During his weekly Thursday appearance with Salk & Holley, Celtics president of basketball operations stopped short of saying he thought his C’s are the better team in their first-round NBA playoff series against the Knicks.
“We don’t think that we’ve played like we are capable of playing,” said Ainge. “It’s one thing to lose to a team who deserves to beat you and is a better team, but I feel like we’ve come out ready to play and I have no idea why the beginning of the third quarter in the last two games has not been good.”
Asked to clarify his comments, Ainge showered praise on the Knicks, who lead the series 2-0 and have held the Celtics to 48 combined second-half points.
“They’re very good. I have a great deal of respect for the Knicks, and Carmelo [Anthony] is a great player — maybe the toughest matchup in the entire league,” he said. “He’s right there in the same category as difficult a matchup as the Lebron [James]es and the Kevin Durants and the Kobe Bryants. He’s one of those types of players that can score against certain defense. So, no, I’m not particularly thrilled with the matchup.”
Still, Ainge placed the blame on his players. The Celtics simply haven’t lived up to their ability.
“We just need to play with more mental and physical toughness,” he said. “This isn’t the team I’ve seen play all year. The first halves have been, but not the second half. I wish I had an explanation, but we just need to be tougher, instigating the physical play. I think that they are getting into us, and we’re not responding. I’d like to see us instigate and initiate contact and be aggressive and not let their pressure affect us as much as it has.”
And the blame doesn’t rest with just one or two Celtics. They’ve pretty much all been been underwhelming.
“It’s everybody,” said Ainge. “It’s gotta be everybody. Avery [Bradley] embodies toughness. Paul Pierce is toughness to us, and Jeff Green — when he’s playing the way that we need him to play — he’s asserting himself and tough. And we know how tough Jason Terry is. And right on down the line. It takes everybody. Brandon Bass. It takes every one of the guys. We don’t have a team where we can rely on one or two guys. We have to get good performances out of the whole team.”
“We’ve got to have contributions from the whole team,” he added. “You can’t do it with one or two guys like New York has done. We don’t have that kind of scoring power. We don’t have the league’s leading scorer on our team right now, so we have to get contributions out of a lot of people.”
Got it? Good. Now here are the remaining highlights of Ainge’s interview, which can be heard in full on the Salk & Holley audio on demand page:
On Avery Bradley being reportedly late to practice: “I don’t think he was late, but I wasn’t at practice earlier this morning. I hadn’t heard any of that. He might not have been on the court. He might have been getting treatment, but I did see him on the practice court today.”
On the $25,000 fine for Doc Rivers: “What are you trying to get me in trouble?”
On the problem being offensive or defensive: “To me, it’s all in attitude. When you try to define whether your offense wins or your defense wins, it’s attitude that wins. It’s your perspective and the way you play the game. Offense takes care of itself sometimes, but both is the answer. You’ve got to create offense sometimes with your defense when you’re struggling, and you’ve got to find a way. I liken it to a pitcher who doesn’t have his best stuff. You still have to get guys out. We’ve got to find a way to get stops, get in the open court as much as we can, but offensively we need to assert ourselves. We need to be more physical offensively.”
On Carmelo Anthony vs. Bernard King: “Bernard was special to. You’re talking about two of the elite scores of their time. It’s a different time now, and I think that what makes Carmelo more difficult than Bernard is his size and strength. Bernard was 6-foot-5, and we still couldn’t guard him. He was a very unguardable player, but Carmelo gets to the free-throw line and he shoots the three ball and he gets to the rim. So, he’s a complete package. You can’t let him take open shots. You’ve got to crowd him. If you crowd him, he gets into the paint and to the free-throw line and gets to the rim, so he’s a guy you can play perfect defense on him and he can still score. Those players are very rare.”
On Kevin Garnett’s health: “I think KG expects to be at his best tomorrow night. He looked good in practice today. He’s moving well, and I expect KG to be good tomorrow.”
On Paul Pierce carrying the load: “I think Paul has taken four charges in two games. I’m not sure anyone else on the team has taken any. Paul is our leading scorer. He carries an offensive burden. Paul is right now our best player and our best scorer, and he needs help. He needs other guys stepping up. He can’t do it the whole game. It’s a grind for him. Paul still shows signs of being a great player. He’s not consistently as great as he was five years ago, but he is still a fantastic player in this league, and he’s showing that in this series.”
On the absence of Rajon Rondo: “We’ve had an opportunity to play a lot of games without Rondo, but listen, if you just look around, this has been going on for 30 years. It’s no secret. Great players at this time really step it up, and our guy that was our best player last year in the playoffs, the guy that had 44 at Miami and got us to the position that we were, that has been the MVP of multiple playoff series over the last handful of years — not just playoff games, but playoff series — he’s a guy who was certainly capable of being the best guy on the court on any given night, he’s a terrific player and we certainly miss him. And I’ve been saying that all year long.”
On playing “fuzzy” without Rondo: “We had these same challenges before. Losing double-figure leads in the fourth quarter of games is not something that has just happened. It’s been going on for three or four years, and I wish I knew. Sometimes I think we put such an effort and emphasis on defense that our guys don’t have the energy to keep cutting and moving and so forth without the ball in the fourth quarter. I don’t know what it is, but it’s not just the Rondo issue. Missing Rondo, he has the ability to take over games as we’ve seen him do against the elite players in the world, and we don’t have a player like that. That hurts us. But not knowing what to do and what plays to run — we shouldn’t do that under any circumstance. Every team goes through that a little bit, but we should not be having that problem.”
We check in on the Patriots off-season with ESPN Boston's Mike Reiss. Mike updates us on Revis, McCourty, Wilfork and more.
Price calls Butch to discuss the March 2nd deadline for franchise tags, free agency and the Pats' plans going forward.
Shortly after the NFLRA released its statement demanding an apology from ESPN, Jim Quirk, the NFLRA's Executive Director, joined Mut to talk about the statement
Flannery joins Mut to break down the Isaiah Thomas trade to Boston and what it means for the Celtics this season and in the future. Paul also chats with Mut about the other deals that happened at the NBA's trading deadline
We talk to Chris Mannix from SI to break down the C's acquisition of Isaiah Thomas and the crazy trade deadline in the rest of the NBA.
Jessica Camerato of basketballinsiders.com joins the show to talk about Marcus Smart, the starting lineup, and trade deadline.
The one and only Rob Bradford calls Butch to discuss his early thoughts on this Red Sox team, the potential in the rotation, how the outfield will shake out and more.
David Ortiz takes a few minutes to talk with Mut, Bradford, and Tomase about some of his new teammates, who Pablo Sandoval reminds him of, and the rules aimed at speeding up the game of baseball.
Mut, Bradford, and Tomase are talking Red Sox spring training. and talk with Red Sox DH David Ortiz about the rules aimed at speeding up the pace of the game
In the second of Sunday Skate, DJ and Joe discuss the approaching NHL trade deadline and what the B's will do. They get into the Boychuk move at the beginning of the season and Boychuk's brother venting on Twitter this morning about complaining B's fans. There is more discussion on the 3rd and 4th lines, their playoff chances and then they are joined by ESPN's Scott Burnside.
Another edition of Sunday Skate is upon us and DJ and Joe get into the B's big win over Arizona last night and the improvement of Ryan Spooner. They get into the Blackhawks giving up a 1st round pick for C Antoine Vermette - someone the B's could certainly use but weren't willing to give up the steep price of a 1st rounder. DJ and Joe also get into Claude's willingness to switch up lines as well as the performance of the 3rd and 4th lines. Finally, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman sits down with the boys.
Scott Burnside joins the boys to discuss the Bruins and the NHL trade deadline.
Dino, Gerry and Kirk chat with Tom Curran about the Patriots declining Vince Wilfork's option and the status of Darrelle Revis.
All the latest stories brought to you by Kirk Minihane.
McPhee joined Dennis, Callahan and Minihane to give a first hand account of the proceedings inside the courtroom during the trial of the Boston bomber.
Peirre McGuire of NBC Sports to talk about the snake-bit Bruins and their chances of making the playoffs. Pierre then weighs in the idea of Christian Fauria playing goalie
Steve Cooper, reporter for 7 News, joined the show to talk about the first day of the Dzhokhar Tsarnaev trial.
Legalization issues, substitute teachers shower outrageous movies, and Auntie Fee, the best cooking show host.
We talk Boston Bruins with NESN's Jack Edwards, our first talk since the NHL trade deadline.
Jerry discusses the plus and minus' of the Patriots first (of many) Super Bowl DVD's
Dale and Michael briefly discuss the opening of the Marathon Bombing Trial, and how the 'Free Dhzokar' crowd will have to get a new hobby.
Mikey, Mut, and Lenny are joined by the Rev girls, who are revealing the New Revolution uniform Tuesday at the House of Blues in Boston and talking about the Revs.
Mikey, Lenny, and Maggie talk Red Sox baseball with Red Sox Hall of Famer Bill Lee, who is in Florida and out of the snow that's perpetually burying the area.
Mikey gets a call from Kirk Minihane, who wants to clear the air with Mikey and get everything settled. It goes better than you think.
Adam Himmelsbach, Celtics beat reporter for the Boston Globe, joins the show to share his love of the Brow and discuss the surging Celtics playoff chances. Then we take a field trip to the MIT Sloan Analytics Conference and analyze the data with Rick Friedman.
Chris and comedian Will Noonan discuss the events of last night's Raw.
WEEI’s Scott McLaughlin previews the opening round of the Hockey East tournament with Northeastern coach Jim Madigan and Mike McMahon of College Hockey News and The Mack Report.
Schilling chatted about his decision to fight back against the Twitter trolls that targeted his daughter. Curt talks about what he would like to see happen to the most vicious trolls.More from this show
All the latest stories brought you by Kirk Minihane.More from this show
We discuss Curt Schilling's outing of the internet trolls who thought rape jokes were appropriate to direct at his daughter, and we discuss it with you, on how this isn't just a sports issue, it's a societal issue.More from this show
Tom E. Curran of Comcast SportsNet New England talks about the Patriots placing the franchise tag on Stephen Gostkowski and what is going on with Darrelle Revis' contract situationMore from this show