For the third straight game, the Boston Celtics have lost at home after falling to the Dallas Mavericks, 99-90. The last time that happened, the Celtics lost to the Bucks 104-102 during the 2006-07 season- Gerald Green was your leading scorer that game. Sorry, I had to.
The Celtics didn't have Kevin Garnett then, and they didn't have him tonight either, but just as it wasn't an excuse for the last two home losses, it still isn't one now.
"We've been there before, we've been without Kevin, we've won games last year, we got through the regular season where we won seven, eight, nine games in a row without Kevin, so that's not an excuse," said Paul Pierce who had 24 points on the night. "These are teams that come into our building and we feel that we should win in our building we're just not doing a good job of protecting our home court, having enough pride, playing with enough toughness at home."
At this point, Pierce and Doc Rivers must feel like broken records. Every game they lose it seems like it is for the same reasons. They don't play 48 minutes, they don't have enough energy at home, they stop playing team defense, or my personal favorite- they aren't playing consistent basketball.
"I thought we came out relaxed, and we just thought Dallas would go away," Rivers said. "Second half I thought our defense was horrendous. I didn't think we got back at all on defense. They had numbers every single time. We had our guards crashing the glass trying to get offensive glass, bigs complaining to refs, they beat us down the floor and they scored. Then all of a sudden it became a walk the ball up the floor on one way and then the other way they were running it back down our throats."
Do the Celtics lack a killer instinct? Up nine points going into the third quarter, one would think this team would pounce on the Mavericks and prevent them from getting back into the game. Instead, Rivers states that they had the opposite attitude coming into the second half. How? If you're the Celtics, you need a big win at home like this. They are halfway through the season, and with no important home wins to show for it.
"I look up, we shoot 50 percent, most nights we win those games," Pierce said. "When we allow teams to shoot at that high percentage (57 percent) its going to be tough to win any ball game."
In fact, the Celtics came into tonight's game with a 16-3 record shooting 50% or higher. After tonight's loss, they are now 3-5 in games where the opponent shoots over 50%. On top of that, the loss tonight brings them to 11-7 at home. To put that into perspective, the Celtics only lost six games at home each of the last two seasons prior to this one.
"So far a bad first half for us here at home, but we know that we can play better and do better in that second half when its more important to get those home wins to try to solidify home court and make that good run in the playoffs," Rasheed Wallace said.
Since the win in Orlando on Christmas, the Celtics are 4-7, with wins over Toronto, Miami, and New Jersey- certainly nothing to hang their hats on.
It was the third quarter when the Mavericks really started to take it to the Celtics. Dirk Nowitzki and Eric Dampier combined for 24 points, and Shawn Marion added eight points in the third quarter as the Mavericks turned a nine point deficit into a seven point lead going into the fourth quarter.
"I thought Damp (Eric Dampier) had a nice third starting off physical and I thought we lost our composure on that," said Rivers. "We stopped wanting to do the little things back on the other end we were more concerned with trying to get him back but I really thought it was our transition ‘D' to start."
Rasheed Wallace picked up his fourth foul with 5:18 left in the third quarter and the Celtics up by three points. Brian Scalabrine came in for Wallace with roughly four minutes to go in the third, and Dirk Nowitzki went on to score nine points in a row for the Mavericks in under two minutes, giving them a lead they would never give up.
"The fourth foul really hurt us," said Rivers. "I thought Rasheed defensively was doing a terrific job on Dirk, and not having Kevin tonight knowing Rasheed was the only other guy- that put is in a tough situation."
After exchanging baskets early in the fourth quarter, the Mavericks turned a four-point lead into an 18-point lead in about four minutes, essentially sealing the Celtics fate on their home court once again.
Asked whether or not the Celtics need to find their identity on defense again after these past losses, Ray Allen essentially said that it was getting on the same page out there.
"Anytime you lose a game obviously you blame it on the defense," Allen said. "The places we didn't get stops, I thought defensively we didn't make great decisions down the stretch; we weren't aware. And that's not so much of an identity [problem] as much as just playing with each other and communicating."
The Celtics will travel to Detroit to play the Pistons on Thursday night, and then come back to Boston to host the Portland Trailblazers, a game that Kevin Garnett is supposed to make his return on.
He can't come back soon enough.