ATLANTA – One of the truisms many of us learned at an early age is when it comes to a fight, often the person who retaliates gets in more trouble than the person who plays the role of initiator.
No matter how optimistic they want to be about their current plight, the Celtics (50-29) are not in a good place right now and the reason is pretty clear.
“We have to stop letting teams come out and hit us first,” Boston’s Jae Crowder told CSNNE.com after the Celtics’ 123-116 loss at Atlanta on Thursday night. “Those games like Orlando, we’re winning but those guys punched us first. We have to get back to hitting first, dictating the tempo and the pace of the game and not dig ourselves a hole.”
Former Atlanta Hawk Al Horford echoed similar sentiments after Thursday's loss to the Hawks, Boston second in as many nights.
“We just need to come out aggressive on the defensive end,” Horford said. “We have to be better defensively. I think that’s where it all starts.”
It certainly would have helped Boston on Thursday night, particularly in the first half when the Celtics allowed Atlanta to score 71 first-half points.
The Hawks average 102.9 points per game which ranks 21st in the NBA. And their offensive rating of 102.0 ranks 28th in the league.
So for Boston to give up so many points to a team that has ranked among the NBA’s bottom-10 most of the season in terms of points scored and scoring efficiency, is certainly disturbing to see in the final days of the regular season.
“We haven’t played with effort the past week. We’ve been getting away with some wins because of our talent,” Crowder said. “We have to get our effort back. It ain’t about shot-making. Guys talk about shot-making, this and that. Our effort is something we have total control over. And we haven’t brought that every night. We have to get back to that.
Crowder added, “I don’t know if our team is trying to sit back and turn the switch on when playoff time come … we can’t do that. We can’t just turn our effort level on. That’s something we have to hang our hat on. I am shocked that we don’t bring that on a nightly basis.”
The way Isaiah Thomas sees it, what the Celtics are experiencing right now is something that all teams go through at various stages of the season.
“We’re fine,” Thomas said. “A week ago, they were saying Cleveland was not as good as they are and they had a really good game against us. They’ve been playing well the last four or five games. It’s a long season. We’re going to go through these types of phases I guess it is. We’ll get out of it; we’ll be alright. We’re in second place (in the East) for a reason.”