Celtics

Celtics defense has gone missing during identity crisis

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Celtics defense has gone missing during identity crisis

CHICAGO The search continues ... and it's not just winning games, either.

The Boston Celtics, 100-89 losers to Chicago on Tuesday, are on the prowl for something just as valuable - an identity.

Because Tuesday's loss to the Bulls was yet another indicator that this team doesn't know who they are.

And even worst?

They are just as unsure about how to get there.

"This team is not a good team right now," said Celtics coach Doc Rivers whose team is now 12-12 on the season. "It's who we are right now. We're a .500 team and we play like that. We've won two games in a row for the season. Right now, we're not a good team. We're going to find, but not right now. We're going to keep searching for it."

Even with all the new faces and roles this season, the Celtics were still expected to be a defensive-minded club which was supposed to carry them through the early stages of the season until everyone got on the same page.

But as far as the Celtics being a defensive team?

Even that's up for debate at this point.

"Right now we have no identity," said a visibly disappointed Paul Pierce following Tuesday's loss to the Bulls, their third straight. "We're supposed to be a defensive team. But giving up 100 points every night, we're inconsistent on the court ... we're still searching, trying to find out who we want to be for this season."

They continue to talk of being a defensive team, but their play thus far suggests otherwise.

Tuesday night was yet another game when Boston's trapping style of play defensively simply didn't work primarily because the opponent, Chicago, played with greater, more steady effort.

Because the Celtics did not match that effort, the on-the-floor result was a lot of open looks for the Bulls shooters as the Celtics defenders were consistently a step or two slow in rotating out.

Getting a read on where this team is at right now not easy. But it's clear that the one emotion that's running high now is disappointment; not only in their play but the fact that they have yet to figure out how to play better.

"We're all in here searching," said Celtics big man Kevin Garnett. "We had three games on the road here. None of them were easy. But we're learning from them. Hopefully we will at some point turn the corner."

Adding to the challenge that awaits them is the concern that players, in their effort to turn things around, might try to do too much and thus do more harm than good.

In Boston's two losses in Texas to Houston and San Antonio, respectively, Rajon Rondo had seven turnovers in each game. Prior to the C's most recent setback, Rivers believed Rondo's unusually high number of turnovers had to do with him trying to do too much.

"As a leader of this team, I just have to keep trying to lead the way," said Rondo who had 26 points and eight assists on Tuesday. "Keep playing as hard as I can. We have guys following and guys playing hard as they can as well, but we have to pick it up in different areas and continue to look ourselves in the mirror and try to bring our best to this team."

And that best will have come on the defensive end of the floor which is where the bulk of the C's scavenger hunt for who they are, lies.

"You know what? It's crazy, we work on multiple things," Garnett said. "We're just trying to find one thing that obviously works. We've been aggressive on pick and rolls. Now we have to just figure out how to put it all together with help defense and rotations and stuff."

And while the Celtics are far from panic mode, they know that this season isn't waiting for anyone.

"I know we're in December, but games are games," said Garnett. "We gotta figure out what we want to do and be consistent with it.

BOSTON SPORTS TONIGHT PODCAST: Jayson Tatum vs. Markelle Fultz debate

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BOSTON SPORTS TONIGHT PODCAST: Jayson Tatum vs. Markelle Fultz debate

0:41 - Michael Holley, Tom Giles, and Kayce Smith give their reactions on the Celtics getting their first win of the season and a comparison between Isaiah Thomas and Kyrie Irving in the 4th quarter.

7:17 - Phil Perry joins BST to break down the tale of the tape between the Falcons and the Patriots as he breaks down the quarterbacks, offense, defense, coaching, and intangibles between the two teams.

11:57 - Our crew on BST discuss number 1 overall pick Markelle Fultz and number 3 overall pick Jayson Tatum going up against each other and debate who seems like the better pick so far. 

16:35 - In this segment of Irrelevant Questions, Tom Curran interviews Patriots WR Phillip Dorsett as he asks him a bunch of random questions. 

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

ALCS: Verlander, Astros beat Yankees 7-1 to force Game 7

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ALCS: Verlander, Astros beat Yankees 7-1 to force Game 7

HOUSTON -  Justin Verlander remained perfect with Houston, pitching seven shutout innings when the team needed him most, and Jose Altuve homered and drove in three runs as the Astros extended the AL Championship Series to a decisive Game 7 with a 7-1 win over the New York Yankees on Friday night.

Acquired in an Aug. 31 trade, Verlander has won all nine outings with the Astros. And with his new club facing elimination in Game 6 against the Yankees, he delivered again.

After striking out 13 in a complete-game victory in Game 2, Verlander threw another gem. The right-hander scattered five hits and struck out eight to improve to 9-0 with 67 strikeouts since being traded from Detroit. George Springer helped him out of a jam in the seventh, leaping to make a catch at the center-field wall and rob Todd Frazier of extra bases with two on and Houston up 3-0.

Game 7 is Saturday night in Houston, with the winner advancing to the World Series against the NL champion Los Angeles Dodgers.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE