WALTHAM Coach Doc Rivers may tire of repeating himself when it comes to lectures about not letting offense dictate defense. It was a problem last season. It was the topic of choice after the Celtics lost to the Spurs Friday night. It was a point of emphasis in practice yesterday.
But Rivers doesn't think the Celtics are slipping into bad habits; he thought poor offense turning into poor defense against San Antonio represented an aberration.
"I was more upset not about our offense, but with our defense," said Rivers. "There were a lot [of shots] that we could have guarded and we didn't because we were mad because of the last possession.
"So we didn't do one thing and that made the other guy [mad]. Without saying names, we had one [strategy] where you have a rule, you have to lock and trail, well, he was [upset] from the last shot, so he went over top. Then the next guy had to help, then the next guy.
"[The Spurs] swung the ball all the way around and found [the open man]. That was the difference. Then we'd come down and [the Spurs] might break one rule, but we didn't make them pay because we were still mad and took the quick shot."
Another reason the Celtics took quick shots as the Spurs stretched their lead in the third quarter was the belief of certain players that they could win the game by themselves. That was also a bad habit last season.
"It's human nature, especially when you get down big, that guys with certain abilities feel like they can do something to help the team and we get out of the team concept," said Paul Pierce . "I make those mistakes sometimes and that's something I've got to concentrate on. We've got to have more discipline and it's got to come from everybody. I think it starts with me and it has to trickle down."
Blount a little touchy
With another Texas team boasting a big center [Houston's Yao Ming ] in town tonight, Mark Blount revisited his complaints about the way the Celtics played against Tim Duncan . Blount contended his team should have made Duncan play more defense, not allow him to roam around inside and block shots. Translation: Blount thought he needed more touches on offense to keep Duncan honest on defense.
"If I can't score, it would be a problem," said Blount. "I put up numbers. If I pass, I put up numbers. If you want me to play defense, I'll come play defense. I'm out there to play the game also. There's five people out there."
When asked about Blount's belief that Boston should have gone at Duncan on offense, Rivers said, "You mean like we did in the first quarter, because that's what we did. Mark got more touches than any single player on our team in the first quarter.
"I think we should think about playing defense. That was the point I made after the game. If we all were that concerned about our defense, I think we would be a better basketball team."
Big plans for Yao
When it comes to Yao, the Celtics sounded confident about their game plan for tonight. "The way we'll attack Yao is off of more picks and things like that," said Rivers. "He's so long, he doesn't have to do much but stand behind you. Shoot and he can become long. You have to attack Yao in different ways by making him move." Added Pierce: "With big guys like Duncan and Yao Ming, we've got to put more pressure on them running the floor a lot more, try to get easy opportunities against guys who aren't as fast. I think we have two of the quickest big men in the game. We've got to take advantage of our running and look to get them the ball." . . . Tony Allen tossed up a couple dozen jumpers yesterday after practice and looked to be in good shooting form. But he has not done any cardiovascular conditioning work since surgery Sept. 13 on his right knee. Allen and Rivers are hesitant to lay out a timetable for the shooting guard's return, though it looks like early to mid December. "They told me that this could take a while," said Rivers . . . Rivers is hoping to have right elbow surgery to clean out bone spurs and scar tissue when the Celtics have a break in their schedule in December. He won't be able to write for two days. "I had no left hand as a player and I definitely can't write lefthanded," said Rivers.