I knew something was up when I decided to go to bed at halftime of the Celtics-Wizards game Monday night. Choosing sleep over the Celtics is clearly a sign that we have hit the dog days of Winter. Normally they hit in early February and last through March, even when your team is winning.
This year they hit early.
Well, let’s reexamine our objectives.
Build chemistry among Big Three.
Find roles for other two starters, and build chemistry between them and Big Three.
Identify top bench players, define their role, give them consistent minutes.
Check (as of last 10 games).
Get off to good start.
Defend the home court.
Check (judging at the 29-3 marker).
Beat teams that have beat you.
Beat elite teams you play.
So what are we left with?
After starting 29-3, I’m sure everyone wearin’ da green took a quick look at the schedule and didn’t see any upcoming games against teams from Texas or Arizona and thus decided it might be time for a good hybernation.
Sure enough, the signs were there.
First the margin of victory went from over 12 to near zero. Out of the last eleven games, only one was a blowout win.
Second, instead of dominating games from the second or third quarter on, we started waiting until the proverbial “last five minutes of the game” to turn it on and pull out a W at the end.
Third, our offense got out of sync. Instead of playing like we have innumerable offensive weapons, we played like we were Minnesota Timberwolves East, which is to say we played like a team with KG on the roster and not much else.
Fourth, we quit rebounding (see earlier column on negative rebounding differential over the last 5 games). This was the real killer.
The season sweep of the Lakers was an emotional one for several reasons.
It was our first season sweep of the purple in recent memory, and our first meaningful Laker sweep since the January-February 1986 regular season contests. The Laker win also prevented Phil Jackson from eclipsing Celtics patriarch Red Auerbach’s win total. Additionally, the win represented the final game of a four-game West Coast sweep, a road trip that began with pundits questioning the Celtics record because they hadn’t traveled out West.
But the Cs couldn’t let down then. They still had payback on the agenda. They got that against the Pistons.
Oh, and by the way, the win over the Pistons left the Cs 5 games ahead of the next closest competition in the league as a whole.
Time to go on vacation.
It’s the NBA. Other than the All-Star break, there is no vacation.
Never mind. We’re going on vacation anyway.
And now we see what happens.
To be honest, I wasn’t that excited when we were 29-3.
As I said in an earlier post, this is not a 70-win team even in the watered-down NBA, and laboring under a delusion that we are that good doesn’t help the cause of improving the quality of play or the cause of improving the roster via acquisitions of one kind or another.
Nor am I too worried now that we've lost three of four. Wins and losses against Charlotte and Washington in January don’t determine titles in June. The team definitely has room to improve. But before any improvement can take place, they need to start playing with a sense of urgency again.
Otherwise, I guess we can all just start going to bed at halftime.