C's Turn the Tables on Early Season Struggles

BOSTON - Doc Rivers couldn’t believe what his eyes were seeing as they stared at the stat sheets over the first few weeks of the season. How could his team, known for its impenetrable defense, be losing games despite its offensive success?

Doc Rivers

Doc Rivers has watched his players find their balance and earn tangible results for their efforts.
Jared Wickerham/NBAE/Getty Images

The Celtics were shooting the ball with precision at that time yet they continued to pile up losses. Four of their first six defeats arrived on nights in which they shot at least 46.7 percent from the field. To this date, Boston has already succumbed to three opponents this season despite outshooting them.

This wasn’t how it was supposed to be in Boston. Its defense has been so good over the past half-decade that a 46 percent shooting night for the C’s had almost guaranteed a victory. This team was finding ways to lose, rather than finding ways to win.

That isn’t the case anymore. Tangible results, rather than troublesome losses, are beginning to pile up.

Wednesday night’s 117-115 double-overtime victory over the Dallas Mavericks put the Celtics three games over the .500 mark for the first time this season. That victory is just another example that Boston has turned the table from its early-season struggles.

“We won a game where a team shot 51 percent, and the other team, us, shot 43 percent,” Rivers said after Wednesday’s win. “That was happening to us earlier in the year if you remember; we lost a couple games where it was the exact opposite.”

You’re not going catch Rivers and his players jumping for joy now that they’re three games over .500, but tangible results must begin somewhere. The C’s want to become great, and they understand that there is a process to do so. That process began on Sept. 28 and it is finally hitting a stride.

This Celtics team began training camp with 10 new players on its roster compared to the one that participated in last season’s playoffs. Every player on the roster took a while to get to know the rest of the team’s tendencies, strengths and weaknesses at both ends of the floor.

The key to that last sentence is that it was written in the past tense. The Celtics took a long time to get to know each other’s tendencies, strengths and weaknesses. The process will continue for the remainder of the season, but the bases have already been covered.

You know how a coach knows when his team has found itself? When it defeats a very good opponent despite playing a relatively ugly game.

The Mavericks are a very good team. They have a guard in O.J. Mayo who’s playing “off the charts,” according to Rivers, and who is putting up MVP-type numbers. Mayo got his on Wednesday night, scoring 24 points on 10-of-19 shooting. The Mavs got theirs as well, scoring 115 points on 51.1 percent shooting. Yet who won the game? The Celtics.

“I told the guys I was proud of them,” Rivers said after the win.

Who wouldn’t be? Boston’s coach is no longer staring at his team’s box scores with befuddlement, wondering how the C’s could be losing so consistently. Now Rivers is looking at those stat sheets with a proud grin on his face knowing that the tables have been turned.