I'm a fan first and foremost, so when things go poorly I'm concerned and frustrated but I'm also looking for silver linings and excuses. Last night you've got all the excuses in the world. We were missing ...deep breath... Rajon Rondo, Jared Sullinger, Paul Pierce, and Kevin Garnett (can't really call Barbosa "missing" since we traded him for Crawford). It is exceedingly hard to win in this league when you are missing 4 out of 5 starters.
The temptation here is to say "Don't worry about it. When we get Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce back and start playing more meaningful games, everything will fall into place." But is it possible we are giving them too much of a free pass?
They were playing the Timberwolves last night. They also happen to be missing their best player and that team has been struggling with injuries all year as well. Pekovic was a matchup nightmare for the Celtics and they exploited that early and often. But still, this is the TWolves we're talking about. I just wonder if our B team should have given them more of a run.
Obviously this isn't just about last night either. There's a patter that has been developing. Kevin Garnett is clearly the glue of this team and things have predictably fallen apart since he went on the shelf. But should we be that reliant upon one or two guys?
The Celtics have lost seven of their last nine games and six of their last seven on the road. Boston's defense has regressed considerably, particularly with Kevin Garnett sidelined due to left ankle inflammation the past six games, and Boston has surrendered triple-digit output in six of its last seven outings. Even playing without their stars -- as Boston did on Monday night in Minnesota without Garnett and Paul Pierce, who wasn't with the team due to personal reasons -- the Celtics should be better than what they've shown.
Maybe I am just fixating on that Atlanta game where everything went right and our B team beat up on their ATL team. Perhaps I shouldn't expect that or anything close to that every night. If I were sane and logical, I'd set my expectations low and hope to be pleasantly surprised, but I'm just not built that way.
I see Jason Terry and I wonder why he can't shoot lights-out more often than he does. I see Avery Bradley and Brandon Bass in season long shooting slumps and I can't help but wonder what could have been if they were hitting what they did last year (Bradly's shooting last night was encouraging - just hope he keeps it up).
I don't think we can ask much more out of Jeff Green at this point, but I think it is valid to wonder if he's just one of those guys that does well when given a larger responsibility - yet isn't good enough to be the 1st or 2nd option on a championship squad. Basically the "puts up big numbers on a 'bad' team" argument. I'm not saying that is definitively the case. I'm just saying that if he drops back to 9 points a game when Pierce and Garnett are back, that would be worrisome.
And I haven't even talked about this team's defense lately. Chalk it up to Garnett being gone all you want, the guys on the court should still be able to defend better than they have. I guess you could blame some of the new guys like Crawford, Williams and Randolph for not knowing Doc's schemes - but without looking up the stats I'd venture to guess that they haven't been all that bad and the defacto starters that have been on the team all year long are the ones struggling.
Stars win in this league and if you don't have stars you are a lottery team. But, missing star players is a huge, obvious excuse that kind of glosses over the fact that the team really isn't playing all that well beyond the obvious excuses. We've seen plucky teams excel without their stars. Shoot, we've seen THIS team excel without Rondo - arguably their biggest star. Losing a game here or there is understandable. Being unable to string together more than a couple wins over a 2 week stretch is concerning. Or maybe I'm just in a bad mood this morning and I just need to relax and let the team coast to the playoffs.
The Celtics will presumably be as healthy as they are going to be once the playoffs start and the whole team will be "up" for the playoffs. As a bonus, we won't have to play these pesky lottery teams any more. Of course, the other teams will also be "up" for the playoffs and they'll happen to be legitimately good teams in their own right. And if we keep coasting to the playoffs, we might just get passed up by the Bucks for the 7 seed and find ourselves facing the Heat in the first round. So there's that.
As I said last night and on several occasions: My hope is in Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and defense. None of them showed up last night. Let us hope they'll all be there for the playoffs.