Minutes after watching another inexcusable loss at the hands of another inferior team, the Celtics' coach made no secret of his frustration. His players aren't playing up to their potential, and he's in no mood to tiptoe around the issue.
On Wednesday night, the Celtics lost at home to the Grizzlies. On Friday, they took a double-digit lead into the final eight minutes against a Bobcats team that's riddled with injuries and falling out of playoff contention. A game that should have been a done deal turned into a horrifying choke, as the C's surrendered a 16-0 run in crunch time to blow it.
"We clearly should have won the game," Rivers said. "I thought our starting unit came in casual in the fourth quarter, cool, assuming they were going to win the game, screwing around, no urgency. I always say if you screw around with the game, it'll screw around with you."
Down two points with 15 seconds left, 83-81, there was no doubt the C's were going for the win right away. They took a 3 because win or lose, they wanted to get this one over with. An ugly game met its ugly ending with the C's missing back-to-back shots from deep. Ray Allen rimmed out one from the corner, and Kevin Garnett missed from the top of the key.
But to Rivers, the shots didn't matter. The outcome didn't matter. Either way, the substance of the Celtics' play was a complete mess.
"The way we're playing shocks me," the coach said. "Our attitude shocks me. We're just not ready to win any games right now, the way we're playing. Right now, I just think we're a selfish team. We've become very, very selfish. Everything's about how they're playing individually instead of how the team is playing.
"You can see it. A guy struggles? He pouts, he moans, he cusses. Everything is 'me me me' on our team right now. They're feeling sorry for themselves instead of giving themselves to the team and playing. You can just see it manifest itself throughout the team. Until we get through that, we'll continue to have results like we had tonight."
The Celtics are now 4-6 in their last 10 games. A couple of weeks ago, they were atop the Eastern Conference; they're now two games back, and it may be a struggle for them to avoid slipping to third.
On Friday night, it was their attitude. On Wednesday, it was their execution. A week ago Friday, when the C's lost to the Rockets on the road, it was their effort and focus.
With this team, these days, it's always something.
Rivers is tired of searching for answers. He's searched enough, and he's just not finding anything.
"Either I'm doing a terrible job getting through to them, or right now, they're just not there," he said. "I don't know why. It's my job to figure it out, though."
The players can't explain what's going on either. All they know is they've got to fix it together.
"It's got to come from all of us," said the captain, Paul Pierce. "One player can come out here and say it and 'hoorah' around the locker room. But it's got to come from everybody. We're all veterans. We've all been here before. We all know what it takes. It's got to come from each individual — take a look in the mirror, and do what they've got to do.