The Celtics are against the ropes, as they trail the Miami Heat 3-1 in the Eastern Conference Finals.
Boston's 112-109 Game 4 loss featured the C's turning the ball over 19 times and Heat rookie Tyler Herro dissecting the team's defense for 37 points -- 17 of which came in the fourth quarter Wednesday night.
Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge was asked if he felt disappointment in his coach Brad Stevens for the team's play and being on the brink of elimination from the NBA playoffs.
"Not even a little bit," Ainge responded during his Thursday interview with 98.5 The Sports Hub. "Last night, we had so many good stretches in the course of the game, you can see that our players are prepared. It's just being able to sustain it. The turnovers, there were so many of them that were just unforced turnovers. And so that is frustrating. I've always been a person that has taken blame as a player.
"I've coached in the NBA and understand how hard coaching is," Ainge continued. "I've sat on the bench watching one of my players shoot free throws, and thinking, 'If he makes these free throws I'm a great coach and if he misses I'm a terrible coach,' and it's just obviously not the way. That's just the way that we look at it sometimes. If we had squeaked out a win last night we don't question anything, but when you lose by three points you question everything."Stevens, who was hired in 2013 to replace Doc Rivers and usher in the rebuilding process, has Ainge's full support that has not wavered in the past seven seasons.
"I know Brad is the first one to take responsibility and accountability for us not playing well," said Ainge. "He got the least amount of sleep as anybody last night."As for why the Celtics are having a hard time taking care of the ball in this series, Ainge credited the Heat's defense and also Boston's young stars possibly putting a lot of pressure on themselves to perform on the biggest stage.
"I think that the zone defense has been challenging for us at times," Ainge said of Miami's defensive scheme. "I think we've gotten a lot of great shots, we [haven't] been able to knock them down. We had, in the first half last night, so many wide open shots that we normally make. I don't know if our guys are at the stage of their career where they can continue to play with the same force defensively, and focus when things aren't going their way. A lot of that is just maturity. A lot of that is we just have 22 and 23 [year-old players], and I'm not making excuses for age, because our young guys have been through a lot, and had some shining, brilliant moments."Either way, Ainge still stands behind his team, despite being frustrated throughout the first four games of this best-of-7 series.
"I don't question my coach, I don’t question my players," Ainge explained. "I just look at what they're doing and last night was one of those games where I was very frustrated, in that I didn't think anything Miami was doing was causing us to make the plays that we made. They were unforced errors."Still, Ainge admitted he couldn't explain why the Celtics weren't able to capitalize on their Game 3 win.
"Last night was a rough one," said Ainge. "I just didn't feel like we had it from the beginning. We had a good spurt to take the lead late in the game, but we were throwing the ball all over the place. We didn't have the same confidence and swag we had in Game 3 and it's hard to know why. You have to give your opponent credit – oftentimes we think oh you just didn't come out ready to play or didn't play hard enough, but a lot of times the opponent has something to with that."Ainge seems confident that the Celtics will not only respond in Game 5 Friday night, but even went out on a limb by proclaiming; "I don't think this team is done yet."
We shall see.
Photo used courtesy of The Associated Press