Every year I write some variation of an article centered around expectations vs results. This seems like a good enough time to bring it out again.
If you rewind to this time last year and explain to your former self all the things that happened in the last 12 months, your former self would either accept these results gleefully or have you arrested for identity theft.
Of course things change once a team has tasted success. The bar is raised. The goalposts are pushed back. There’s a target on your back. Pick your random sports cliché and it fits. The Celtics were in the NBA Finals just 2 wins away from a Championship. They started off the season on a historic pace.
The thing with historic stats and results is that they are hard to keep up for an entire season. That’s why they are historic. Now, before you come at my head for being too dismissive of the team’s struggles, I’ll be very clear. This team has stunk out loud lately. Any team losing 4 games out of 5 is ripe for justified criticism. Doing so with the talent that they have against the opponents that they’ve faced is inexcusable. I don’t mean to disrespect any specific team, they all have bright spots, but losing to several teams without winning records shouldn’t happen.
Blame it on tired legs if you want. Blame it on the rookie head coach if you like. Blame it on egos getting out of check. Blame lady luck. Shoot, you can blame it on the officials as part of a mass conspiracy to keep the Celtics down if that floats your boat. But the bottom line is that they have to get back to a winning formula quickly, or things could spiral out of control.
Perhaps this is hyperbole, but fortunes can shift quickly in the NBA. One minute the Celtics are sub-.500, the next they’re in the Finals. One minute the Hawks are making a run to the ECF’s and the next they’re just an average team with chemistry issues. One minute the Nets are an unfair juggernaut of offense and the next minute they are trading for Ben Simmons. Weird stuff happens and it spirals when the team is losing.
I think this is the part of the article where I channel my inner Brad Stevens. Just like we shouldn’t have gotten too high on the early season success (guilty), we need to keep the recent struggles in perspective as well. A 5 game sample size is not enough to make large proclamations about. The team shot well above their career averages practically across the board. Now they have all seemingly gone cold at the same time. Things will level out.
They definitely need to get back to the habits that put them in position to make all those shots. Like moving the ball and bending the defense multiple times in order to get wide open looks. Some of this might have a little to do with integrating Robert Williams back into the lineup, but he’s played pretty well for someone that’s missed that much time.
The ingredients are all there. They have the pieces that we know fit together because we saw it all work just a couple weeks ago. They just need to get back to doing what they do best. It is a long season and they’ve hit a rough patch. How they respond over this next stretch will say a lot about who they are as a team and what we can expect for the rest of the season.