Celtics Strive for a Complete Performance

WALTHAM, Mass. – Whether it be 48 minutes of basketball, 60 minutes of football or nine innings of baseball, the message from a team’s head coach will always remain consistent: play a complete game.

Doc Rivers doesn’t deviate from that message. He stresses every day to his players that they must play 48 minutes of a particular type of basketball in order to be successful. That type of play is branded as Celtics Basketball, and its foundation is defense.

Jason Terry

Jason Terry and his teammates are aiming to play "Celtics Basketball" for a full 48 minutes.
Ned Dishman/NBAE/Getty Images

“If there’s any one thing (to take away from the first week of the season), it’s that we have to play 48-minute basketball games, Celtics Basketball,” said Jason Terry, “which means defensively setting the tempo, getting up into people, rebounding strong, being physical.”

Three games are in the books and we haven’t seen this Boston team sustain that brand of basketball for an entire game. We’ve seen glimpses, but a complete effort just hasn’t been there during two ugly losses and one narrow victory.

That lone win did provide some optimism. The first half of Saturday’s victory over the Wizards was evidence that this team can be dominant when it asserts itself.

“I mean, the first seven or eight minutes, [the Wizards] struggled to get a shot off, let alone score a basket,” said Rivers after Monday’s practice. “But then as the game went on you could see us slowly moving away from it.”

Rivers loved what he saw in those opening minutes. He witnessed his starting group, comprised of three Celtics mainstays and two newcomers, play with aggression and confidence.

Said Rivers, “I thought we played defense. I thought we got into the ball. There was ball pressure, there was talking.”

But for some reason that all faded away. Rivers said that after watching the film, he attributes the fading performance to a combination of factors, most notably poor conditioning and preconditioned habits.

Every step of this early season is aimed at removing those negative factors. A challenging two-hour practice, which the C’s went through on Monday, will help to alleviate any issues with conditioning. Time will help to break any poor old habits that Boston's new players brought with them to New England.

Developing a brand new team is a challenging process, one that these Celtics know won't occur overnight.

“I just think that everyone is starting to figure out that to be a good team you’ve got to actually work at it. It’s hard work,” said Rivers. “You just don’t show up because you have good names on a piece of paper and become good. You have to work at it. You have to work hard at it, and it’s exhausting.”

Boston’s players are obviously working hard at it because they looked exhausted after Monday’s practice. Loud chatter typically accompanies a session of free throws that concludes all of Boston’s practices. Today, there was merely the sound of bouncing basketballs. These guys were tired after putting in a tough day of exhausting work.

This is a process that the Celtics understand and they’re looking at the big picture. Just listen to Terry, who mentioned “48 minutes” of “Celtics Basketball” twice in a 3.5-minute chat with the media.

“Again, we’re looking at playing 48 minutes of Celtics Basketball,” he said in his final comment of the day. “If that results in a win, which the majority of the time it should, we like it. But if we go out and play a game like we did last game, where we had a [16]-point lead, they come back, we have to close them out in a tough, grind-out game, and we get the win? We like the result, but again, the way we got it, we think we’re much better than that.”

The Celtics are far better than that and they proved it in the opening minutes of Saturday’s game. They’ve shown how great they can be. Now it’s time to heed their coach’s words and play that way from start to finish.