It’s obvious, but it still needs to be said.
The C’s most current three-game losing streak not only encapsulates what’s been wrong with the championship hopefuls, but it also drops the Boston-based club to under .500, 20-21, for the first time since beginning the season 1-2. Beyond that, while they did lose the first of the three-game-set to the Utah Jazz, they followed it up by falling to non-playoff clubs in the 15-26 Cleveland Cavaliers, and last night to the 17-24 Sacramento Kings, 107-96, at home.
Of their 96 points against the Kings, no individual Celtic recorded 20. The team’s core four of Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Kemba Walker, and Marcus Smart shot a collective 23-for-61, or 37.7-percent. And the key microcosm of the Celtics experience was the lack of production they’ve collectively received from the rest of the team, though, as of late, that would exclude Robert ‘Time Lord’ Williams, who is averaging 11 points, nine rebounds, and about three blocks per game in his last nine appearances, all off the bench.
In the race for Eastern Conference supremacy, the Celtics are lagging way behind, with a post-COVID Tatum, a struggling Kemba, a lack of depth, and a big-ass $28 million trade exception. They’ll be clowned like all hell if the exception doesn’t get used by this deadline. This team has no one outside of their core four of guards/wings averaging at least 10 points per game. And because so much is on the main four guys on their roster, all of whom aren’t playing their best, the team is currently in the play-in instead of the playoffs.
With 31 games left in the season, the Celtics, and one of the lighter remaining schedules in the league, they’re about to embark on a four-game road trip, including two straight in Milwaukee to face the Bucks. With the possibility of a widening chasm between them and the East’s upper-echelon — namely, the Bucks, Brooklyn Nets, and Philadelphia 76ers — the pressure is on Boston to do something between now and March 25’s trade deadline, and potentially afterward on the buyout market.
Right now, are you really picking the Celtics in a playoff series against the Bucks, 76ers, or Nets? Would they be favored against the Miami Heat either? Are we sure they’d even effortlessly get by the Charlotte Hornets or New York Knicks with as inconsistent as they’ve been? No, no, and no.
And the Celtics haven’t just struggled on the interior either. They’re only 27th in assists per game, 22nd in defensive rating, 21st in pace, 20th in threes made, 19th in points per game, 17th in rebounding, and 13th in defense.
For once, almost won’t be good enough for Danny Ainge and the Celtics. And he knows they need to do something; he’s admitted it himself.
“It’s been a challenging year,” Ainge said via Boston.com. “We’ve struggled to close out games and we’ve struggled with consistency and you hear me talk a lot about resolve. It just seems like we don’t have a lot of characteristics of a really good team, for sure,” Ainge added. “We have some talented guys but our team right now is not playing as well as we had hoped.”
Whether it’s Andre Drummond, LaMarcus Aldridge, Steven Adams, Kristaps Porzingis, or somebody more unexpected, if there’s any chance to capitalize on their current window, a move has to be made, unless they pivot to a rebuild instead.