“I’m very patient. I understand that it’s a process. We’re only five games in. We’re still building. Even though we lost today, we’re down, there are some positive things that can come from that. And so, it’s still a long season. We have to get some things together. Maybe a road trip like this one, against two pretty good teams can solve it. We’ll see. I’ve been a patient person for the most part. The thing is you just have to talk it out. Young teams get frustrated with one another; they start pointing fingers. You can’t do that. That’s a losing team, that’s losing genetics. We don’t have that in here. We are a team that is just going to try and solve it by talking to one another, trying to figure out what we need to do to get better and build from there. It’s just that we have to put the time in at practice figuring out the second unit but that’s going to come,” Pierce said. “Our identity is going to be a defensive team first. We have the talent offensively where we think it will come together. We have to do a better job sharing the ball, making the extra passes but the main concern is the transition defense and rebounding the ball.” –Paul Pierce
After the loss to the Sixers on Friday night, Pierce vented some frustration. The C’s have gone on to win two straight since this interview was conducted, but Peirce was identifying some issues with the team and it’s reasonable that they are going to have to start playing with a winner’s mentality, as Pierce hinted. His expectations have seemingly been met with wins over the Milwaukee Bucks on Saturday and tonight’s (Mon, Nov 12th) victory over the Bulls, so Pierce is likely pleased with the adjustments that the C’s have made since that time.
Pierce identified the C’s strength as defense, and they’ve been good defensively, but haven’t been doing the kind of things they did last year when Avery Bradley was a part of the team. Namely, holding teams under 90 points. So far this season, the Celtics have only held one opponent under 90, and it was the Washington Wizards. They gave up 120 on opening night to the Heat. Even in their victory tonight over the Bulls, they still allowed a Derrick Rose-less Chicago Bulls team to put up 95 points.
That doesn’t qualify as horrible defense, but it isn’t elite defense either, and that has been what has kept the Celtics a top team over the past few seasons. Pierce knows it’s not going to happen without lock down defense on perimeter players and tough protection of the basket, and neither has really happened yet.
The worst part is that Pierce is one of the main offenders of his own complaint: he gave up 26 points to Luol Deng tonight. Deng played almost the entire game (45 of 48 minutes) and shot 20 times, but isn’t the kind of talent that should be putting up much more than 20 a game.
In Pierce’s defense, Deng has been playing exceptionally well in the absence of Derrick Rose and scored 27 on Kevin Durant last week, but either way, complaining about defense and then playing poor defense yourself doesn’t look all too great, Mr. Truth.