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Doc's take: 'A step backward' for C's

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Celtics coach Doc Rivers was not pleased with his team's effort on the court on Friday.Despite suggesting in recent weeks that his team had been trending well, Celtics head coach Doc Rivers admitted the Celtics' 101-89 loss to the Houston Rockets on Friday night was a "step backward" for his team.

"I've got to do a better job of preparing the team," Rivers told reporters in Houston. "I've got to do a better job of playing the right guys, because everybody shouldn't play every night, the way we're playing. So we've got to figure this out. I've been saying that. This is the first game in a while -- I think we've been trending well, but this was a step backward for us. Just in the way we played. I thought this was a step backwards for us."

The Celtics entered Friday's game riding a modest two-game winning streak, hoping to continue to build what would have been their first legitimate string of wins all season. Instead, they came out flat, falling into a 17-4 hole less than six minutes into the game. Boston pulled itself out of that ditch with a much better defensive effort in the second frame (holding the Rockets to just 16 points) and led 45-43 going into halftime, but the third quarter played out very similar to the first.

The Rockets poured in 32 points in the third frame, and even though the C's added 25 points of their own, it was clear the momentum had shifted in Houston's favor. Rivers pointed to the first and third frames as Boston's key periods of struggle on Friday.

"I thought we started out flat [in the] beginning of the game, we started off flat in the third quarter," Rivers said. "After the middle of the first quarter, I thought our defense from that point until halftime was fantastic. Against a high-scoring team, I think they had 42 points or something? I mean, that's terrific defense. And then we come out with no energy, flat, to start the third quarter, and even from there, we just never really got back into it. We had some runs, but you never felt like we were going to win the game tonight. Don't know why. Very disappointed in the loss, though."

Rivers would go on to add: "We proved for 14 minutes in the first half that we could get back, take them out of their stuff, and then we went right back to what we did in the first. So, again, disappointing."

The Rockets received a host of strong performances, including a near triple-double from Chandler Parsons, who finished with 15 points, nine rebounds and eight assists. Rivers praised Parson's effort on both sides of the ball, particularly his willingness to attack Paul Pierce on both ends. Rivers later expressed even more frustration over Boston's one-on-one defense, which broke down and caused team-wide problems.

"I thought the way Houston played tonight, early on, they tried to run a lot of pick-and-rolls and our traps took them out of it, and then I thought they basically just circled around the 3-point line and their one-on-one ... we couldn't stay in front of the ball.

"It's a shame because someone's going to look at the stat sheet and they're going to say our bigs got beat up tonight. Our bigs got beat up because our guards and our small forwards and our power forwards couldn't keep the ball in front of them. At some point, it's a one-on-one defense, and that makes the team defense better, and we didn't do a very good job of that."

The Celtics drop to 4-6 on the road and 12-10 overall, but won't have long to reflect on Friday's loss. They'll fly right to San Antonio for a rematch with the Spurs on Saturday night. San Antonio defeated the Celtics in Boston, 112-100, on Nov. 21.