After playing .500 ball through the first six games of the 2014-15 season, the Celtics have hit something of a rough patch, dropping five of their last six contests. You could point to a number of different reasons to explain the team’s current drought, but none seem more prominent than the quality of the opponents they’ve had to take the floor against so far.
Sure, there have been many fundamental inconsistencies on both ends of the court and guys are still trying to figure out where they fit in Brad Stevens’ system. But when you hand a young, inexperienced team like the Celtics the sixth toughest schedule in the league through the first 12 games of the year, there are bound to be struggles.
Boston’s opponents thus far have a combined .528 win percentage and 11 of those 12 – Philadelphia being the only exception – were playoff teams last season. In fact, if you were to exclude the Sixers from the conversation then that number bumps up to .606. What’s worse is the fact that this grueling stretch is not yet over, as the Celtics will host a Chicago Bulls team seeking revenge from an earlier loss to Boston and the always-great San Antonio Spurs who are currently riding a four-game win streak.
The Celtics’ November woes have become somewhat commonplace over the past two years as ESPN Stats & Info pointed out on Twitter:
RT @ESPNStatsInfo: Celtics: 19 losses in November last 2 seasons; 17 in previous 5 seasons combined— Tim MacLean (@MacLeanNBA) November 24, 2014
Between this year and last, Boston has an overall record of 10-19 in the eleventh month of the calendar year.
Luckily, the month of December is rapidly approaching and Stevens had his crew playing pretty good basketball in the month leading up to the New Year last season, going 6-6 in their 12 games.
This year, the Celtics will play a total of 15 December games, eight of which are against teams that failed to qualify for the 2013-14 postseason. Admittedly a much easier schedule, the teams that Boston will face have a combined record of 110-146, which roughly equates to a .430 win percentage.
There will be a few tests a long the way, though, including three meetings with the up-and-coming Washington Wizards, a Charlotte Hornets team that is much better than it’s current 4-11 record, a Miami Heat team that still has plenty of talent sans LeBron James, and finally a Sacramento Kings squad led by early-MVP candidate, DeMarcus Cousins.
This is the NBA. These are the best players on the planet that are all fighting for the same things at the end of the day: wins and championships. Every team is going to hit its rough patches and what I can guarantee you is that the other 29 franchises will absolutely not feel bad for you. But there is some comfort in knowing that the Celtics have played a lot of really quality opponents down to the wire, including close losses to the Dallas Mavericks, Toronto Raptors, Cleveland Cavaliers, Phoenix Suns, Memphis Grizzlies, and Portland TrailBlazers.
Boston lost all of those games by a combined 26 points. That’s not bad at all considering that each of those teams are arguably considered to be contenders in their respective conferences; some more than others, of course.
Bottom line: Stevens and the Celtics still have a lot of work to do before they are ready to contend for a playoff spot in the East and battling some of the league’s juggernauts in a four week stretch doesn’t make that process any easier. Perhaps a softer schedule is what this team needs to get everything figured out schematically and if they are able to pick up a good amount of wins then the extra confidence will be welcomed with open arms.
The bounce back opportunity is there for the taking, the question is, will the Celtics take advantage of it, or will they continue to form bad habits by playing down to the level of their competition?