Considering that the Celtics just came the closest they've come all year to a three-game losing streak, blowing a 25-point lead against the lowly Minnesota Timberwolves and just barely holding on for a three-point win, Doc Rivers could have been much angrier.
But considering the way his team has competed for the better part of the last week, it was difficult for the Celtics' coach to complain. At this point in the season, with the team still battling a late-season lull, Rivers will take any win he can get.
Two nights earlier, after a loss at home to the Bobcats, Rivers called out his own players. He called them "shocking" and "selfish," accusing them of "screwing around." On Sunday night, after a win, he sang a different tune.
It's true what they say. A win really is a win.
"Wins are great," Rivers said. "The first quarter would be our blueprint; then after that, I didn't think we played very well. But I thought we had a terrific first quarter — the ball was hopping, and we kept the game simple. Then I thought we started overthinking ourselves out on the floor."
The Celtics built a monstrous lead early. After Michael Beasley tied the game 5-5 with a 3-pointer in the opening minutes, the C's rattled off 17 consecutive points midway through the quarter, and a 23-2 run in all. They had a commanding lead at the end of the quarter — 32-13. It looked like the Wolves were just going to roll over and die.
But they didn't. Just like the Bobcats on Friday night and the Grizzlies on Wednesday, they fought back, tying the game toward the end of the third quarter and even briefly taking the lead. The Celtics' dominating defensive effort disappeared. In the first quarter, the Timberwolves shot just 23.5 percent; that number gradually increased while the night went on, while the Celtics saw the opposite trend.
"We were getting great shots," Rivers said. "We were just missing wide-open 3s. But even though they were wide open, I told our guys it's tough to turn down a wide-open shot, but I think we hadn't gone to the post in 18 straight possessions. At some point, it's got to find its way down there. Then down the stretch, I thought Kevin [Garnett] and Paul [Pierce] played the in-and-out game. That's who we are."
Compared to earlier this week, the Celtics were rather nonchalant about blowing a 25-point lead. This wasn't a game of selfishness, or apathy, or lack of focus. It was a make-miss game where a few shots one way or the other swung momentum.
The C's know that games with fluky shooting performances will happen. Their ultimate goal is to overcome those and win anyway.
"I loved the shots overall, I can't complain about them," Rivers said. "But I tell our guys all the time that for us to be where we want to be, we have to be a team that can miss 20 shots in a row and still keep the same lead because we're getting stops. The third quarter, we missed 10 or 15 shots in a row, but they were scoring. That's what we've got to change still."
The Celtics are still working on reaching playoff form. They're obviously not there yet, on either end of the floor.
But winning's better than losing, both for the Celtics' standing and their emotional state. That's just about the only thing you can take away from this one.
"Take the win," Rivers said. "It's a four-game road trip, and as far as I'm concerned, we've just got to get the win. We're going to try to win them all."