Commentary

'Bored' Celtics better wake up

With 24 regular-season games left, urgency is there -- but focus isn't

Updated: February 28, 2010, 12:34 AM ET
By Chris Forsberg | ESPNBoston.com

BOSTON -- Kendrick Perkins suggested the Boston Celtics might be bored with the regular season. Coach Doc Rivers didn't deny it. Boston's play Saturday afternoon against the New Jersey Nets confirmed it.

On the same day the Celtics hung a sign in their locker room aimed at inspiring the team to get its act together, Boston stumbled through an inexcusable 104-96 loss to the lowly Nets at the TD Garden.

The sign in the locker room reads, "Individuals win games, but teams win titles." It was born after the team watched the HBO documentary "Magic & Bird: A Courtship of Rivals" instead of practicing Friday.

Maybe they should have practiced. Boston showed up for the first three minutes, built a double-digit lead over the five-win (now six-win) Nets, then promptly disappeared.

[+] EnlargeRasheed Wallace
Elsa/Getty Images"No matter if we're bored or not, shoot, you still gotta go out and play the game the right way and get wins," Rasheed Wallace said.

Even as Boston trailed by 14 in the third quarter, the Garden faithful seemed like they were simply waiting for the Celtics to flip the switch. It never happened.

The Celtics are scheduled to take Sunday off. No truth to the rumor that Rivers has rented a copy of 1990's "Flatliners" to show his team.

"No matter if we're bored or not, shoot, you still gotta go out and play the game the right way and get wins," Rasheed Wallace said.

Given that everything has been a struggle this season, Perkins was asked before Saturday's game if the team lacked the focus and determination that propelled it to banner No. 17.

"It's different [the 2007-08 season], guys are really anxious to get to the playoffs," Perkins said. "You've got veteran guys -- Rasheed, [Kevin Garnett] -- you can tell the regular season, it really don't excite them. Even with Paul [Pierce] and Ray [Allen], but you still gotta go out there and compete, it's not an excuse for losing. Guys just really want to get to crunch time."

There's 24 games left in the regular season. It's safe to say we're into crunch time. Yet Celtics players still don't seem as concerned as those outside the locker room.

"We only have 24 games left, and to have a lot of uncertainty, that definitely has to raise a couple flags," Wallace said. "We gotta knuckle down."

But it remains to be seen if and when exactly the Celtics will knuckle down. One of those flags that Wallace talked about -- getting swept by the Hawks this season -- didn't even cause much alarm, according to Perkins.

"We took it to heart, but it wasn't as big of a deal as others tried to make it out to be," Perkins said. "I don't know if that's a bad thing. We come into games, we're focused, we're not trying to lose games. But you can see that sometimes we do get bored with the process. We can't do that.

"I think it's, that first year, we were harping on trying to get the best record so we could have home-court advantage throughout the playoffs. I think now guys are like, last year we won a couple games on the road, but we've won a lot more on the road this year and our road record is pretty decent, so I think guys are comfortable, guys are like, 'We don't care who we [draw] in the playoffs. Let's just play.' I don't know if that's a bad thing or a good thing, but I hate losing, even if it's just regular season."

Before Saturday's game, Rivers didn't try to deny Perkins' thoughts, noting: "I think our play proves [we're bored]. If it continues, then that's not a good thing."

It continued Saturday, and folks in New Jersey seem to have more to be optimistic about than in Boston. At least for one day.

"How many wake-up calls you going to get?" asked Perkins after the loss. "We've got a lot of them, to be honest with you."

Garnett stepped to the podium and breathed a heavy sigh after Saturday's game. Asked initially about the loss he said, "I got nothing to say, I feel disgusted."

Later he expanded: "I'm not going to sit up here and give a bunch of excuses, that's not my style. You lose, you lose. They kicked our asses tonight. Period. Point blank. Players have to do more, including myself. We all have to dig deep and see what we're made of as a team. Seriously."

Seriously. The NBA season is in its last trimester. The Celtics look like a dad-to-be who's just realized the baby is going to be here sooner than later. Maybe it's time to paint the nursery and set up the crib.

"There's too much heart and drive, we'll find a way to figure something out," Wallace said. "No one in here is giving up. Just because we didn't [beat the Nets], that's not the end of the season. No one in here is giving up. There's too much basketball knowledge to let this go away."

Added Rivers: "One of the things we told them [Friday], 'It ain't the system. It's our heads. It's between the ears. And we've got to come out and play. Everyone wants to beat you, you can bank on that.' So, we've just got to play better. We've got to play with more of a sense of urgency. We've got to understand execution and the value of it. And then we've just got to keep playing."

Or else Boston won't be playing much in May.

Chris Forsberg covers the Celtics for ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter.

Chris Forsberg

Celtics reporter, ESPNBoston.com

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