Mar 26, 2011, 11:00 AM EDT
Ah, the early weeks of spring. Winters still lingers at the edge, nipping at heels. The NCAA tournament provides all sorts of drama. And the Celtics completely and totally stop giving a flying crap about their effort in regular season games.
It’s become a yearly tradition to see the powerhouse contender tail off their efforts, struggling to beat mediocre-to-terrible teams, not closing games effectively and generally showing the exact opposite kind of performance they’ve been giving for months. And unlike previous seasons, you can’t get sucked into believing this stretch has any sort of impact on the postseason. Don’t buy in. The Celtics are just trying to trick you with their laziness. They’ll be ready. But for now? It’s ugly.
First the Celtics suffered a close loss to an underrated Grizzlies team that really is worthy of a loss for the Celtics with the way they’ve been playing (consider last night’s three-point edging by the Bulls over the Grizzlies just more proof). But the way the Celtics lost is the problem. They coughed up the ball constantly, showing little or no intention of running the offense smoothly. But that loss was understandable, it happens. Then the Bobcats, who every season seem to sneak up on the guys in green, came to town, came back from a sizable deficit, and wound up holding off the Celtics as Boston missed two threes to tie on the final possession.
The Celtics are now two games back of Chicago for the top spot in the East, and only a half game above Miami. As for the fans? Well, they’re not taking this streak of subpar efforts super well:
I feel sorry for anyone who has tickets to the remaining regular season games. The Celtics have flat out quit. Thats the only explanation for the pitiful performance we witnessed tonight.
There are those two words again, “no urgency”. Celtics fans heard that enough last season to last a lifetime. And oh yeah, let’s not forget “bored with the regular season”, something Doc Rivers also alluded to after Friday night’s loss.
Old habits die hard.
If you think Rivers ripped into his team after the game, think again. The only message given to the players was the time of practice on Saturday – 12:30. He’ll let the rest sink in over night.
As for the rest of the season, that’s on the players. Rivers says that for things to change they have to be honest with themselves – he’s right. They certainly talk a good game, maybe the best in the league, but if they play the way they have the last two games it won’t matter what seed they get – they’re first round exits.
And if that happens, Danny Ainge will take no prisoners.
But it doesn’t have to end like that. It wasn’t built to. The Celtics need to get back to what brought them so much success.
Ultimately, it’s Ubuntu, and for the Celtics it’s time to practice what they preach.
Enough talking about it.
But the Celtics won’t correct this. Not for another eighteen days. They simply can’t be bothered to gear up for the regular season. But when the time comes for them to deliver the goods in the postseason, they’ll be ready. We can say that because they’ve always been ready before. Even the 2009 team gave a good effort and was simply overmatched without Garnett against a red-hot Orlando team. But then there’s last season and the remaining belief that the Celtics might have toppled L.A., even without Kendrick Perkins, had Game 7 been in L.A.. There was an emphasis on homecourt advantage this year for Boston. And instead they seem content to surrender it without much of a fight.
Anyone would trade a handful of meaningless late regular season games for championship intensity in the playoffs. But that won’t stop the frustration over what amounts to an inability to summon the effort to beat teams Boston is clearly capable of beating.
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