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Boston Celtics Have Plenty to Learn and Be Optimistic About Following Two Losses to Old Friends

December 12th, 2013 at 11:51 AM
By Sean Melia

The two losses the Boston Celtics experienced on Tuesday and Wednesday night, against more talented teams, is exactly how most people drew up the season for this team. Everyone thought they will compete, they will play hard, but when push comes to shove late in the game it will be hard for them to close out games or to erase deficits. 

'Taken at the Knicks-Celtics Game on 12/25/11' photo (c) 2011, kowarski - license:

On Tuesday, the Celtics battled the entire game but could never get to closer than five points, even though the Brooklyn Nets did not seem completely interested in winning the game. The Celtics could not manage to score consistently, and could not get into their offense.

Wednesday night against Doc Rivers and the Clippers the story was a little bit different. This story ended with Jamaal Crawford hitting two open threes (one following a turnover and some horrific Celtics transition defense) to seal the game. However, the Celtics opened the fourth quarter trailing by two points and even held the Clippers scoreless for a three minute stretch early in the quarter. The problem, just like against the Nets, is the Celtics also failed to score over that same period of time. 

Jordan Crawford took a lot of shots this game, the most of the season in fact. He made seven of his 17 shots, however, the image of Jeff Green standing at the free throw line waving his hand like a mini-golf windmill imploring Crawford to move the ball, represented the Celtics' struggles when the going gets tough against good teams. 

Too many times (and we wrote about this yesterday following the Nets game), Crawford takes the ball down the floor and it takes a little to long to get the offense going. The pick and roll starts too high, or Crawford will dribble the clock down and take a rushed shot.

We all know the wonderful progress that Crawford made, and this is not meant to demean what he's done to this point. The Celtics had the same issue against the New York Knicks in the playoffs: crunch time came and Avery Bradley could not handle the extended pressure.

This goes to show Rondo's value to this team and also to any team without a true point guard. The uplifting part about this problem is that the Celtics are competing with talented teams. The Nets are not playing well, but they are full of talent. The Clippers are one of the best teams in the West. Losing both those games should not be shameful; however, it did expose the weakness, once again, of having a true ball handler on the floor. Maybe Phil Pressey needs to be thrown into the fire to get him some reps in that situation also.

Expectations have shifted, many fans are starting to digest the fact that this team has a ton of assets. Winning the Atlantic Division and getting into the playoffs might not hamper this team's ability to rebuild. The three best players on this team are players Danny Ainge drafted in the 20's in the draft: Rajon Rondo, Avery Bradley, and Jared Sullinger. He also landed Jordan Crawford, another late first rounder for Leondro Barbosa. Danny is good at doing exactly what he might have to do. Draft wisely, trade wiselty, and pray for some good luck. 

If you're hoping for a "tankless rebuild" then the past two nights should offer some solace that this team can compete, especially once Rondo returns and handles the ball when it counts. 

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Tags: Basketball, Boston, Boston Celtics, NBA

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