Well, the Celtics have lost two of three again. Three of the past four and seven of they’re last twelve. Regardless of how far you'd like to pin the struggles back for Boston, the fact remains that they're losing at a high rate. The playoffs begin in three weeks and the team faces the daunting task of fixing its on-court chemistry. The process seems to be scaring the hell out of fans, most of which have pointed out any and every excuse imaginable. The most common being that this team of veterans just can't find the mental energy needed for regular season games, especially with the playoffs looming. But by that logic, I couldn't even expect them to get up for the first round of the playoffs at this point. The theory made sense last year. It was impossible to argue against when Rasheed Wallace would hover around the three-point line on offense, brick, and still manage to be the last back on defense. But this year, I can't buy it. When this team was winning, most swore by the fact that this group wouldn't do what it did last year. They weren't going to let the foot of the gas, not this time. But the team is losing now, and all the credit given to this year's roster has faded away.
Looking back to this offseason and throughout the trade deadline, teams like the Miami Heat and New York Knicks both made large, roster-shaking moves. Remember how the Heat, perhaps the most hyped team ever, started off the season? 9-8. On Sunday, each of Miami's top scorers all recorded at least 30 points and 10 rebounds. Chemistry takes time to develop. Even the Los Angeles Lakers have lost three in a row (twice) this season. They are 15-1 since the All Star break. Now let's look at the Celtics. Since the trades that dealt five players (or one third of the roster) out of Boston, they are 10-8. What about the Knicks since the Carmelo Anthony trade? 8-12.
Roster changes are difficult processes. Integrating Nenad Krstic and Jeff Green into one of (if not the) most difficult defensive systems in the league will take time. It's evident in the team's last two games. In the first quarter of those games, the Celtics scored 33 and 32 points. The starting five did what they should do on both ends of the court. Once the bench comes in and starters get mixed with new guys along the way, they fall apart for much of the game. Random lineups lack consistency and It's directly connected to no chemistry, no history together. Veteran players are guessing where the new guy is going to be and when you guess wrong, the set starts over. That’s partly why we see Rajon Rondo dribbling out shot clocks and directing traffic lately. He's teaching on the fly. Its probably frustrating for him as well as everyone on the team but its necessary and they know it. Against the Pacers for example, Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett combined for twelve shot attempts and as a result, couldn't find much of a rhythm down the stretch (a combined 1-4 from the free throw line in the last three minutes). Ray Allen was irritated and cut out the back door after the game (even breaking his luggage in the process).
So are the Celtics tired? Yes. Beat up? Likely. But this team isn't just taking a break until the playoffs. They are just like every other squad that caught scrutiny after a large move didn't work out at first. Just like the Heat at the start of this year. Just like the Knicks are right now. It's simply about trying to create enough chemistry to succeed. Do I think the Celtics will figure it out in time? Yes, Doc Rivers is smart enough and receives enough respect from this group to make it happen. It can be difficult to pinpoint exactly what is wrong with a team. In this case it may be a combination of reasons but I just don't think fans should be pointing fingers solely at a lack of effort in a situation like this.