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It's been eight days, and three games, since Doc Rivers called his team soft following their rather embarrassing loss at home against the Nets. Since then the team is 2-1, beating the Blazers by 18, losing in Milwaukee by 3 (both of these games without Rajon Rondo) and then beating the Timberwolves by 10 last night. More than just the results though, the team has played differently since Rivers comments (horrible 2nd quarter against the Bucks not withstanding). Now remember, the two things that Doc called his team out for were their poor defense, and egregious defensive rebounding. Since that night, it's clear that the team has picked up the pace considerably in those departments. Let's take a closer look, shall we?

Before 'soft' - 15 games

Allowed 99.7 points/game

Opponents shot 46.1% from the field

Opponents had a 26.5% Offensive Rebounding Percentage

After 'soft' - 3 games

87.7 points/game (12 points per game less)

40.4% shooting (5.7% worse)

22.9% Offensive rebounds (3.6% worse)

Improvements across the board. Now it's only been three games, and the quality of opponent has been incredibly average. But considering that the Celtics have prided themselves on defense and toughness over the past half decade, it's a welcome sign.

So the question becomes, just how much did Doc's comments have to do with it? It's easy to say that the team simply played better and ran into a trio of average opponents, but take a look at what Kevin Garnett said last night, when asked about the C's recent improved play.

I think what you see here is that we as a team are trying to be better at rebounding, Doc’s been on our [butt] about giving up offensive rebounds, playing tougher, establishing something. Obviously, being called soft is not something that you want to be called. It still lives in the back of our minds.

Being called soft 'still lives in the back of our minds' to me shows that Rivers struck a nerve with his team. And Garnett isn't the only player that has drawn motivation from the 'S' word. Earlier in the week, Courtney Lee had this to say,

He (Doc) can continue to call us soft, we're going to continue to come out like this and continue to play. I guess we needed to be told that, to wake up

It's important to note that this is the first time in the now six seasons of the KG era that Rivers publicly called his team soft. He didn't say it during the putrid final 50 games of the 2009-10 regular season, nor did he say it during last season's 15-17 start. The Celtics have had other bad runs since 2007, yet Rivers held out on calling his team a word usually designated for down comforters and teddy bears. The reasoning? Those other team's were not nearly as talented as this year's squad, and in some cases were playing to their talent level. Last week Doc saw something he has seen very few times in his now nine seasons at the helm - a team underperforming.

There was another wrinkle to what Rivers said, later in that same press conference, when he called out the new guys.

There are some people who think you can just put on (the Celtics) jersey and good things will happen. But you've got to earn that

Since then we've huge improvements out of both Jeff Green and Lee, two of the new guys who this team must rely on if they seriously plan on contending with the Heat.

Again it's been just three games, but don't think for one second that Rivers words weren't meant for just this reason. They were one of the last bullets in his coaching gun, designed to anger his team to the point where they developed a 'screw this' mind-set and started playing the type of basketball that Doc imagined them playing.

So far go good.

Follow Mike on twitter - Mike_Dyer13

Michael Dyer 12/06/2012 03:15:00 PM Edit
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