What's going on with the Celtics?
The Celtics are old. They are hobbled. They can't hold leads in crunch time against the good teams. They might (gulp) not make it to the NBA Finals.
On Sunday at home against the Lakers, the Celtics blew an 11-point fourth-quarter lead and succumbed, 90-89, in a nationally televised game.
They committed five turnovers and made only two baskets in the final nine and a half minutes. This came three days after Boston blew a 16-point lead in Orlando. In between those debacles, the Celtics were beaten by the Atlanta Hawks for the fourth straight time this season.
The Celtics are old. They are On Golden Pond in the NBA. They are the Dream Team of the AARP. They are a team of
In the summer of 2007, Boston GM
The natural order of the NBA universe was supposed to be restored when Garnett came back this year, but the Celts have never been 100 percent healthy.
Other old guys (
And now the Celtics can't put anybody away. Sunday's stunning loss at the Garden gave the Celtics a 6-8 record in January. It's the first losing month in the three-year history of the new Big Three. They can't finish. They have blown double-digit leads four times in their last seven games.
Sunday's joust with the Lakers made me long for another Boston-Los Angeles Final. Boston's
Winning the title this spring is crucial for Boston. When Garnett and Allen came on board, we figured this was going to be a three-year window for championship opportunity and the expiration date is nearing. Allen's contract is up at the end of the season. Garnett is only 33, but has been playing in the league since 1995, which makes him 43 in basketball years. He's already played more seasons than
All of that said, there were signs of encouragement Sunday. The Celtics came back from a 13-point first-quarter deficit. In a galaxy of stars, Rondo looked like the best player on the court. Gasol was completely neutralized and
It would be a mistake to dismiss the Celtics on the basis of the horrid January and the three straight losses. Daniels is almost ready to come back. He can guard enemy scorers and his presence will give Allen, Garnett and Pierce a little more rest down the stretch.
Ainge is a patient man. He's not likely to make a deal.
The playoffs cannot start soon enough for this aging band of basketball brothers. Sunday's game was like a playoff game. But the Boston legs look old.
On the wall of my home office I have a copy of the
The headline on that SI cover reads "Boston's Old Guard/The Last Stand.'' That's what this feels like.
Boston's Old Guard.
The Last Stand.