It's Now or Never for the Boston Celtics


After another frustrating loss, the Boston Celtics embark on a four-game West Coast trip that could define their season.  A pathetic first half effort against the Houston Rockets on Sunday put the Celtics in a 28-point hole.  A spirited second half saw them trim that deficit to single digits, only to run out of steam and and lose for the 7th time in their last 10 games.  Did they find something to build on?

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The way the team played in those final 24 minutes shows you their capability, and gives you hope; but it makes you wonder why they can't seem to do that for a full 48 minutes.  This team has struggled to battle through adversity all season long.  When things start to go wrong on the court, they seem to abandon what makes them so great.  Instead of working together, and sharing the basketball, they isolate.  Guys try to play too much one-on-one and things snowball.

That's how they find themselves in situations like Sunday.  A 6-0 run turns into 12-0.  The deficits balloon as the frustration boils over and impacts their commitment to defense.  They've talked about sticking together all season long, but have not consistently practiced what they have preached.  The time for talking is over, it's time for action; and they have the perfect opportunity to do so.

Shop for official Boston Celtics team gear and authentic collectibles at NBAStore.comBoston will spend the next week on the West Coast.  There's nothing for this team to do except play basketball, and spend time together.  Road trips are the perfect opportunity to strengthen relationships, build chemistry and put the focus back on basketball.  For the most part, the players are away from their friends and family.  They have nobody but each other.

It's not a talent issue with this team, they have plenty of it.  I'm not so sure it's simply a chemistry thing either.  This team didn't have chemistry issues last season, and the roster is virtually the same.  Sure, the team went on an impressive playoff run without Kyrie Irving or Gordon Hayward, but they were also 41-19 in 60 games with Kyrie healthy last year.  The one major difference with this roster is the return of Hayward, who has understandably had his ups and downs.

As many - including themselves - have pointed out, it's a matter of sticking together when things go sideways.  I think that's different from chemistry.  Things were different last year.  After the injury to Hayward, expectations dropped significantly.  When Irving was shut down in March, expectations disappeared completely.  So, the team played freely, almost as if they were underdogs.  When things went wrong, they continued to play free, stayed committed, and were able to erase some pretty large deficits.

That's part of what fueled the expectations coming into this year.  Now, it seems as if those expectations and pre-season pressure may be weighing on this team.  They aren't responding to adversity as well as they did last year, but luckily, there is still time.

If the desire to improve their play, and change the narrative surrounding them, isn't enough motivation, their upcoming opponents certainly should be.  The 4-game trip begins with a showdown against the Golden State Warriors; enough said.  The next night, an up and coming Sacramento Kings team battling for the final playoff spot in the West.

While the two toughest opponents come in the first two games of this trip, there should be no lack of motivation for the final two games.  The Celtics will finish out the trip in Los Angeles seeking revenge against both the Lakers and the Clippers, each of whom delivered Boston an embarrassing home loss just a couple of weeks ago.

With 18 games remaining, the Celtics sit 2 1/2 games out of a top 4 seed and home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs.  Ultimately, the results on this trip are important.  A perfect 4-0 or 3-1 record on this trip is desirable.  However, the way they play is most important.  I want to see this team start playing for one another, the way they did last year.

Follow Derek on Twitter @mcvay34, and Boston Sports Syndicate @BostonSportsSyn.

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Boston Sports Syndicate: It's Now or Never for the Boston Celtics
It's Now or Never for the Boston Celtics
Boston Sports Syndicate
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