BOSTON: As the Cavaliers’ maddening inconsistencies and up-and-down play aggravate coach Byron Scott, the same thing is happening in Boston.
Eight players on the Celtics’ roster have more than six years’ experience and five have more than 10, yet Celtics coach Doc Rivers has been complaining lately about their inability to string together four consistent quarters. It’s the same complaint Scott has about his roster, which has 10 players with less than three years in the league.
“I think veteran teams struggle with it at times because they’re looking ahead. Young teams struggle with it because they just don’t know how,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. “I’ve always laughed when you hear that college kids play harder, then they get up to the league and they realize college kids don’t play harder, they just player faster and out of control. They don’t know what they’re doing.”
The average age of the Cavs’ roster at the beginning of the season was the fourth-youngest in the NBA at 24.3 years old. Then they got even younger with the release of Luke Harangody and the signing of Kevin Jones.
“When you get up to this level, it’s hard, intense basketball and it’s focused basketball,” Rivers said. “You can see, to a man, that’s the difference. It’s hard when you have that many young guys on a team.”
Scott has long believed it is the coach’s job to prepare a player, but it is the player’s responsibility to get himself mentally and physically motivated to play. After Tuesday’s embarrassing loss to the Toronto Raptors, Scott was up until the early hours of Wednesday second-guessing himself and wondering what else he can do to make sure his players are prepared.
“Last night and early this morning, I’m thinking to myself, ‘Am I doing enough?’ You start to question yourself as well, and you should as a coach,” Scott said. “The first person you have to look at is yourself in the mirror, and that’s what I try to do before I’m saying what [the players] have to do.”
The Cavaliers are allowing opponents just 22.8 shots at the rim, which in the NBA is defined as 3 feet and on in. It is the fewest attempts for any team in the league, yet opponents are converting 69 percent of those shots — the highest mark in the league. It’s a perplexing stat, and one that Scott blames on the Cavs’ weak side defense.
“Guys are getting to the rim because our weak side isn’t as good as it should be, and the other part is from an individual standpoint, we’re getting beat too quick,” he said. “It always starts off with your individual defense first.”
Rivers gushed prior to the game about Anderson Varejao and his value for the Cavs’ young big men such as Tristan Thompson and Tyler Zeller, who started in place of the injured Varejao on Wednesday.
“They have the one guy who can teach them all, and he does,” Rivers said. “He’s just a joy to watch. You can see that in their play. You can see that in Thompson’s play now, and Zeller. Playing with that guy every day, as Jon Gruden would say, it makes you take notice. He’s been a great teacher for their bigs.”
The Celtics didn’t arrive back in Boston until after 2 p.m. on Wednesday because of mechanical trouble with their plane. They were forced to stay another night in Chicago following a loss to the Bulls on Tuesday, but Rivers downplayed how it should impact the game against the Cavs.
“It’s just one day of inconvenience,” he said. “I can’t imagine it being a problem.”
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