BOSTON – Saturday’s loss at Cleveland was the denouement to the Boston Celtics’ preseason schedule of games.
As one preseason door closes, the Celtics find themselves ready to start another chapter on Tuesday with a game-free stretch of practice time in preparation for the season-opener against Philadelphia on Oct. 16.
Disappointing just doesn’t do justice to what we saw from the Celtics at the start of training camp.
And while some may point to the unusual start of the training camp with so many games front-loaded, players aren’t using that as an excuse for their struggles.
“It’s different but one of the things coach (Brad Stevens) always talks about, is us dealing with different situations, adversity,” said Al Horford. “That happens to be the schedule. We have to go through it.”
Indeed, there was more going on than Boston losing three of four preseason games which concluded with a 113-102 loss at Cleveland on Saturday.
The bigger concern going forward was how the losses came about.
In those four preseason games, Boston was routinely out-worked, didn’t defend anywhere close to the level expected from a unit with all its core guys back, and the offense was an inconsistent mess that lacked fluidity or any semblance of cohesiveness that’s required to be successful.
“This week has to be completely focused on team and completely focused on we and that’s what we’re going to get to,” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens.
Terry Rozier, one of the more consistent Celtics thus far in the preseason, felt the team needed a couple days off to come back with the right mindset for what’s shaping up to be a critical week.
“At the same time, we gotta get out there and find our way,” Rozier said.
Like most of his Celtics teammates, Rozier has heard and seen and read all about how awesome the Celtics are supposed to be this season.
So have their opponents, which is why it’s a given that Boston’s foes will approach every matchup with a heightened level of focus, force and intensity with one goal in mind: knocking off the Celtics.
The Celtics know they’re going to get the best punch from every team on the schedule.
But knowing that and responding to it, as we saw in the preseason by the Celtics, is an entirely different matter.
Boston has established itself as a gritty club that more nights than not, found ways to claw itself to victory.
But now as a prohibitive favorite almost every time they step on the floor, recognizing the change and handling it properly remains a challenge they’re going to have to work through here in the preseason in order to have the kind of season they envision for themselves.
“We feel like we arrived or something, like we won something,” Rozier said. “Teams know that, people talking about us every time you turn on the TV. So, that’s going to motivate them to beat us, second string, third string, it don’t matter who it is. So, we have to stay grounded and go back to playing Boston Celtics basketball and who we are instead of thinking we’re above everybody.”
Stevens added, “We’ll see if we’re good enough next week or 10 days from now and then it will start,” Stevens said. “If you’re not good enough, you’re in trouble.”