By A.Sherrod Blakely
CHICAGO There are times when no amount of words can do justice to what takes place on the basketball court.
But in describing Boston's 97-81 loss to the Chicago Bulls, coach Doc Rivers and the Celtics players were to the point in describing their pummeling at the hands of the Bulls.
"Keep it real," said Kevin Garnett. "We got our butt kicked tonight."
Said Rivers: "They were far more physical and better prepared than we were."
Added Jeff Green: "Look at the scoreboard. They outplayed us in every aspect of the game."
Coming into the game, the Celtics (54-24) had a slim chance of still landing the No. 1 seed in the East.
But with the loss, Chicago (58-20) would have to lose all four of its remaining games and the Celtics would have to win their final four - both scenarios highly unlikely to happen - in order for the C's to finish tops in the East.
Finishing with the best record in the East is the least of Boston's concerns right now.
The Celtics have to be worried about becoming a more consistent team, which has become a major issue in the past couple of weeks.
Throughout this final stretch of the season, the Celtics continue to play well in spurts, woeful in others.
On some nights, they time it just right and come away with a victory that usually takes more out of them than it should.
But far too often lately, it has resulted in disappointing play and even more disappointing results.
Aside from a short-lived lead to start the game and another one early in the third quarter, this game was all Chicago.
Derrick Rose delivered what may have been a signature performance in his MVP campaign on Thursday, as he had his way with Boston's Rajon Rondo.
Rose finished with 30 points to go with eight assists and five rebounds, while Rondo had seven points and just six assists - only one coming in the second half.
Chicago's Luol Deng also had a big game, scoring 23 points to go with six rebounds and two blocked shots. In addition, Carlos Boozer tallied a double-double of 14 points and a game-high 12 rebounds.
"It was one of our better games," said Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau, a former Celtics assistant.
And for the C's, it was yet another game in which the intensity and effort of their opponent was far greater than what they brought to the game.
With the playoffs only a couple weeks away, this is when teams are fine-tuning their rotations - not trying to figure out how to play harder.
Rivers recognizes his team isn't bringing as much fight to games as they need to.
But he remains steadfast in his belief that when the time is right, the C's will be ready.
"It doesn't matter at what point in the season it is," Rivers said. "It could be Game 1. It could be Game 82. You still have time. There's no panic button you're pushing, or anything like that."
Maybe not a panic button, but the concern meter has to registering some unusually high numbers about now when you consider how the Celtics were so thoroughly outplayed in such a big game.
"We need a better sense of urgency," said Rondo. "We have to play with a greater sense of urgency, and knowing our stuff better."
While that may be true, the Celtics were also hurt by missing a slew of lay-ups that could have kept the game closer, or in some instances, allowed them to take the lead or increase it.
Regardless, those missed shots can't explain away the lethargic effort put forth by the Celtics far too often on Thursday against a Chicago team that has established itself as the team to beat in the East this year.
"They outplayed us," Rondo said.
And if the Celtics aren't careful, they'll be saying the same thing in the playoffs, on their way home for the summer without Banner 18.
"It better be a wake-up call," Rondo said of the dominating fashion in which they lost on Thursday. "If not, we won't make it far."