As the Celtics took on the Pacers in Indianapolis on Saturday night, the strong words of their coach had to be ringing in their ears throughout their inspired 86-72 victory.
Doc Rivers ripped into his team after the loss in Chicago, questioning their basketball manhood and effort.
"Chicago is tougher than us right now," he said. "We have three weeks. If we play like that, we'll be playing (Miami or Chicago) in the first round. We've got to get better. That was unacceptable.
"That is on me first. I didn't see something. It's always on the coach. That's an unacceptable effort for us. I don't say that often. I don't think I've ever said that. That was a crime. It was tough to talk after the game. About what? We got to be better than that. I don't want to hear us winning crap, not with that effort."
Rivers was asked about preparing for the postseason, and he launched into another attack.
"I'm just so pissed at the way we played," he said. "Honestly, the playoffs are the furthest thing from my mind right now because that's not us. We haven't been that way, but we were. I called the two timeouts to remind us to make a run.
"We were cool. We were the cool Boston Celtics. That's what we looked like. Nobody wanted to work. It was a joke. We were the cool Celtics. And there's nothing about me that's cool, I can tell you that. You don't play basketball cool."
Added Rivers, "I thought Chicago was just too tough for us. They get into us, they frustrate us and our guys let go of the rope, bottom line. We're not going to go a lot of places playing with that type of mental toughness."
The Celtic players have generally accepted criticism well, but Kevin Garnett seemed a bit surprised by Rivers' outburst.
"That's disappointing he said that to us," said Garnett. "I'm out there on the floor. I don't think nobody is out there playing (without good effort). Maybe he assessed something different. The coaches obviously have to get us going, put us in the right position to obviously go out and execute the game plan. But if that's what he saw, that's what he saw. I can't go off that. I just have to prepare to play as hard as I can, be ready to play."
The Celtics' next chance comes back home on Sunday against Philadelphia.
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