BOSTON – Nor’easters typically don’t hit Boston before the start of winter, but a steady storm has blasted the Celtics throughout the entire month of November.
After plowing through the first two weeks of the season with a 6-2 mark, the C’s hit a snowbank, of which they’re still trying to dig out of having lost seven of their last 10.
Wednesday night marked the team’s latest slip-up, a 117-109 loss to the 5-14 New York Knicks at TD Garden. The Celtics (9-9) allowed New York to get out to a 26-point lead during the first half before crawling back to within 10, but the early deficit proved too much to overcome in the end.
Consistency was the main issue for the Celtics Wednesday night. They showed flashes of greatness, especially during a 40-point fourth-quarter effort, but lackluster stretches of play prevented them from maintaining a rhythm throughout.
Sound familiar? That’s because this has been the main storyline of Boston’s season so far. And it’s one that the players hope to change as soon as possible so that they can have a shot at a happy ending.
“We’ve got to try to turn this ship around and get it going in the right direction,” said Gordon Hayward, who logged 19 points, seven rebounds, three assists and two steals during the loss. “I don’t think it’s smart to get too down on ourselves, but we’ve got to improve.
“I think we have times, like in the first half there where we’re just – for whatever reason – we’re just not executing the game plan and we find ourselves down. We have 5-, 10-, 12-minute stretches where we just aren’t very good. And then we have other stretches where we look really, really good. We play the right way. We play Celtic Basketball, and we find a way to come back and we find ourselves in the basketball game. Coach has said it a lot about playing the whole game, playing 48 minutes.”
Brad Stevens, however, has not gotten a solid 48 out of this Celtics team yet.
“The reality is you have to grind it out, you have to work, and you have to be able to weather all this other stuff that’s going on with it,” said Stevens. “I heard (Sixers Head Coach) Brett Brown say this earlier in the year, and this is where coaches are sick, in a twisted way, because the losing eats you alive. But the storm is part of the job. And I’m looking forward to getting a chance to really dig in, and hopefully we can weather it.”
The Celtics must dig in in order to dig themselves out. And while it has not been an ideal start, this icy snowball to the face may be just the type of adversity that this team needs to encounter after heading into the season with such high expectations.
“Honestly, I never want to have to go through this,” said veteran big man Al Horford. “But, this is the time for it. It’s still early enough that we’re addressing it, and if we want to do anything, we need to be able to overcome this that we’re dealing with.”
This isn’t the first time Horford has dealt with adversity as a Celtic. During his first season in Boston, the team got off to a 13-12 start and faced brutal criticism from voices outside the locker room. But those players on that team put on their hard hats and went on to win 53 games to lead the Eastern Conference.
“I think that that year we really stayed the course,” said Horford. “We kept preparing, we kept doing the right things, and that was a team that was playing really hard, really committing, really doing the things we needed to do. And eventually, we kind of broke through.
“Right now,” continued Horford, “what’s concerning is the fact that focus and playing hard at that level is not there like it needs to be. That’s something that we’ve addressed, and we have to do it.”
Every striving team must face adversity at some point in order to grow. Last season’s team was also a great example of that, having pushed through so many key injuries only to make it to the Eastern Conference Finals.
This season’s version of the Celtics faced the opposite of adversity heading into the campaign, as many NBA pundits dubbed them the easy favorite to win the East. Their recent stretch of play, however, has brought the team down to Earth, and perhaps the criticism that they’re facing now is just what they need to motivate the moving forward.
“These are the times that I feel make teams stronger,” said Horford. “I feel like last year what made us stronger was the adversity that we faced with different injuries and things like that. So, I think that different situations make teams tougher, and right now, as much as I don’t like losing and going through this, I feel like this is what’s making us stronger as a unit.”
The stronger the Celtics become as a unit, the better their chances will be of weathering this nasty November Nor’easter.
BOSTON, MA – DECEMBER 10: Robert Williams #44 of the Boston Celtics defends Anthony …