- Chris Forsberg, ESPN Staff Writer
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Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers lashed out at his team following Thursday's 93-86 loss to the Chicago Bulls, questioning his players' toughness and focus after they let a double-digit lead slip away in the second half at the United Center.
"I had to use two timeouts in the first half to remind us that we actually had an NBA game to play and that we needed to play," a ruffled Rivers told reporters in Chicago. "I thought that was the worst loss for us this year, with the way we approached the game.
"Then in the second half, I just thought Chicago, they were too tough for us. Their toughness made us let go of the ropes. You could see it; we wanted to use all the excuses all night. I just thought Chicago was too tough for us tonight.
"I think this team has shown great resolve, but right now, that's twice now [the Celtics have struggled in Chicago]. They get into it, they get frustrated, and our guys let go of the ropes. Bottom line, we're not going to go a lot of places playing with that type of mental toughness. Chicago's tougher than us right now."
Rivers said that with the playoffs near, the sort of play the Celtics showed Thursday will land them an unfavorable first-round matchup. Currently the Celtics hold the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference with a one-game lead over the Philadelphia 76ers in the Atlantic Division. But if they don't win the division, they'll likely slip to the seventh or eighth seed and face the Bulls or Miami Heat in the first round.
"We've got three weeks, with the way we're playing," Rivers said. "If we play like that, we'll be playing one of them in the first round, so we've got to get better.
"That was unacceptable. That's on me first. I did something where I didn't see something tonight. It's always on the coach. That's an unacceptable effort for us. I don't say that very often. I don't think I've ever said that. That was a crime. It was tough to talk after the game, because about what? We've got to be better than that. I don't want to hear about us winning crap, not with that effort."
The Celtics led by as many as 13 and were up by 11 at halftime, but Rivers didn't like any part of the effort, particularly the way his team approached the game.
"Listen, I'm just pissed at the way we played," Rivers said. "Honestly, the playoffs are the furthest thing from my mind. We haven't been that way, but we were tonight.
"We were cool tonight. We were the cool Boston Celtics, that's who we looked like. Walking the ball up [and] we couldn't get the ball inbounds. No one wanted to work. We were the cool Celtics, and there's nothing about me that's cool, I can tell you that. We don't play basketball cool."
Allen returned to the lineup Wednesday night following a six-game absence due to lingering right ankle soreness but was moved to a reserve role for Thursday's game.
Allen scored 14 points over 31 minutes, and Bradley had nine points and three turnovers in 27 minutes against the Bulls.
It was only the fourth time in Allen's career that he's come off the bench and first time since Dec. 5, 2002, when he was with the Milwaukee Bucks.
During an on-court interview with TNT after the first quarter, Rivers said of the Allen move, "He basically came to me, more than I had to go to him. He thought, 'Why not bring me off the bench?'"
Bradley shined in Allen's absence and had guided the Celtics to a 5-0 record as a starter.
The Celtics are 10-1 this season without Allen, who displayed expected rust Wednesday night in his return against the San Antonio Spurs. Allen scored five points on 2-of-6 shooting over 35 minutes. Bradley scored a team-high 19 points on 9-of-16 shooting over 34 minutes off the bench.
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