Washburn: Celtics spent halftime arguing with one another, took it out on Hawks in 2nd half

Frustrations apparently got the best of the Celtics following their embarrassing 1st half effort on Saturday night in Atlanta. When the halftime buzzer sounded, the C's were trailing 53-38, and just about all of the defensive momentum the team had generated in their dominating 94-75 win against the Pacers on Friday - had dissipated.

No surprise then, that the team was not thrilled with their performance. But, according to Gary Washburn at the Boston Globe (link), the scene in the locker room at halftime, was a bit contentious - until captain Paul Pierce rallied the team together. From the article. 

Atlanta led, 46-27, with 6:20 left in the half, as the Celtics were back to their uninterested ways. At halftime, the players spent most of their break arguing with each other, snapping back at coach Doc Rivers for his criticism, and expressing frustration at a 15-point deficit.None of this, according to Pierce, was productive.

Pierce called his teammates together before they returned to the floor and told them to take a little of the anger out on their opponents.

“I just said we want to bring the fight to them,” he said. “I think we were kind of bickering at each other a little too much, figuring out what kind of defense we run and that was a little bit too much. I just had to say the fight ain’t against one another, it’s against the team out there on the court. When we realize that, we can play some ball. We stepped up that third quarter and we played the type of ball we know how to play."

It worked. As soon as the 3rd quarter began, the tide turned. The Celtics were efficient on offense (led by Pierce's 17 point quarter), and flat out relentless on defense. The Hawks, who scored 31 points in the first quarter, scored just 9 in the 3rd quarter. According to Rivers, the change had nothing to do with strategy, and everything to do with effort.

Our defense in the second half was terrific. At halftime a couple of our guys said, ‘Let’s do something different.’ I said ‘Why? We didn’t do what we were supposed to do in the first half.’ We made not one adjustment at the half. We just came out and did the same things harder and better. One of the reasons we haven’t been a good defensive team this year is because every time a team starts to score, we change.

In total, the Celtics gave up just 28 points in the 2nd half, and it's worth noting that in the three games since Avery Bradley returned, the team is giving up an average of just 83 points a game. Before Bradley's return the team was giving up 98.1 points per game.

It's also worth noting that the three teams the Celts have played, aren't very good on offense. Memphis is 19th in the NBA in points per possession, Indiana is 29th, and the Hawks are 13th. So the Celtics new found defensive identity will surely be tested against the Knicks, who average 1.096 points/possession - the 2nd best number in the NBA. But it's a start.

It's also good to see that Pierce was able to stop the bickering and get the team on track, both with his leadership, and his play on the court. It's one thing to tell your teammates to pipe down, it's another to lead by example. Pierce did both.

Now hopefully the C's play well enough on Monday night at MSG to avoid the halftime pep talk all together.

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