Doc Rivers got his players together Friday morning for a brief film session, hoping the team could glean a lesson or two from the frustrating loss suffered two nights earlier at the hands of the Memphis Grizzlies. But first, he thought his guys could benefit from a little light reading.
He sat them down and read them a newspaper column about the "urgency" required to win an NBA championship. He read quote after quote about a team that lacked the right attitude, work ethic and consistency required to win.
He was reading about the Lakers.
The newspaper was the Los Angeles Times and the piece was a Wednesday offering from columnist Bill Plaschke that called out the current Western Conference leaders for losing three straight games last week and nearly blowing a fourth against the visiting Raptors on Tuesday night. The piece was blasting the Lakers — the defending world champions — over a four-game stretch in March.
But the same piece could have been written, practically word for word, about any team in the NBA. To the Celtics, it was criticism that sounded all too familiar.
"I thought he was talking about us, at first," Kendrick Perkins said. "But he wasn't."
Doc's moral was that every team goes through the doldrums like this, or that every team has doubts at one point or another in the season. Even the best have to deal with this kind of skepticism and the only difference is that the best are able to overcome it.
The name of the game is "urgency" and with the playoffs still more than a month away, that's the word on everyone's minds. Even in a 122-103 blowout of the Indiana Pacers on March 12, that urgency showed through. And for the veteran Celtics, that's a point of pride.
"That's what I've been saying the whole time," Paul Pierce said after Friday's win. "Just building some momentum. Trying to get these games under our belts, build up these wins and just play better. We're a veteran team, we know how to win games. We know what it takes. It's just about going out there and doing it consistently, knowing that the playoffs are right around the corner.
"I'm not a believer that you can just turn it on when the playoffs start," the captain added. "You have to build habits, you have to get some momentum. It's like scoring — you hit four, five shots in a row, you feel like you're going to be on for the rest of the night. You can say the same thing about a team. You get a team that wins seven, eight, nine games in a row, you feel like you're unstoppable and you see a winning streak go off. That's what we're trying to build here."
Friday night was just one victory — one over a bottom-feeding team, no less. But all over the floor, you could see signs of a Celtics team moving forward. You saw Pierce re-emerging as the go-to scorer he's expected to be, pouring in 20 points in the first three quarters and sitting out the fourth. You saw the starting five share the ball, move it around with ease and execute each play perfectly. You saw the bench spring to life and add to the Celtics' lead in the second quarter while the starters rested.
All this talk about urgency is difficult to put into context. We're still a month away from the games that matter most and the Celtics are still working on finding a steady rhythm. But this win was a good start.
"I thought everybody had a sense of urgency," Rivers said. "You could see that on both ends. But I told them before and I told them at halftime, one game doesn't fix anything. But it's good that they know what they can do. I know that. And it was good to see."
Urgency doesn't come together overnight. Not for the Celtics, not for the Lakers, not for anyone else. But with each game, it builds up a little more. The Celtics were happy Friday night to build it with a win.