BOSTON — As recently as last week, all seemed right with the Boston Celtics.
This was Friday night here at TD Garden, the Celtics had defeated the Atlanta Hawks to pick up an eighth consecutive triumph, seemingly snapping them out of this malaise that lingered throughout the first quarter of the season.
But Saturday’s 113-104 loss in Detroit to the Pistons happened. That was only a precursor to Wednesday’s debacle, if the Celtics became the fourth straight victim to the somehow surging Phoenix Suns, losing 111-103 at a game which was a call back to everything that ailed Boston throughout its ugly October and November.
So rather than carrying a 10-game win series in to a challenging final stretch to 2018 — the subsequent seven matches Boston play will probably be against teams with records either above .500 — the Celtics will probably require the court Friday night from the Milwaukee Bucks indulged in some doubt about where they actually stand.
“It is similar to for several games that we’ve played, when we try, we’re at the game all of the time,”” Kyrie Irving said. “so when we really don’t, we’re definitely not. We [can not ] turn to the refs or anything else like that. For us as a expanding team and learning from each other, we have to continue to construct this cohesion.”
Boston (18-12) certainly did not have much cohesion from the Suns. The Celtics threw the ball round TD Garden with reckless abandon, committing 16 turnovers in a display coach Brad Stevens accurately defined as”quite sloppy” afterward. Meanwhile, the Phoenix — that has now won four matches in a row — looked a step faster during the evening.
Need less to say, with the Bucks, Sixers and the resurgent Rockets ontap within the next week, even better efforts will probably be required.
“They also played a good deal better than we did tonight.”
As the Celtics easily played their very best basketball of the season during this eight-game winning series, their struggles from the Pistons and Suns call in to question exactly how real that success actually was.
There is very little doubt Boston was playing somewhat greater than it was throughout its first struggles.
The coming program will offer a kind of test. And, to make things even worse, the Celtics may be made to browse it also dealing with significant injury problems.
Starting center Al Horford has missed the last five games because of patellar tendinitis in his left knee, and though Stevens said pre game Horford had done some on-court work, it did not seem as if his return was imminent. Meanwhile, his replacement in the starting five, Aron Baynes, is now out indefinitely after suffering a fractured fourth metacarpal in his left hand two minutes into Wednesday’s loss.
Without either of these — not to mention forward Marcus Morris, who sat out Wednesday due to knee soreness of their own and has been Boston’s second-best player this season behind Irving — the Celtics could have their hands full over the glass.
“It violates people’s soul, becoming offensive rebounds and receiving brand new possessions and converting off that,” Irving said.
At precisely the same time, you can find some signs for optimism. Assuming Morris doesn’t end up missing lengthy time such as Horford, Boston has seen a nice rhythm with Irving, Morris, Marcus Smart along with Jayson Tatum on a floor to begin matches. Gordon Hayward also continues to make improvements in his come back in the past year’s gruesome shoulder and leg injuries that ended his season six minutes in to the opener.
Even though Hayward’s overall line Wednesday night did not stick outside — he’d 10 things on 3-for-8 shooting with 4 rebounds, 5 assists, a steal and two blocks in 29 minutes — he did have seconds, like a pull up 3-pointer late in the first quarter and also a chase-down block on Kelly Oubre Jr. , that portend better days ahead.
Kyrie Irving bounces a pass backwards, between-his-legs to Jayson Tatum, who eases from the layup.
Even after their topsy-turvy beginning to this season, the Celtics end up in a perfectly fine location after their first 30 games. Despite being in fifth place in the Eastern Conference, they have been only three matches supporting the second-place Bucks going into Friday’s showdown at home, and so are 4½ matches back of this conference-leading Toronto Raptors.
That’s a position the Celtics earned for themselves over the last couple weeks by fattening upon the tender part of these program. Matters will become far harder.
“This is the NBA season. You just want to have great pockets of matches, you’ve got good consistent jog, after which you have a lapse.
“Now it’s [time and energy to ] build up it, continue to work each and every day to become quite a fantastic team. It’s a work in progress every day.”
Progress has come this season. The other day, it looked as though matters were excellent. After the last two games? Not too much.
The way a Celtics handle their next few matches will determine that of those viewpoints was the right one.