Boston Celtics: One Step Forward, Two Steps Back


The Boston Celtics have a promising roster, but they simply cannot seem to put it all together consistently.

One week ago, the Boston Celtics (14-13) caught the attention of the casual basketball fan by taking the at-the-time undefeated Golden State Warriors to double-overtime, ultimately losing 124-119.

After defeating the Charlotte Hornets the next night, the Celtics promptly went on a three-game losing streak, in turn falling back to the middle of the pack in the Eastern Conference.

What went wrong?

The schedule did them no favors by having the Celtics play two top-tier teams and a solid Detroit Pistons team in a week’s span. Taking on the Cleveland Cavaliers, Atlanta Hawks, and Pistons so close after the spirited effort against the Warriors gave the Celtics no room to relax.

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The good teams, though, are able to consistently to put up solid games, no matter who they are playing. Boston stepped up to the measuring stick with ample opportunities to prove they belonged in the title hope discussions. The Celtics were on the very fringe of these discussions but they were certainly creeping in.

Then, the week fell apart and Boston took two steps back.

Passion and effort by the Celtics make up for their lack of a true, bona fide superstar. Those two things, at a team level, have been missing since last Friday’s loss. Passion and effort help make up for the deficiencies the Celtics have (i.e. rebounding). When there is a lack of heart, a lack of victories take place.

Jared Sullinger is doing all he can on the boards, averaging 9.5 per game, but more consistency (or production in general) from Tyler Zeller and David Lee would be nice.

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There’s that word again. Consistency. They have struggled to find consistency on a game to game basis, but the Celtics have also struggled in closing out games. These are two aspects that turn teams from the ‘also-ran’ status to the term ‘title contender’.  The Celtics need more consistency to stay with the top-tier teams of the Eastern Conference.

Cold shooting nights, like the game against the Cavs, also don’t help. Games like this are bound to happen. It started at the top with leading scorer Isaiah Thomas (21.4 ppg) and the rest of the team followed suit. Thomas is not immune to struggling. On the occasion he does, the other guys need to step up in his place, not follow his lead.

Boston’s defense also took a step back last week. In two of the losses, the Celtics allowed over 100 points, dropping them to 1-11 this season when opponents score 100 points or more. Despite averaging 103 ppg, the Celtics, it seems, flip some sort of mental switch when an opponent scores over 100 and can’t fathom a victory.

Still, the defense has been solid as a whole this season. The Celtics are second in the NBA in steals, averaging 10 per game and are 11th in points allowed at 99.5.

The return of Marcus Smart from injury should help the Celtics, allowing Avery Bradley and even Thomas to play less minutes and have more energy at the end of games. With any luck, Smart will be back by the end of the year and the Celtics can start closing out some of these close games they are losing.

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All is not lost for Boston. It is too early in the season for that. Games against the Pistons and New York Knicks, among others, are on the agenda this week. A 4-0 week will get the Celtics back on track and then this three-game losing streak will all become a ghost of Christmas past.