|Photo: CBS Sports
The Boston Celtics ended their hellacious November with a 3-10 overall record, while only winning one of eight at the TD Garden. The NBA champion San Antonio Spurs handed the C's their worst loss so far this year on a Sunday afternoon. A 111-89 defeat at home pretty much summed up the 13-game scheduled month in the Celtics' locker room with one word: Frustration
"We're losing, said Jeff Green. "It's frustrating. We've just got to figure out a way." [ESPN Boston]
The Celtics fourth quarter woes continue to plague this young group, and yesterday was a prime example of how the best team in the league took advantage of crucial mistakes to take over and win the game. In a span of less than two minutes in the final frame, the Spurs jumped to a 14-2 run and never looked back, leaving the C's to play catch up once again. This time there was no potential comeback, not even a lead change into single-digits. The champs extended their winning streak to seven-in-a-row while the Celtics had lost their fourth straight to end the first month of the 2014-15 season.
Granted the Spurs, a well oiled machine run by arguably the best coach in the league in Gregg Popovich, he needed only two minutes of the fourth to finally put away the Celtics. So why is this loss any different from the other nine? What else does Brad Stevens and his staff need to do with their guys?
"It’s a maturation process for the Celtics," Popovich said. "Basically a new system that Brad’s putting in and they’re starting to figure it out more and more all the time. But the good thing is, while they’re figuring things out, getting used to each other in a system, they’re bringing their energy and competitiveness every night." [ESPN Boston]
Some kind words from a coach that will be not only be a future Hall-of-Famer, but a legend of the game when it's all said and done. 'Pop' also was asked about what advice he's offered to to the young Stevens over the last year and a half.
"Coaches always talk to each other, but he doesn’t need much from me," the 65-year-old Spurs' coach said of Stevens. "He was a hell of a coach before he got here and he’ll be an even better coach as time goes on. He’s a special guy, that’s why Danny Ainge went and got him." [ESPN Boston]
As clear as the frustration has been in the fourth quarter with the Celtics players and their fans, another legend offered up some words of wisdom on how this team will eventually trust each other at the end of games. Tommy Heinsohn had a long talk with C's captain Rajon Rondo after Sunday's loss.
What was the message from the 10-time NBA champion (8 as a player and 2 as a coach), all as a member of the Celtics?
"Keep chugging away at it," Rondo said. "We talked for a while. He shared his thoughts; I shared my thoughts as well. Tommy’s a guy I’ve been talking to since Day 1, he’s been a big fan of mine and I believe in what he’s done here in the past. He’s coached, he’s played, he’s done it all. So when you find a guy like Tommy has advice or wants to share something, I always try to listen." [ESPN Boston]
To summarize Heinsohn's overall advice, he told the point guard to keep his head up.
"Just stay positive," said Rondo. "Continue to push the pace -- in the fourth quarter we tend to walk the ball up the court. Myself, I was just sharing my thoughts about how it’s hard to push the pace when the ball’s going through the net every time. It’s just difficult. Like I said, it starts on the defensive end of the floor." [ESPN Boston]
Out of the 10 Celtics losses last month, five of them were to playoff or championship contenders that were decided in five points or less. In seven of the 10 defeats, Boston had double-digit leads going into the fourth quarter before imploding in the final 12 minutes. It's an on-going habit that could make the difference of this team being at or near .500 at this point.
"It's a long season," said Rondo. "The best thing is we’ve got around  more games to go, so we can’t get too down on ourselves, obviously. We can critique our mistakes and we need to get better, but it starts with us individually and looking ourselves in the mirror. And doing what we need to do best for our team, making sacrifices." [ESPN Boston]
At 4-10, exactly where the Celtics were last season after the first 14 games, I say with all the optimism I can come up with right now...