Note: I was going to write this article even after the Thunder victory, but last night's game only cemented my feelings.
The Celtics have the talent to be a top contender in this league. They have the depth to rest the starters against poor teams and the experience to put away close games against tough matchups. They have one of the best coaches in the game and a coach-on-the-floor point guard leading the league in assists. Oh yeah, and they've got 2 surefire Hall of Famers and 2 others that have a good shot (Terry and Rondo).
So. Um. Why all the trouble getting things going this year? In particular against the teams that we should be beating handily.
Two very close wins against the still winless Wizards sandwiched between losses to the Bucks and Sixers. A bad, bad loss to Detroit and last night's overtime nail biter over the decimated Magic. None of this makes me feel all that secure and comfortable with our team.
We know all the excuses by heart at this point. They are still getting the new guys acclimated to the system. They are working out rotations. They are old and tired. Fine, whatever.
None of that explains why bad and mediocre teams are giving this team such a hard time. I get that there's a certain amount of parity in the NBA. There are good players everywhere and you have to give some credit to them for the way they've stepped up against the Celtics (who walk into every game with a target on their chest just for who they are). So head nods and respectful words directed at the other teams.
With all that said, those teams are terrible. (sorry)
It basically boils down to effort. I understand that it is not really possible to give 100% effort every waking moment of the day (though Kevin Garnett certainly tries, perhaps to a fault). I just don't understand how this team plays down to the competition so much.
Or said a different way, if we have the talent to go out and defeat the OKC Thunder, why is it so hard to beat the Orlando Magic?
Part of the problem is the bench. There are exceptions, but for the most part, guys who are on the bench are there because they aren't consistent enough to be starters. So some nights they'll step up and carry more than their share of the load. On other nights they'll be non-factors and leave all the heavy lifting to the starters.
But again, even if their shots aren't falling, they need to put out a consistent effort on defense and do all the little things that need to be done to win basketball games - in particular against inferior teams.
It isn't like the team is not trying. They don't go into a game expecting to lose or give half an effort. But I think they get overconfident and let off the gas. It happens time and time again. They got early leads on the Wizards in both games and lost them in the 2nd quarters. They got up against the Magic in the first half and couldn't stop the Magic from storming back in the 3rd. Doc sees it too.
"I thought, throughout the game, [the Magic] never changed the way they played. They just played hard," Rivers said. "And, in the first half, we competed; in the third quarter, we let our guard down. Then to me, once you activate a team, and they thought they had a chance to win, then it was anybody’s game."
Consistent effort is needed to win in this league. I'm glad we got the W last night, but I can't help but feel like this team could be giving a little bit more on a more consistent basis. It is a long season and there's still time to get things moving in the right direction, but if the previous several years are any indication, this problem won't be going away any time soon.