Celtics

Celtics blown away by Miami, 100-77

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Celtics blown away by Miami, 100-77

By A.Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com

MIAMI A year ago this time, there were questions about the Boston Celtics' toughness, about their ability to lock in to opponents, about whether they had any Celtic pride left.

Well, here we are once again asking a lot of those same questions following a 100-77 drilling at the hands of the Miami Heat on Sunday.

The margin of defeat was the largest any Celtics team has endured this season, and it came in what was arguably the biggest game of the season.

Red flags, anyone?

Celtics Nation isn't the only one unsure of what to make of this team right now.

"Especially going into the playoffs," said a visibly dejected Paul Pierce, who had a team-high 24 points. "You expect a little more urgency, especially in the last week of the season. But we understand what it is. The hustle game, it's killing us."

Miami outscored Boston 18-3 in second-chance points. They rebounding margin was plus 16 for the Heat. Miami had a 12-3 advantage in fast-break points.

It was without question the most dominated the C's have been in a game this season.

"They just outplayed us," said Jermaine O'Neal, who had zero rebounds for the second straight game.

Of course, his struggles by no means should be considered an isolated issue.

As you look at the entire Celtics roster, all of them contributed to Sunday's slaughter.

And the lopsided nature of the game was surprising when you consider the Celtics opened the game with an 8-0 run that was soon extended to an 11-2 lead. But as the quarter wore on Boston found itself holding on for dear life, and it ended with the Celtics on top by a single point, 22-21.

"The first quarter, we were playing great," said coach Doc Rivers. "We got away from what we were doing. We got the lead and I thought we just stopped doing exactly what we were doing on offense; that stretch of turnovers gave them life and got them back in the game."

Said Pierce: "We went away from what we were doing best. At the end of the day, today was all about a great game - a grind game - and they won that war."

Normally, such games work in the Celtics' favor.

But as the playoffs loom around the corner, Boston is starting to come up short more often than not when facing the better teams in such gritty, grimy-type games.

And they're coming up short against teams like Chicago and Miami, the kind of teams they'll have to go through in order to bring Banner 18 back to Boston.

The Bulls loss, last Thursday night, wasn't all that big a shock. No one in the NBA has been playing better than the Bulls lately. And even if the Celtics had won, they would have still needed some help in order to unseat the Bulls for the top spot in the East.

But the Heat loss really hurts.

Boston (55-25) won the first three meetings against Miami this season, and began Sunday's game playing for the sweep.

But after the Heat closed out the first playing well, they just continued to pull ahead and eventually take over the game - and with it, the inside track for the second seed in the East.

Miami (56-24) must simply win its two remaining games - both on the road at Atlanta and Toronto, respectively - in order to finish at No. 2.

As for the Celtics (55-25), they find themselves limping into the playoffs for the second straight season.

While there are certainly some who will take solace in the fact that they did essentially the same thing last year and managed to get to the NBA Finals, players and coaches agree the hole they've dug for themselves this year is much deeper - and will be a lot more challenge to come out of.

"It's a different team," said Rajon Rondo. "Not the same. I don't compare it at all to last year, or the year we won it. Everything is different."

Rondo's right.

Everything is different.

So far, not for the better.

A. Sherrod Blakely can be reached atsblakely@comcastsportsnet.com.Follow Sherrod on Twitter at http:twitter.comsherrodbcsn

Plenty of on-the-job training for Celtics' rookies

Plenty of on-the-job training for Celtics' rookies

BOSTON – With all the changes the Celtics went through over the summer, seeing more rookies on the floor this season was a given.
 
But six?
 
Yes, only three games into the season and the Celtics have played more rookies than any team under fifth-year coach Brad Stevens.

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And in the 102-92 victory at Philadelphia on Friday night, the Celtics (1-2) played almost as many first-year players (five) as veterans (six).
 
The youth movement here in Boston has been sped up a bit by the season-ending injury to Gordon Hayward, compounded by a left ankle sprain to Marcus Smart that Smart said won’t keep him out any more than Friday night in Philly.

Even if Smart is back in the Celtics lineup Tuesday night against New York, that doesn’t change the fact that Boston will continue to need rookies to step up and contribute going forward as they did on Friday.
 
And while there’s an old adage about experience being the greatest teacher, Boston’s youngsters are going to have to fast-forward past some of those on-the-floor growing pains for the Celtics to stay among the top teams in the East.
 
“Everybody talks about young players having to learn by going through experience,” said Stevens. “Why don’t we just watch film and learn? Learn from things we can control and in the interim, let’s beat the age thing. Let’s not talk about the age thing. Let’s talk about how we can be better at what we can control and how we can learn and grow every day and expedite the learning curve.
 
Stevens added, “because they are going to get opportunities all the way down the line, let’s not focus on trying to learn from experience; let’s focus on learning from every day and see if we can get a little bit better every day.”
 
The one rookie who has had no problem adjusting to the NBA game early on has been Jayson Tatum.
 
Selected with the third overall pick last June, Tatum has been among the NBA's most productive rookies in this first week of the season.
 
Tatum’s 35.3 minutes played per game is tops among all rookies. His 12.3 points and 9.0 rebounds rank seventh and fourth among his first-year brethren.
 
Stevens loves what he has seen thus far from Tatum, but believes he’s capable of making an even greater impact sooner rather than later.
 
“I like him to shoot it on the catch more,” Stevens said. “Because he has tremendous touch. When he shoots it in rhythm with confidence, the ball finds the net. He’s one of those guys; he’s a natural scorer. But his ability to read the game … he’s very intelligent. It’s been more evident on the defensive end. He’s gonna pick his spots offensively now. But we want him to be aggressive and first and foremost, be a threat to shoot it every time he catches it.
 
Stevens added, “I guess it should feel pretty good when you’re 19 years old and your coach is begging you to shoot it.”
 
How quickly Tatum and the rest of Boston’s youngsters grow into the roles they will be asked to play this season can do nothing but help the Celtics adapt to what has already been a season with major changes needing to be made.
 
“You saw [against Philadelphia], we had Shane [Larkin], we had Guerschon [Yabusele], we had guys coming in that played the game at a high level and we need them to contribute,” said Boston’s Kyrie Irving. “For me to see that and witness that, it makes me nothing but proud and happy to have teammates that are ready to play. It’s not always going to look perfect because we’re still gaining knowledge about one another. But as long as we’re out there competing, having each other’s backs, that’s all that matters.”