BOSTON – The Celtics broke into the win column Saturday after two false starts, but they are still searching for their optimal equation.
The victory over a Wizards team playing without John Wall and Nene was hardly a benchmark decision. The 89-86 victory came after blowing all of an early 16-point lead.
So Coach Doc Rivers is still looking.
“We’ve just got to find the right group of guys,” Rivers said. “And not only just the starters. I’m actually not as concerned with the starters. I’m far more concerned with the second unit. We’ve got to find a consistent second group.”
That was part of the thinking behind starting rookie Jared Sullinger at power forward and moving Brandon Bass to the bench. The hope is that Bass will get more opportunities to use his versatile offensive game with the reserves, especially with Rivers wanting even more of the scoring focus with Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett.
Also interrupting the development of the desired rotation is the continued absence of Avery Bradley, who is rehabbing from offseason shoulder surgeries.
“Obviously Avery’s out. I think people forget that,” said Rivers of Bradley, who is expected to return to his role as starting shooting guard. “That’s going to make it a lot easier when he’s back, but he’s not going to be back for six weeks or so, so we have to get it done now.”
But the Celtics don’t expect it to happen overnight.
“We understand that it’s a building process, and it’s up to us to just try to get better each and every game,” said Pierce.
Speaking of the way the C’s let Washington back in, allowing Kevin Seraphin to make 8 of 9 shots from the floor in the process, Pierce added, “We’ve got to start building consistency to where we have an opportunity to put teams away when we go up. We should be able to maintain that. You don’t want to give teams any life.”
Garnett was looking more at the bottom line and trying to run it through the copier.
“Consistency is the biggest thing in this league, and we’ve got to be able to duplicate this as well as we can,” he said.
Asked what the club can do to become more consistent, Garnett said, “Focus, along with games and experience.”
The Celtics did start out well, helping the Wizards miss 13 of their first 14 shots. But the effort was apparently too hard to maintain.
“I thought we came out with great defensive energy,” said Rivers. “But you could see we’re still not used to doing it.
“I thought as the game went on we got tired, because defense is exhausting. But I thought overall we did a great job of it.”
Indeed, the Celts held Washington without a point on its last six possessions to secure what was a very important win after season-opening losses to Miami and Milwaukee.
Meanwhile, on offense, Pierce has been dialing long distance quite a bit in this young season.
He made four of eight 3-pointers, including the game winner, on Saturday. That brings him up to 7 for 15 on the year.
According to the captain, it’s a matter of running the Celtic attack and taking what defenses are giving him. “I just think it’s the way our offense is built, the way we move the ball, the way the bigs screen,” Pierce said. “I think there’s more opportunities there. I’m wide open there.
“It’s not like I’m really forcing a lot of them. So I’m just taking advantage of it. I did take a lot of 3′s (Saturday), but I thought they were all good shots.”