Watching the Celtics play with their heads up their asses, I haven’t thought for a second that they were giving it their best effort. Chemistry issues have been a concern, as have injuries, age and execution. But I’ve thought for the entire brutal stretch the Celtics went through (past tense… I hope) that the main missing ingredient was passion. Everything I’ve seen on the court points to that; the Celtics don’t seem to have the will to do the little things right. The loose balls seem to go their opponents, rebounding has been a major problem, and careless turnovers happen more often in each game than Rasheed Wallace attempts a three-pointer. The C’s clearly seem to lack intensity.
But Doc Rivers doesn’t agree. He thinks fans’ thoughts of a lack of heart and desire have been overblown. He doesn’t see a team with an on-off switch frequently stuck on off; instead, he sees a team struggling through the dark in an attempt to flip the switch permanently up.
“But I don’t really think our team has [flipped a switch],” Rivers told WEEI. “I just think our team [hasn't] played well. For a lot of reasons we haven’t, but I don’t think it’s the switch. I think some of the veterans maybe, but I think you look at Kevin Garnett who’s been injured and working his way back to health, I think that’s been an issue. I know Paul Pierce is the same way.
“So I don’t think it is as much as people think it is.”
Tommy Heinsohn agrees with Doc, and thinks the C’s give it everything they’ve got. That “everything,” though, simply isn’t as much as “everything” used to be.
“We haven’t had [the Big Three] really play well together since the beginning of the season,” Heinsohn explained to the Boston Globe. “One guy’s trying to carry the load, so the chemistry gets out of whack.
“They’re still hungry. It’s just physical. They’re hurt. That’s it in a nutshell. There was a three-year window, everybody felt. We didn’t get the three years, that’s all.
“This team plays with a lot of heart. Everybody’s saying that they’re loafing; they’re playing as hard as they can play. Their whole chemistry went down the toilet when they got hurt.”
Watching the Celtics dominate one quarter and coast through the next, time after time, it’s hard to imagine there isn’t a lack of focus and intensity playing into the team’s woes. That the Celtics haven’t played well is apparent to everyone in the basketball universe, but the fact that they have spurts of looking great points to a team that has trouble maintaining its desire for an entire game. That’s the feeling I get, at least, watching them from home.
Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe the Celtics don’t have another gear to shift into. Maybe Heinsohn is right: The Celtics’ chemistry is down a toilet but they are playing as hard as they possibly can.
If that’s true, the recent swoon becomes even worse. When the problem is focus, it’s pretty easy to fix. Play a little harder, and all the losses will be forgotten.
But if the Celtics I see, the ones missing rotations and boxouts left and right, are playing their hardest? If that’s really correct?
Then the other part of Heinsohn’s assertion will ring true.
The three-year window wasn’t three years after all.