Remember when the Celtics were in first place in the Atlantic and staring at a 4 seed? Remember when they were going to be "too good" when Rondo returned? Yeah, not so much.
The Celtics picked up a few wins against the worst teams in the league early in February but this recent West coast trip was one big oh-fer. The losses are piling up and there are some silver linings to be taken for fans (Olynyk seems to have taken a step forward, Green has had some good games, Rondo looks pretty good when he plays) the guys on the team are rightly frustrated with the results.
"It's disappointing, it's very disappointing, frustrating," Boston's Rajon Rondo told reporters following Monday's loss in which he had 18 points and 10 assists. Celtics forward Jeff Green, who had his third straight game of 20-plus points, echoed similar sentiments. "We want to win. End of story," said Green who had 21 points against the Jazz. "To come out these four games and not get one, it's not fun but we gotta continue to try and get better and move forward."
Note: It is bad when Gerald Wallace isn't even bothering with scathing quotes on team effort anymore.
The thing is, it doesn't get any easier for them. There won't be a lot of games coming up where they'll be favored.
The Celtics go against playoff teams in 13 of the next 17 contests. Much like the Lakers, this team is teetering on the edge of a full-on tank the rest of the season. Some of that will be due to circumstance with the roster and some of that will be schedule based. Really, the Celtics should just be worried about getting Rondo right the rest of the season. The big key is getting him strong enough to finish around the basket, which he's not doing. He's made just 43.8 percent of his shots in the restricted area and 11.8 percent in the paint (outside of the restricted area). Compare that to the 57.4 percent and 41.4 percent he made, respectively, last season and he's got some more healing to do.
That's an interesting observation on Rondo. I'm sure there's some knee related (or perhaps even comfort and conditioning related) issues that are keeping him from functioning at 100%. Which is why I'm glad that the team is taking it slow and cautious with him. Same goes with Sullinger and his head. The losing stinks but at some point you have to accept that the playoffs aren't in the cards and focus on using the rest of the season as an extended development opportunity for the younger players.
Here's a quick look at the team's schedule coming up. The team has a chance to take a win from the struggling Hawks in Boston. Otherwise, this losing streak could stretch on for a bit.
Next 5 Games
|7:30 PM EST
|8:00 PM EST
|7:30 PM EST
|7:30 PM EST
|6:00 PM EDT
Last 5 Games
|L 98 - 110
|L 98 - 105
|@ Los Angeles Lakers
|L 92 - 101
|L 94 - 100
|L 92 - 104
So where does all this put us in the standings? Right now the Celtics own the 4th worst record, but there's not a lot of separation between them and several other teams in the basement.
The question over Boston's final 24 games becomes, where will the team finish among the lottery-bound teams? There's a cluster of five squads -- Celtics, Lakers, Jazz, Knicks, and Kings -- all within 2 ½ games of each other. Boston was ahead of two of those teams (Lakers, Kings) coming out of the All-Star break, but head-to-head losses saw the Celtics drop a couple spots on the ladder.
The Bucks and Sixers are running away with the worst 2 records in the league. There's a good chance that the Celtics could land anywhere in that 3 to 7 range. The last month of the season should be ....interesting across the league.