Celtics continue to struggle at home
Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers noted his team wants to make TD Garden a tough place to play. Trouble is, sometimes it feels as if the team having the toughest time playing there lately is the Celtics.
Not even at the midpoint of the 2009-10 season, Boston already has matched its home-loss total from the past two seasons, when the Green posted matching 35-6 marks at the Garden.
The Celtics are 11-6 this season at home and dropped a pair on their turf last week.
Boston will play three of its next four games at home before a daunting stretch that features a back-to-back in Orlando and Atlanta before a visit from the Lakers to close out the month. Now more than ever, the Celtics need to establish home-court dominance.
"We haven't established that yet, but we plan on it," Rivers said. "I've seen teams not do it until the playoffs, and that would be fine -- I can live with that. We do want to establish this as a place that regardless of whether teams beat us or not, it's not an easy place to play. We want that for sure because right now, every time you lose, it tells someone that they can beat you."
Neither Rivers nor his players wanted to pin last week's struggles (home losses to the Hawks and Bulls) on injuries, but the Celtics admit those ailments certainly made things tougher -- regardless whether they were playing at home or on the road.
After Thursday's loss to the Hawks, captain Paul Pierce sounded off on the home-court struggles.
"We don't make excuses," Pierce said. "We feel like we're at home, we should be a better team at home than how we've been playing as of late. We should win these type of games regardless of how many games [the Celtics have played]. We play three or four games in a row [on the road] and we come back home; we need to make this building a place for teams to feel like they can't win, and we haven't been doing that as of late."
After dropping three Friday home games in November, the Celtics appeared to be turning things around, but last week's struggles brought the issue back to the surface. The Celtics don't catch any breaks with a visit from Dallas on Monday, then Portland later in the week, two of the top five teams in the Western Conference.
"I was talking to a coach the other day, and he said, 'With all the injuries you have, you'd probably be better off playing all road games right now because if you drop those, it's just a road game,'" Rivers said. "I said I'd still rather have a home game because maybe you can win those. You can look at it a lot of ways. We gotta take care of home court, make no excuses. Home is home; everyone should be comfortable at home."
Rivers admitted that home-court dominance doesn't come from history. Asked which arenas in the league are the toughest to play in, he pointed to the teams with the best players.
"Only buildings with good players," Rivers said. "That's what I've always said. You can put bad players in a great building, and they're going to lose. You put great players in a bad building, and they're going to win. That's how it works.
"The old Garden was tough, but then Larry [Bird] retired and there was that little stretch there where those banners couldn't beat you anymore. That's what I tell our guys. We have history here, we've established that, but players aren't out there [because of injuries], and we have to make do with what we have. And we have to win games."
How poorly are the Celtics playing at home? The Milwaukee Bucks, a nonplayoff team if the season had ended Sunday, boast a similar 11-7 mark at home but a 16-22 record overall. The Memphis Grizzlies, another nonplayoff team in the West, are 14-5 at home this season.
The Celtics will play 17 home games after the All-Star break. If they're healthy, Rivers wouldn't mind seeing 17 W's.
"Obviously, the next two weeks are tough because we're trying to get guys back," Rivers said. "But I look at after the All-Star Game, if our team can hold, we have to try to run the stretch for home games -- try to win every one of them."
Chris Forsberg is a roving reporter for ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter.
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