The short answer is no, they still have the best record in the Eastern Conference and the 3rd best overall record at 28-10. There’s no denying the fact that recently they just haven’t looked like themselves, and a closer look at how they got there and you some chinks in the armor of the Celtics. After starting the season on top of the entire league, rattling off an impressive 16 straight wins at one point, they are just 5-5 in their last 10 games. Granted, the .500 mark used to all but guarantee a playoff spot in the oh so “weak” East, but so far this year that mark has been raised to the top 8 teams all having winning records. At this rate, Boston could see their position in the conference begin to fall. So what exactly happened to this team that made them take this sudden turn downward? A few things.
In the last 10 games:
- Al Horford and Kyrie Irving have both missed 1 game each. This might not seem like much, but those missed games came in consecutive matches. The first without Kyrie and the next without Al. Any way you slice it, not having your All-Star veterans together in back to back games takes a toll on team chemistry.
- Marcus Morris has played just one game, Christmas day. That was also the 10th game during this stretch. Morris has provided valuable contribution on both ends of the floor for Boston since becoming their starting power forward, but his season so far has been marred by injury missing 19 of the total 37 games played.
The latest news is that Boston will not have Jaylen Brown for their next game in Charlotte. Nobody knows but Jaylen wether or not he’ll miss more than one game, the report that he strained ligaments in his knee is worrying enough as he is an integral part of the Celtics’ team on both ends of the floor.
Up to this point in the season, the Celtics have played a league high 37 games. Most teams are in the 32-34 game range with a handful playing 35 and just one, the Phoenix Suns, having played 36. This hasn’t been a secret, either. The Celtics’ “brutal” schedule has been discussed in length by the media and even Coach Brad Stevens. By February, the team will be halfway through it’s schedule. Ahead of their showdown against the Sixers across the pond at the O2 in London, the Celtics will finally be given a rest of 4 days before 4 days after that cross Atlantic trip. Phew. Sounds good, but one has to wonder if the effects of traveling and subsequently not playing will lead to rust. All in all, it’s an understatement to say Boston’s schedule has been unkind.
For a team that only retained 3 players from last season, you’ve got to tip your hat to Brad Stevens for getting this many wins out of his team. How long can it last while missing one of their biggest pieces in Gordon Hayward? Hard to tell. Sure, they’ve been fine without him so far. But there is a glaring hole in their roster that was once filled with an elite talent. A talent that this young Celtics team got acclimated with all throughout training camp and preseason (albeit a shortened one). For the team to have all of that momentum pulled right from under them in the first few minutes of their season is a massive hit to their chemistry both on and off of the court.
What the Celtics have done so far shouldn’t be understated, they’ve accomplished a great deal thus far into the season. On the other hand, their recent struggles shouldn’t be overlooked nor dismissed without taking all of these factors into consideration. It won’t get easier for Boston much sooner, either. Before traveling to London, they’ll have to host the league’s best in the Houston Rockets, followed by the surging Cavaliers. Two games that will be both physically and emotionally draining for obvious reasons. There’s even been some trade talk recently, which could further screw with all the good things the Celtics have had going thus far. One thing is for certain, make or break, these combined factors will provide invaluable experience to a youthful group for seasons to come. Given that they’ve managed to win half of their recent games, my bet is they’ll come out stronger than they were before.