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"Sickening" effort costs the Celtics some ground in playoff race

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Welp. That wasn't ideal.

Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Everything was set up beautifully last night.  They were facing a team that was just ahead of them in the standings.  An undermanned team that was without Dwyane Wade, Hassan Whiteside, and Chris Andersen.  All they had to do was win the game and they'd be tied for 7th place. Then the game happened.

'Sickening' effort by Boston Celtics in playoff quest - ESPN Boston

"Sickening. Sickening, man," Crowder said. "That loss hurts. I don't know what to say about it. We didn't show up. He added: "Playing at home, playing for something in front of our home crowd, we don't show up for three quarters. I don't understand it."

That pretty much sums it up.  It was a poorly executed and poorly efforted game through 3 quarters.  But how can a team with so much to gain show up and not be ready to go?

‘Lack of effort’ unacceptable | Boston Herald

"I don’t understand it. We’ve just got to know what’s at stake as a unit. Each game right now, we’re playing for something. I mean, if that don’t motivate you to come out and be prepared and be ready to go, I don’t know what will fire you (up) to do that. We’re playing for something; that’s all I’ve got to say. If you love this game and you love to play for something, you’ll step up and be ready to play."

The only thing I can think of is youth.  With the other team's stars injured, the Celtics must have figured they had an easy win ahead of them and started the game mentally unprepared.  Of course, that's a poor excuse because the coach was reminding them before the game that the Heat still had some good players and a Championship winning coach on the other bench.  For whatever reason, the words didn't sink in.

It is only fair to give them credit for the wild comeback attempt in the 4th quarter.  However, when you dig yourself a 20 point hole, you eventually just run out of time to complete the turnaround.  It also goes to prove that if they had the right focus in the first 3 quarters they could have won this game.

The worry here is that this is a microcosm of the season.  Not that they didn't try early on.  For the most part the effort was there.  The wins, however, were hard to come by and they put themselves squarely in the lottery range for much of the year.  Then they started winning at an impressive rate and forced their way into the playoff discussion.  But will they have enough steam left to finish this sprint at the end of the marathon?  Or will April be our Heartbreak Hill?

Now we are forced to watch the scoreboard, learn tiebreaker rules, and hope for the best.  In the East anything is possible, but it would be a lot easier if the Celtics were winning more often.