INDIANAPOLIS - The fury that Doc Rivers harbored during the Celtics’ 93-86 loss in Chicago Thursday was unleashed in a postgame tirade that challenged his team’s toughness and desire.
It was a scathing and surprising assessment considering the Celtics led until deep into the third quarter and were a couple of possessions from stealing a victory.
Still, Rivers attacked his team’s approach, accused them of being “cool’’ and lackadaisical in a critical game.
As they prepare to face the Pacers Saturday night at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, the Celtics will be challenged by their coach to respond with a more resounding performance. Perhaps Rivers’s final comments to the media Thursday night were the most telling.
“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 [Thursday was] not us. We haven’t been that way but we were tonight. I called the two timeouts to remind us to make a run.
“We were cool tonight. We were the cool Boston Celtics tonight. That’s what we looked like. You could see it, walking the ball [up court]. We couldn’t get the ball inbounds? 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.’’
Kevin Garnett, who scored 12 points on 5-for-16 shooting with 14 rebounds, appeared stunned by Rivers’s sentiments.
“That’s disappointing, he said that to us,’’ Garnett said. “I’m out there on the floor, I don’t think nobody is out there playing [with less effort] or [half-hearted]. 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 were outscored, 55-37, in the second half as Luol Deng scored 18 of his 26 points. On two occasions, the Celtics made turnovers on inbounds plays because of errant passes and Rivers tore into their focus. Garnett agreed.
“They obviously turned it up a notch, started to be more aggressive going to the basket,’’ he said. “I don’t think we got aggressive until the fourth quarter and we’ve got to do a better job of that.’’
Paul Pierce was torched in the second half by Deng and he also had three of his jumpers blocked. Pierce was especially guilty of complaining to officials about no-calls. He was 1-for-8 shooting in the second half for 5 points.
“We didn’t match their energy level,’’ he said. “They came out with more purpose. We didn’t show a sense of urgency in this game. I don’t know if it was tired legs or mental weakness, but we didn’t come out and put this team away when we were up 11. I don’t know if it’s the worst loss [of the season], but we are disappointed whenever we lose. It’s a tough one.’’
Ray Allen, who came off the bench for the first time in nearly 10 years, said there was a drop off in intensity after halftime.
“There’s a point starting off in the third quarter where we were up 9 and then all of a sudden we go down 3, so I noticed it,’’ he said. “I seen it and understood what Doc was talking about. It’s a game of runs. It’s one thing when a team goes on a run and they’re just beating you.
“I thought at that point we kind just gave it to them. We walked into our offense in the second half. I understood what he was talking about but I thought we had a great chance to win. Our whole urgency in the second half just kind of went away.’’
Shooter gives Bradley a shot
Rivers said it was Allen’s idea to come off the bench and give Avery Bradley another opportunity to start. Bradley started at shooting guard five times and averaged 12.6 points in Allen’s six-game absence with a sore right ankle. Allen did acknowledge that it was his idea but it did not generate from a desire to come off the bench.
“I know it was being talked about a lot,’’ he said. “I can’t say it was [totally] my idea. I don’t ever want to come off the bench. [Rivers] and I talked about it and if it could help the team, if that’s what he needed me to do, I would be all for it.’’
Thursday was the fifth time in his career he had come off the bench and first time since Dec. 5, 2002.
“Your minutes don’t change and that’s one thing I’m very cognizant of when I’m out there on the floor,’’ he said. “It’s like an ego thing. My ego is not that big where I feel like I need to start. But at the same time, I’ve done this for a long time and I have prepared myself and I’d like to consider myself one of the best at what I do and give myself a chance and give my team a chance to win every night.
“So it is tough. Avery goes out there, I try to prepare him the best I know how to keep him on his toes for whatever may happen. This is Doc’s ship and whatever Doc wants and needs for us to do, we have to do it to try to win games. It’s a situation for Doc where he has to figure out how we’re going to be best.’’Gary Washburn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow him on Twitter at @gwashNBAGlobe.