoyed the benefits of youth yesterday.

   It may take time for younger players - coach Doc Rivers includes Paul Pierce, Ricky Davis, Jiri Welsch, Marcus Banks, Kendrick Perkins, and the rookies in that category - to make progress and break bad habits. But they tend to have short memories and great resiliency. That may explain why, in the wake of a last-second 89-87 loss Thursday to the Trail Blazers, the Celtics were far from depressed at practice at Seattle Pacific University yesterday.


Boston sounded confident it could repeat its Nov. 21 performance and defeat Seattle again. It didn't matter that Ray Allen and Co. boast the best record (17-3) in the NBA.

The road-weary Celtics also seemed unfazed by what transpired Thursday night before a national television audience at the Rose Garden. Losing on a buzzer-beater by Shareef Abdur-Rahim was simply filed away as part of the learning process.

"I like where we're going," said Rivers. "I just don't like where we are right now. We should be better. We've lost a ton of games that we've had a chance to win. It hasn't gone our way. I'm not real concerned about it, to be honest. This team is working on the right things and doing the right things. Eventually, we're going to break through."

Added Pierce: "It's just little things that are hurting us every game. Once we learn the little things that are going to [help us] in these close losses, then we're going to be a tough team to beat, not only in the Eastern Conference but in the whole NBA. A lot of teams really see what we've got. When it all starts to come together, I think we're going to be a beast over here."
Until then, the Green will have to take whatever satisfaction they can from making small strides. Despite the result in Portland, very little about the Celtics' performance disappointed Rivers.

He saw good ball movement and effective defense. Even though Portland outrebounded Boston, 62-39 (including 26-12 on the offensive glass), and forced the Green into committing a costly shot-clock violation with 5.4 seconds remaining, Rivers said he "loved the way we played."

Every game is a learning experience. Did the Celtics execute what they practiced? Were they unselfish on offense? Did they avoid letting the offense dictate the defense? Did they maintain a fast pace? Did the rookies gain valuable playing time? If the Celtics can answer yes to most of those questions, the night goes down as a success regardless of the outcome.

Against the Trail Blazers, the Celtics exhibited better ball movement, just as they had practiced the day before. If shots had fallen, they would have easily finished with more than 20 assists. Though the Celtics struggled offensively (39 percent from the floor), they still managed to play solid defense, holding the Trail Blazers to 36 percent.

Boston kept the game uptempo, outscoring Portland, 22-15, in fast-break points. And finally, rookies Tony Allen and Al Jefferson saw significant time and each finished with 8 points. Allen, who also had five rebounds, scored all of his points in the opening minutes of the fourth as he single-handedly helped Boston keep pace.

"Doc really has great confidence in these guys, putting them in tough situations," said Pierce. "They're learning night in and night out. They came in for the fourth quarter and sustained the lead out there for us, kept the game close until the starters came back in the game. They're gaining valuable experience for us in a nationally televised game. They're coming along real well. As they continue to grow, I think this team is going to continue to grow.

"If we can continue to grow and stay together, we can go a long way. If everybody continues to get frustrated and we decide to be disappointed with each other, it can go the wrong way. The key is for us to stay together, regardless of what's going on."

For now, the Celtics (7-11) have time to grow. Growing pains are never fun, but they hurt a lot less in December than in March.

"They understand it's a long season," said Rivers. "You win four games and you're in first place in our division. If at Game 60, we're still doing this, then I would say their heads wouldn't be as high. They see there are flashes out there. I think they're starting to enjoy playing with each other more and more. That's what has got the spirit up. I don't think they enjoyed playing with each other in the past. You can see them sharing.

"They're starting to like each other."

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