You'd think a team playing at home, with one of the best records in the league, against a team missing one of their best players, would be the confident team.
Well folks, meet the Boston Celtics - last night's version anyways.
It was the Houston Rockets, sans Kevin Martin, that hit dagger after dagger on countless possessions, not the Celtics.
Nope, the C's allowed the now 17-21 Rockets to shoot 52.7-percent from the field, and 10-20 from downtown. And in the fourth quarter, it was clear neither team was going to win by defense.
"I told our guys I thought overall it was probably our worst defensive effort in three, four years as far as overall effort," Coach Doc Rivers said. "You know - and it's on the starters, it's not on the second unit - I thought our second unit actually got us back in the first half and in the second half, and all they did was came in and played hard. They played aggressive."
Ray Allen echoed Rivers' statements - the team needs more out of the starting unit.
"I agree, I wont say it's the worst [defensive effort], I thought there was just a stretch where we just couldn't stop anybody," Ray Allen admitted. "I blame the starting five because we gave them too much confidence early. That fourth quarter stretch came where it seemed like they hit everything."
From the 10:40 mark to the 2:04 mark in the fourth quarter, the two teams traded baskets - literally. The Celtics trailed anywhere from eight to 12 points before scoring eight straight with 27.2 seconds to go. It was too little too late by then.
"It's our fault," Rivers said. "Every shot they made that looked wild - it's funny, at halftime, I told our guys, I said, ‘We're giving them confidence. An offensive team, you're giving confidence. You go into the fourth quarter and you've given them confidence, they're going to make shots.' Especially now when they see themselves with a chance to win."
Losses like Monday night's could come back to bite the Celts. They punted too many games last season, and it may have cost them the NBA Finals. This year, the East is even more stacked. A dumb loss here or there could really hurt them perhaps even in the early stages of the playoffs.
"You know especially at home, I think we need to really take advantage of games where their best player isn't playing, guys coming off injury," Paul Pierce said. These games mean a lot down the road, and at the same time, they're going to suit up and play, and we got to understand that nothing is given to us cause they're down a man, or they've been struggling for most of the year.
"We got to put our work boots on and come with our ‘A' game. We're not taking advantage of this. There are a lot of games that we're letting slip away that we're supposed to win."
The Celtics have dropped five of their last 10 games; an eerily familiar pattern of play based on the second half of last season. It's still early on though, and the C's have time to right the ship.
"I've got to somehow figure out a way of getting them to see the urgency of the whole season and not the single game," Rivers said. "And to me, you can see them thinking about the individual game and not the ramifications of the entire season."
"We're a defensive minded group and for some reason over the last couple games, its just not happening, I don't know," Pierce said. "I mean everyone's got to look themselves in the mirror, check there selves at the door and just figure this out, get through this little skid we're on."