PHILADELPHIA -- They’ve already had two five-game losing streaks, the longest of the new Big Three era. They don’t have a rotation player who hasn’t missed at least three games. Their starting center may be done for the season.
And yet, after the team’s second five-game winning streak of the season, Boston coach Doc Rivers thinks his Boston Celtics have turned the corner.
"I think right now we’re in a good place," he said before the Celtics met the Philadelphia 76ers Wednesday in a battle for first place in the Atlantic Division. "The ebbs and flows of the season and this is the best place we’ve been all year. Our team is executing well. They understand who we are. It’s taken all year to kind of get there, but we’re starting to figure out who we are. We’re not there yet, but we’re getting close and when we do (get there), I think we’ll be really good."
Rivers said he did not think the team had any trades in mind, but added that had nothing to do with the recent run of good fortune.
"We pretty much know what we want to do," he said. "Like I said a week ago, I’d be surprised if we did anything. But if someone wants to give us a player, we’ll take him."
ODDS AND ENDS
Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo each were fined $20,000 for missing their mandatory community appearance during All-Star weekend -- for the second year in a row. Neither was fined last year, but this time, it cost them both. Pierce was asked about the fine and said, "I heard about it." Asked for his thoughts, he said, "I just heard about it, that’s all." As for Rondo, his agent, Bill Duffy, said via text that the transgression was "nothing significant." ... Rivers had no comment, prediction or remote clue as to when, or if, Jermaine O’Neal comes back. "I really don’t . . . ask,’’ he said. Rivers said Monday he isn’t even game-planning for O’Neal anymore. ... Kevin Garnett logged 41 and 38 minutes against New York and Houston, which is a lot more time than Rivers wants to play him. "It’d help if we could finish games in regulation," Rivers said, referring to both games' going into overtime. "The last two games he had to play more minutes than I’d like him to." Rivers said he’s pretty sure that when the season is over, Garnett’s minutes-per-game will be right around 30. ... Speaking of Garnett, he passed Shaquille O’Neal and moved into 12th place on the all-time rebounding list. He had an even 13,100 after the Houston game. Then again, Shaq always approached rebounding the way Deion Sanders approached tackling. It’s amazing that despite his size and agility, Shaq never once led the NBA in rebounding. Garnett has done so four times. Garnett also needed six defensive rebounds to become the NBA’s second-most prolific defensive rebounder (behind Karl Malone) and needed 24 minutes to become the 12th player to play 45,000 minutes. ... Brandon Bass said his sore left foot/ankle was still bothering him, but not enough to keep him out of the lineup. He rolled it against the Rockets on Tuesday. "It hurts and it prevents me from doing certain things," he said. "But it won’t stop me from playing."
POTENTIAL PLAYOFF MATCHUPS
The importance of seeding for the playoffs was a prime topic before the game -- for everyone but Rivers. He said one of his assistants tried to explain the system to him and he stopped him before his head exploded. "I know if you win your division, it gets you out of the 1-2 spot, and that’s a good thing," he said. "Not just this year, but every year." Avoiding Chicago and Miami in the first round is an absolute must for the Celtics, which had a chance to take over the top spot in the Atlantic Division with a win against the 76ers. The lowest seed a division winner can be is No. 4. ... It took 37 games (39 for the Sixers) for these two divisional rivals to finally meet in this strange season. The Celtics played three games against the Knicks, Bulls, Pistons, Cavaliers, Raptors, Wizards and Pacers before their first meeting with Philadelphia. The Sixers don’t visit Boston until April 8, their only TD Garden appearance of the season.