Last night, in front of a raucous, sell-out crowd at the TD BankNorth Garden, the Celtics blew a 14-point fourth quarter lead to the Washington Wizards, and in the process lost their second consecutive game, and third out of their last four. The loss gave the Celtics their first losing streak of the season, and has put the Celtics into what could easily be called their first snafu of the 2007-08 season.
The losses have been troubling for Celtics fans, as the Celtics offense has been truly offensive. The Celtics scored only six points in the last 6:21 of the game, and most specifically, Ray Allen, one of the deadliest shooters from downtown in the NBA this season, went only 2-for-7 from three-point range.
While most outsiders would look at a fan complaining about a team “falling” to 30-6 on the season as someone just looking for trouble. However, the Celtics need to right the ship, and fast. Tomorrow night, the 23-14 Portland Trail Blazers travel eastward to Boston, only three games out of the top spot in the Western Conference. The Blazers have completely turned themselves around from 2006-07. Last year, the Blazers finished 32-50 and, by the luck of the draw, snatched the first overall pick in the 2007 NBA Draft Lottery. With that pick, they selected Ohio State’s Greg Oden, touted as the next Patrick Ewing or Bill Russell, for his defensive prowess and his ability to attack the basket with wreckless intent. However, in a scene eerily reminiscent of the Sam Bowie selection in 1984, Oden injured his knee in training camp, requiring season-ending surgery. All looked lost for the Blazers going into the 07-08 season, yet behind a mix of talented youth (LaMarcus Aldridge, Channing Frye, Jarrett Jack, Brandon Roy and Martell Webster) and seasoned vets (Raef LaFrentz, Travis Outlaw and Joel Przybilla), the team was able to turn it around and make themselves a bonafide threat in the already powerful Western Conference.
Adding to the Celtics problems is an injury to starting point guard Rajon Rondo. Rondo’s sore right hamstring has him at “An iffy 50-50 shot” for tomorrow night’s game. Without Rondo, the Celtics will look to backup point guard Eddie House and a mix of swingmen Tony Allen and James Posey to fill the hole that Rondo will potentially leave. Rondo, while a terrible shooter, is a great on-court leader. He’s doing exactly what the Celtics needed him to do: distribute the ball to Garnett, Pierce and Allen, and take shots only when necessary. He’s not an All-Star by any means, but he has been much more than any Celtics fan could’ve asked for entering the season.
The Celtics current funk could be a mix of age and inexperience showing. The Celtics current roster has 7 players with more than five years of NBA experience and also has five players with less than 2 years of NBA experience. Also, this team is in its first true season together, so they are experiencing the first growing pains and learning problems as a team. Coach Doc Rivers needs to bring the team together and have them work as a cohesive unit, or else the Celtics will continue to slump.
Tomorrow night at 7:00 might not have ramifications come postseason play, but for the Celtics, its the closest to a must-win situation as they’ve come all season.