Since Near-Loss to Knicks, Celtics Have Been On Point


December 2, 2009

Since Near-Loss to Knicks, Celtics Have Been On Point Once the hype of matching the 1995-96 Bulls' 72-win season simmered down, the Celtics found themselves fighting to retain their status as an elite team. Now that the Celtics are riding a five-game winning streak, it appears they have solved the issue that?s plagued them the most through the first 18 games — staying focused.

Doc Rivers' biggest problem of the young season has been keeping his team engaged against weaker opponents. The Celtics have turned their intensity switch on and off at times, turning in four losses in seven games from Nov. 6 to Nov. 20.

Now, Nov. 20 against the Magic is the last time the Celtics lost. The only blemish on their current winning streak is an overtime victory over the Knicks, who are only using this season as a precursor to a summer of excitement in 2010.

But since Kevin Garnett sank the Knicks at MSG on a buzzer-beater, the C's have played a lot more like the team many thought capable of being one of the best ever. With 13-point wins over the 76ers and Raptors at home and a comeback effort against the Heat in Miami on Sunday, the C's are keeping their intensity at a constant, rather than playing up or down to the level of their opponents.

"It shows a lot about our team," Rajon Rondo told The Boston Globe after the team's win over the Heat. "We kept our composure, and I think our bench did a great job. We settled down and handled the little adversity we went through in the fourth and got the job done."

It was the first time in a while the Celtics handled adversity well. It was the first time in a while the team was actually hungry for a win instead of thinking that its talent would be enough to compensate against a lesser team on the road.

"At home, we had gotten in the habit of getting off to slow starts and battling back and winning some of them and losing some of them," Rivers told The Globe. "Right now, we realize how tough it is to win on the road, and we have great focus."

Playing or not playing with the same desire and drive is a dangerous game that could end up costing the Celtics once there are just eight teams left in the Eastern Conference. It?s up to Rivers to keep the Green in check and keep their confidence at the same level, whether their opponent is the Knicks or the Cavs, the Pacers or the Magic.

"We become an average team when guys step out of their roles," Rivers told The Globe.

The Celtics haven't gotten off track since they were able to outlast the Knicks in what would have certainly been an embarrassing loss. Now it's up to the C?s to keep their intensity up for 48 minutes a game — every game.

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