Bouncing back-to-back

Steve Mitchell/US Presswire

Rajon Rondo and the Celtics were left searching for answers after a loss in Miami.MIAMI -- Despite their struggles last season on the second nights of back-to-backs, the Boston Celtics weren't worried about consecutive-night games as they prepared for their first of 19 back-to-backs this season on the heels of Tuesday's 115-107 loss to the Miami Heat at American Airlines Arena.

The Celtics visit the New Orleans Hornets Wednesday night.

“We’re not even worrying about the back-to-backs,” O’Neal said. “We’re more worried about playing good basketball, putting together a full game and not just a couple quarters. That’s what we’ve done the last two games, which has made us come up short.”

In 19 back-to-backs last season, the Celtics were 15-4 on the first night and 8-11 on the second, including a meager 3-11 on the road. And that was with a regular schedule, not a condensed, 66-game grinder like this one. To make things worse, 11 of this year’s back-end games -- and five of the consecutive-game combos, including April’s back-to-back-to-back -- come on the road.

Though Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge has been diplomatic about the thorny schedule, saying, “It’s the same for everybody,” it remains to be seen whether his aging team can stay fresh and ready for the difficult double-billings ahead.

“It’s going to be a season of mental toughness,” head coach Doc Rivers said during the team’s two-week camp. “That’s going to be a key factor, for every team, not just us … Lots of games, lots of travel. This could be one of those years, and you have to be ready for it.”

After a sluggish start in Miami, O'Neal was simply focused on a faster start in New Orleans.

“All in all, I think we just gotta do a better job on starting the games, on taking care of the ball,” O’Neal said after Tuesday’s game. “We’ve dug ourselves holes in [the first] two games against very good teams in their building. So we just gotta do a better job at that.

“The good thing about this season is, you get an opportunity the very next night, and [sometimes] even the next night [after that], consecutively. We feel good about what we could be, we just gotta be that team.”