Celtics

Struggling Celtics look to Big Four

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Struggling Celtics look to Big Four

By: Rich Levine
CSNNE.com

WALTHAM Doc Rivers isnt blaming anyone for the Celtics' recent struggles.

If anything, he says he can only blame himself for the mental lapses and general apathy that led to the teams latest frustrating lossFriday night against the Bobcatsas well as their overall inconsistent play down the stretch.

But while not blaming any specific player, Rivers says that its up to four players to help the team collectively overcome. And not just any four, the Big Four.

Im not blaming anybody, but it is their responsibility, always, Rivers said before practice on Saturday. It always starts with your best players, and everyone else follows. Thats how we constructed this team, on purpose. It was the Big 3, and now Rondos been added to that group, and they all have their own responsibilities.

Touching more on the recent slump, and the post-game interview when he called the Celtics out for being selfish, Rivers was very clear on where the the issues lie, but also reassured that he has complete confidence in his team pulling through.

Its all mental, he said. Theres no physical.

We just have to play better and act better. Well get there. I have no doubt about that. But were not there right now.

Ray Allen believes that the key to breaking through these mental blocks lies in the art of communication. This Celtics team has never shied away from being brutally honest with each other. Its the reason theyve been able to achieve so much in the face of other turmoil over the last three-plusand theyre not about to stop now.

You come into the locker room, you look your teammates in the eye, and you conversate, Allen said. Communication is big because on the flip side of it, on bad teams, you come in the locker room and youre mad at everybody but on our team you just come in and have a conversation. You might not even talk about the game, you just have to remember to stay brothers and communicate.

You just have to take whatever it is, and move forward, in terms of criticism.

And he agrees with Doc that moving forward is only possible if the Big Four takes them there.

Between the four of us we need to play better. Whether its making a shot down the stretch or making a defensive stop, we have to be better. We have to be vocal because were trying to get other to understand what were doing, Theres no point when you cant be a leader, both on and off the floor.

On the other hand, Rajon Rondo isnt ready to put as much of the burden on the teams stars. He obviously realizes that the team can only be better if he, Allen, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett do, but also thinks that only way they can get through the tough times is if the entire team steps up.

Its up to the team, he said. It starts with me, it starts with them but its still a team game, no one guy is going to win it for us. Statistically you could say its the Big Three, but its a team effort.

Everybody has to do a better job of just taking care what they have to take care of individually, he continued. We all have to take a look in the mirror and get better. Its frustrating right after the game but today is a new day. Weve got to look forward.

And with the Celtics set to take the court against Sunday night in Minnesota, Rondo knows theres only one way to make that happen.

With a win, he said.

Rich Levine can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrlevine33

WATCH: Boston Celtics vs. Orlando Magic

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WATCH: Boston Celtics vs. Orlando Magic

Tune into NBC Sports Boston to watch the Celtics host the 76ers at TD Garden. You can also click here to watch the Celtics livestream presented by Nissan on the NBC Sports App. Coverage begins at 12:30 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live Presented by ACE Ticket.

- Game preview:  Celtics need to improve shooting

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Celtics-Magic preview: Boston looks to improve shooting down the stretch

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Celtics-Magic preview: Boston looks to improve shooting down the stretch

BOSTON – When Celtics coach Brad Stevens was asked about what he saw in the team’s newest (10-day) addition Jarell Eddie, his response was, “shooting  . . .  shooting.”

Indeed, shot-making has been the one area of play that has been problematic for the Celtics most of this season.

Boston comes into today’s game against Orlando (13-32) shooting just 44.8 percent from the field which ranks 25th in the NBA.

In the month of January, Boston has been even worse, connecting on just 41.8 percent of their shots which ranks 29th in the league this month.

While the addition of Eddie had more to do with the recent flu bug that has made the rounds throughout the Celtics lineup and the uncertainty a couple days ago surrounding Kyrie Irving’s sore left shoulder (it has improved and he’s expected to play today), adding Eddie speaks to a greater problem -- guys making shots -- that has to be addressed in some capacity sooner or later.

Boston always has the option to pursue a trade. They also have an $8.4 million disabled player exception they can use on free agent players, with the most likely pool of talent that they will choose from consisting of players who would have been bought out by their current teams.

Or there’s raiding the G-League for talent, which is what they did in signing Eddie to a 10-day contract.

Regardless, there’s a growing sense that this team has to add more scoring punch to the mix or at a minimum, improve the overall offensive execution of the roster as it stands now.

“We have to do our stuff better,” Stevens said. “The start of the season it was predictable, losing Gordon (Hayward who suffered a dislocated left ankle injury in the season-opener) and having to adjust. The middle portion of games we were pretty darn good. And then I thought we were reasonable in London, reasonable against New Orleans. But the other three of the last five games, we weren’t very good.”

Boston’s offense should get a boost from Irving’s return to the lineup after missing Boston’s 89-80 loss to Philadelphia with a sore left shoulder.

And while it was just one game, Irving understands the challenge that lies ahead in getting Boston’s offense to play better and more consistently.

“We have very unique talents on this team,” Irving said. “When you’re trying to put that together and guys are coming back into the lineup and getting their rhythm still and guys are in and out sometimes … big picture, down the stretch, we’re going to need everyone to be on the same page.”

Marcus Morris has been one of the players who has been in and out of the Celtics lineup because of a sore left knee.

However, the schedule has eased up to where he’ll be able to play more games, for longer stretches.

He comes into today’s game having scored in double figures each of the last three games.

“I’m just trying to get healthy. I know what I can do,” Morris told NBC Sports Boston. “My confidence is always going to stay high, no matter if I miss or make shots.”

In the last three games, he has averaged 15.0 points while shooting 45.7 percent from the field.

While Morris’ play of late is promising, it doesn’t diminish the concern Boston should have for an offense that for the most part, has been sputtering this season.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE