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Race to the Finish Line

Posted By Michael Johnson On Mar 18 2011 @ 2:03 pm In Boston Celtics | 1 Comment

The 2010-2011 Boston Celtics season may be experiencing its most tumultuous turn yet. Already having held a tenuous grip on the Eastern Conference, the Celtics have now dropped 3 of their last 5 games, salvaging a rebound victory Wednesday night against the Indiana Pacers. After the recent losing streak, the C’s now find themselves at 48-18, a half game back of the 1st place Chicago Bulls. The C’s are also just 3 games ahead of the streaking Miami Heat who have defeated the Lakers, as well as dismantled the Spurs and Grizzles all in the past week.

Hardly can the drop in production be attributed to new arrivals Jeff Green and Nenad Kristic. Each of these players has performed above and beyond the call of duty since their move to Boston just a few short weeks ago. Even without the trade, our beloved Kendrick Perkins wouldn’t have inserted himself back into the lineup until as early as a few evenings ago. Could we really expect different results with Perk donning suits on the sidelines again? Of course not. So where has this team gone wrong lately?

For starters, let it be noted that trading an integral part of your team never lends way to a smooth transition process. Since Perk’s departure, the team has ushered in an entirely new bench, with Big Baby standing as the only recognizable face of the 2nd unit. By no means will chemistry for an entirely new team develop overnight. Rondo’s production has also been awfully inconsistent as of late. His assist totals have dropped precipitously since the first half of the season, and to make matters worse, he hasn’t shot the ball either. Rondo only took two field goal attempts in the team’s last game against the Pacers and didn’t even manage to score a point. Sure the result was a victory, but how often are we likely to see that outcome when Rondo isn’t asserting himself offensively?

Of course, I haven’t been able to watch a game for quite some time now, so all my rumination is simply from box score observations. The last game I was actually able to witness was two weeks ago when the Bucks hosted the C’s on national television.  In that game they narrowly came out with the W, relying heavily on their defense to carry them home (a recognizable pattern as of late). Before that, I was able to see the C’s in person here in Denver, where they dishearteningly collapsed in the final minutes. The Nuggets pieced together a 16-0 run to end the contest, and that was that. It was the start of a “new era” for both squads. The Nuggets have continued to rocket skyward, and the Celtics are now 7-4 since the deal. If you remember correctly, the Celtics also allowed a 10-0 run to end the game in against the Mavericks in early February, losing that contest 101-97.

To put it simply, it just looks like the Celtics have run out of steam. That was certainly the case here in Denver, where they were battling both the altitude and lack of depth (the second I stepped on a stair-master out here, I knew the altitude was the real deal). We’ve seen the same issues rise up time and time again this season. Injury. Inconsistency against the bottom feeders. And of course, age. None of this is news.  But this has become a race to the finish line, and it doesn’t look like the Celtics have the stamina to make it. The Bulls and Heat are both extremely young squads, eager snag the 1st seed and carry home court advantage throughout the playoffs. Sure, the Celtics would love the same luxury, but with the way they have looked recently, things appear bleak. While I maintain that home court advantage is of the upmost importance, Doc might tone things down a notch before the playoffs begin. This will be especially true if they fall a few games back of the Bulls in the next couple of weeks. The Bulls have a moderately soft schedule to finish things off. The Celtics still have to face the Knicks, Grizz, Spurs, Heat, and of course, the Bulls. None of these are easy games.

Look for Boston to try to piece things together in these last 20 games, rather than run themselves ragged for the 1 seed. They proved last year that they can make a deep playoff run without home court advantage, and I’m sure their mentality will be similar down the stretch this season. With Shaq (hopefully) coming back and Delonte back in the lineup as well, it’s time to finally sort things out and get geared up for a championship run, 1st seed or not. However, without home court advantage, as I’ve said in the past, my confidence in this team winning a championship drops tremendously. At this point, we can only hope that the savy veteran leadership will prevail.

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