After last night's disappointing loss to the Philadelphia 76ers, small forward Gerald Wallace had some choice words about the way the Boston Celtics performed. He said, "If we continue to play like this, we're going to get embarrassed every night."
Wallace is right, because as he explained, the team started off the game without any effort. Philadelphia came out running and Boston couldn't keep up. Wallace said, "We started looking at one another, trying to figure out what was going on. And the whole time they were continuing to run at us, just attack us."
Gerald Wallace is known for being a player that brings it every night. He earned the nickname "Crash" because hustles hard, has a strong desire to win, and is notorious for hitting the floor hard when diving for loose balls or attempting other dangerous plays in the paint.
On effort, Wallace said, "We just have to get everybody playing with the same effort." He didn't say it, but I'm sure he meant "my effort" when he said "the same effort." If the C's went into the game with his mindset, it probably would've been a blowout in their favor.
That's why tonight's 7:30 P.M. match against the New York Knicks is so important. Brad Stevens stresses progression but last night was one of regression. Sure, it's only preseason, but this young Celtics team must take a positive step every day.
The Celtics have to come out tonight and play with energy and enthusiasm. One aspect of basketball that shows that a team is hustling is transition basket opportunities. Chris Forsberg of ESPNBoston.com points out that the Celtics did in fact have many more chances in transition after Brad Stevens stressed its importance during Thursday's practice.
C's enduring transition process - Boston Celtics Blog - ESPN Boston
Well, the Celtics heeded Stevens' advice to run more, but their decision-making and ball security were atrocious on Friday.
Boston generated 24 transition possessions on Friday night against Philadelphia, but scored a mere 17 points off of them (0.708 ppp). The Celtics' offense in transition Friday was hindered by turnovers (4) and ill-advised 3-pointers (2-for-9 shooting in transition).
The numbers show that the chances were there, of course, but anyone watching Thursday's contest knows that the Celtics weren't hustling hard up-and-down the court, especially in the first half. The statistics might indicate that the Celtics ran more, but I'm sure a stats-geek like Brad Stevens would even agree that the "eye test" says that the Celtics didn't hustle enough, and that's the problem.
There were so many times last night when the 76ers would beat the Celts up the court and score an easy basket. Half the time they weren't even traditional fast break opportunities; Philadelphia would just make one out of an ordinary defensive rebound. They were leaking players out down the court and no one on the Celtics was getting back.
Brad Stevens knows it already, and the players need to learn it soon, because if they don't play hard on every possession they will not win many games. Tonight's game against the New York Knicks is an opportunity for them to prove that they can respond to adversity with an energetic and inspired performance.
If they don't, the team, as well as Celtics fans, could be in for a long year; and Gerald Wallace knows it. He has played on a lot of bad teams throughout his career, so he knows mediocrity when he sees it. After Thursday's loss he put it bluntly, "Teams like New York and Miami and guys like that who been together for a while, who've had guys play together for a while, they're going to embarrass us every night and I'm not trying to get embarrassed. We have to figure out how we can do this as a team, bring everybody together, be on the same page and start building something."