The Boston Celtics are currently 19-15, putting them in a position where they can battle for the Atlantic Division and a spot in the Eastern Conference playoffs. The team shows improvement on a regular basis and are on track to finish above .500 for the first time since the 2012-2013 season. One would think that all is good down on Causeway Street, but there is one major problem that is dogging this team and preventing from taking the next step up to top-four in the conference- CONSISTENCY. Boston has faced one of the tougher schedules in the league over the first third of the season, but they've also faced their fair share of awful teams, and unfortunately they haven't been able to take advantage of it.
Boston is in a dogfight to make the playoffs this season because the East is much better than expected. Because of this, Boston needs to win as many games as they can against .500 and sub-.500 teams; good teams win these games, separate from the pack and tend to win 50 games or more in the process. The Celtics are 4-11 against teams with a combined record of 133-142; that's simply not good enough. Losing games to Indiana (0-2 vs. Pacers) and Atlanta (1-2 vs. Hawks) hurts a lot because those are the teams they are battling for playoff seeding. Losing two games to the Nets (10-24) and one to the Lakers (8-27) is simply unacceptable, especially when you consider that Boston has two reasons to beat the Nets- seeding and the lottery pick the Celtics are receiving from the Nets this year.
Losses to San Antonio, Cleveland, Golden State, and the upper echelon teams are acceptable because Boston just isn't at that level yet, but to lose to teams like Orlando by almost 20 just can't happen if the Celtics want to win their division and take the next step in their development. The strangest part of this inconsistency versus bad/average teams is that Brad Stevens does an excellent job getting this team focused, especially on the second night of back-to-back games. Boston is HISTORICALLY good in these situations, but they go into Detroit and give up 119 points when they're well rested? It makes no sense whatsoever. Brad Stevens can only do so much though, and at this point, this team needs to realize that every game is huge and they can NEVER coast, regardless of who they're playing.
There are six games that stand out- two losses to Brooklyn, one to Los Angeles, one to Orlando, one of the two losses to Indiana, and one of the two losses to the Hawks; if these games were wins (which they should have been), Boston would be 25-9, placing them first in the Atlantic and ahead of the Cavaliers for the top spot in the Eastern Conference. The Celtics have proven that they can beat teams like Chicago, Miami, and New Orleans, and if they can beat those teams and take the Golden State Warriors to double overtime, there are no excuses when they lose to horrible teams like the Lakers or Nets. At this point in the Celtics development, it isn't about physical talent, it's about staying focused and winning the mental game. If that happens, Boston should ascend to a 50-win team and become an Eastern Conference power in the second half of the year.
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