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BOSTON -- Three letters greeted the Boston Celtics on their whiteboard after Wednesday's loss to the Charlotte Bobcats: DTR.
That's basketball shorthand for Dressed, Taped, Ready. It's also often shorthand for be prepared to work your tail off in practice.
Day-after-game workouts for the Celtics often have been light, particularly with the team navigating a minefield of an early-season schedule that features 19 games over the first 31 days of the season.
But even with a back-to-back looming to close out this four-game week, those three letters seemed to send a message to the Celtics players: You weren't ready on Wednesday night; come ready to work harder on Thursday.
|Gerald Wallace said the Celtics, who had won four in a row, were overconfident entering their game with the Bobcats.|
An overconfident Celtics team, riding high on a four-game winning streak, too-cooled its way through Wednesday's visit from the Bobcats and endured a not-easy-on-the-eyes 89-83 defeat at TD Garden.
The loss provided a sobering reminder of how things tend to work with young teams: Fail to show up with the proper focus and energy level, and you can get beaten by anybody.
For Boston's divided fan base, Team Tank can rejoice at a bad loss to a below-average team (especially after watching all that college talent on Tuesday night), while Team Overachieve can cling to the idea that Boston played some atrocious basketball and still gave itself a chance to win in the final minute. But for the players, this was a somewhat friendly reminder that they are not nearly talented enough to just show up for games.
The buzzword on Wednesday was "lackadaisical" with former Bobcat Gerald Wallace suggesting his Celtics were a little too cheeky.
"We got cocky with the four-game winning streak," Wallace said. "Our confidence was up, we were feeling good about ourselves, and we just felt like we would show up tonight and, playing the Bobcats, it's an easy win."
Wallace, outspoken when his team has turned in subpar efforts this season, didn't sound off this time. In fact, he took an optimistic approach, suggesting Wednesday's game could be a learning moment.
"We can't take anyone lightly, regardless of who they are," he said. "We have to understand that this is the NBA; it's always hard to win. Anyone is capable of winning on any night. You give yourself less of a chance of winning when you become lackadaisical and you expect to win."
The Celtics weren't all bad. They limited the Bobcats to 29.7 percent shooting (19-of-64) and 62 points over the final three quarters, and yet still found a way to lose (Boston shot a mere 37.7 percent). Charlotte started fast (connecting on 11-of-18 shots in a 27-point first quarter) and built a double-digit lead little more than five minutes in, then did just enough to hang on the rest of the way.
But that included making opportunistic late-game plays and giving more effort than Boston was willing to exert.
The Celtics made numerous charges from a 16-point hole, finally clawing within a possession with 32 seconds left after a Jordan Crawford 3-point play. Unfazed, Charlotte attacked at the other end, and when Kemba Walker got in front of Avery Bradley, Kelly Olynyk was forced to rotate with help. Al Jefferson then found himself alone on the weak side and easily cleaned up Walker's miss with a putback over Bradley for a five-point lead with 17.7 seconds to go.
Coming out of a timeout, Bradley got a taste of his own familiar medicine when Gerald Henderson stripped him above the 3-point arc and, spilling to the ground with possession, called time out to keep control of the ball and essentially seal the win.
There were countless other series over the previous 47 minutes that played out similarly. Boston players would be playing hot potato with a loose ball, and the Bobcats would swoop in to corral it.
As Wallace noted, "I don't think we won one loose ball. I think they got all the offensive rebounds. All the plays that don't show up on the stat sheet, they won, hands down, it wasn't even close. Prime example: Right there at the end, we trapped in the halfcourt and I think the ball bounced out of two or three of our players' hands [or] in between the legs. It just seemed like they always came up with it."
Celtics coach Brad Stevens noted how Charlotte set the tone early and put a vice grip on the game given Boston's effort level.
"We made some runs, but I never felt like the game -- you sit over there and -- I haven't been through a lot of NBA games, but a lot of basketball games -- and there are certain games where you feel like the other team has got you in a little bit of a stranglehold, and it's going to be hard to overcome it because of the way the game was going," Stevens said. "That's kind of what the game was telling you at the start."
Jeff Green agreed. "We shot ourselves in the foot by coming out a little lackadaisical, allowing them to get that lead, which put us into a hole," he said. "We just had an uphill battle the whole game and toward the end we just couldn't finish."
Crawford got in on the buzzword too.
"We probably got a little lackadaisical," Crawford said. "They played hard. I think that's one of the harder teams we've played this year. It's good to play them to see how hard we've got to go now."
When it was suggested this was simply a tough-shooting night for Boston, Crawford brushed it off.
"Nah, they beat us with effort," he said. "They beat us on the loose balls, all the rebounds, and they started off better. It's not just one to throw away. It's one to look at and see where we can be better from."
The Celtics will get a thorough reminder during the team's film session Thursday. And if not, they'll get it in practice.
When they're dressed, taped, and ready.