Celtics players streamed toward the tunnel with their heads down after their season found a new low. A nearby fan started screaming at them.
“Where’s the anger!? You just lost to Philadelphia! Somebody get mad!”
Wearing a Celtics jersey, the fan had charged toward the media section at TD Garden, which is located near the tunnel Celtics players use to exit and enter their parquet court.
The fan was soon restrained, but he began pleading his case to a security guard, arguing that the Celtics deserved to be berated after a 111-102 loss to the 76ers.
Soon after, Celtics coach Brad Stevens sat before a roomful of reporters, looking more frustrated than he has all season.
“We’re not pulling in one direction right now,” Stevens said, “and that’s got to be the responsibility of the head coach.”
Stevens remembers losses — the close ones, the blowouts, all of them.
For how long?
“Somewhere around forever,” he said. “I don’t have a 24-hour rule; I probably should. I can tell you about every single one of my losses at Butler, and I could probably go through every single one this year. A lot more than the wins.”
There haven’t been many wins this season, though, so he should be able to recall them all.
But Friday was rock bottom. Entering the game, the 76ers and Celtics had combined to lose 39 of their previous 41 games. Let that marinate for a moment.
But the 76ers (17-59) won the matchup, beating the Celtics in Boston for the second time this season. It’s also the 76ers’ second win in their last four overall after they recently lost 26 in a row. “We’re on a roll!” said Philadelphia coach Brett Brown.
For the Celtics (23-53), it marked their seventh straight loss and 12th in their last 13 games. They have the fourth-worst record in the NBA.
They have six games left, even if they’re playing like they have none.
“We have everything to play for,” said point guard and captain Rajon Rondo. “We have pride. I have pride. We have pride as a team. We have Celtic pride. Right now we’re not displaying it at all.”
Rondo had 11 points, 16 assists, and 11 rebounds, his first triple-double since Jan. 25, 2013, when he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee in a loss at Atlanta.
But Rondo also had a game-high seven turnovers, and the Celtics committed 22 in all.
The 76ers shot 50.6 percent from the field and held a 54-38 advantage in points in the paint.
They attempted 37 free throws — including 18 by Henry Sims — while the Celtics shot just 21.
Instead of attacking the paint, the Celtics settled for 3-pointers, shooting 9 of 33.
“[Stevens] ripped us a little bit more than usual,” Rondo said. “That’s part of it, we deserved that tonight.”
As expected, the game was hideous, especially at the start.
The teams were a combined 2 of 15 from the floor out of the gates, with the Celtics missing their first seven shots while recording three turnovers.
By the end of the first quarter, the Celtics were on pace to finish with 28 turnovers, which would’ve tied their season high.
For whatever reason, a sell-out crowd of 18,624 watched the brutal contest, though many were doing the wave late in the third quarter.
Celtics guard Avery Bradley missed his second consecutive game with a strained right Achilles’, and Jerryd Bayless started in his place, scoring a team-high 23 points, including 18 in the first half.
Jeff Green scored 15 points and Brandon Bass added 12 points and 11 rebounds.
Hamilton native Michael Carter-Williams carried the 76ers with 24 points, 6 assists, 6 rebounds, and 1 turnover, with numerous friends and family in the audience. The rookie point guard scored 8 points in the fourth.
Sims added 24 points, and Thaddeus Young scored 15.
Celtics rookie Kelly Olynyk, who had 14 points, kept his analysis simple.
“They scored more points than us and we didn’t play that hard,” Olynyk said.
But the detail-centric Stevens grasped for answers.
“I don’t think we’ve been a great detail team all year,” Stevens acknowledged when asked why the game turned south late after it was close for most of the night.
But how hard it is to say the other team played harder?
“It’s not hard when it’s the truth,” Rondo said. “It’s not the first time we’ve said this either.”
The Celtics’ next game could be just as ugly, as they’ll face the Pistons in Detroit on Saturday night without Bradley, Kris Humphries (patellar tendinitis in his right knee), and Rondo, who will rest his surgically repaired right knee.
But after Friday’s loss, Rondo was asked if he would gather his teammates for, perhaps, a players-only meeting or something along those lines.
He said he wasn’t sure, but he’s thought about it.
“The last couple seasons we’ve been to dinner a couple times, so, I don’t know,” he said.
All the Celtics can play for now is pride.
If they have any left, that is.