The Boston Celtics are in the middle of one of their worst stretches of the season. The timing of the Jae Crowder injury could not have been worse as his absence has left them incapable of keeping up with two of the best teams in the league in their last two match ups. The Celtics have now lost 4 straight games and they are plummeting down the all too tight eastern conference standings. The good news is that the Celtics have been here before. They have gone through multiple tough stretches this season and they have bounced back every time.
In fact, the Celtics’ best stretch of the season came immediately after their last four game losing streak, and those four games were lost to much worse competition than this last stretch. The timing is the most troubling aspect of this stretch because they are running out of time in the season to make up for it. Things will have to get much worse for them to miss the playoffs but their chances of home court advantage will be dwindling.
The Celtics have the perfect opponent to end this losing streak as they will be facing off against the Philadelphia 76ers in the next matchup. Two of their next three games will also be against sub par opponents but they have too many tough games remaining on the schedule to accept only beating the teams below them. The Celtics need to find a way to win games without Crowder or they may put themselves in a deep enough of a hole that they may not be able to avoid the Raptors or the Cavaliers in the first round of the playoffs.
Boston has been a streaky team all year long but they have established a mentality that feeds off the adversity. The Celtics have been playing with a chip on their shoulder all year long and they once again need to elevate their play in order to shut down doubters. The Celtics have a tough schedule to close out the season and things could get much worse if they do not bounce back from this streak, something they have done time and time again this season.
The first time the Celtics went on a similar slide this season, it was just after the first game of the season. The Celtics followed up a victory against the 76ers with three straight loses to the Raptors, the Pacers and the Spurs. The Celtics managed to put that disastrous start behind them and got right back on track. They proceeded to win 5 of their next 6 games, fully putting that three game losing streak behind them.
The Celtics managed to play relatively consistently for an extended period of time before they faced another deadly three game stretch, and once again lost all three of them. This time it was the Cavaliers, the Pistons and the Hawks. The Celtics were on the brink of falling back to .500 but they bounced back in a great way. The Celtics followed up those three loses in a row with four straight victories.
Then came the only other four game losing streak of the Celtics’ season. As the All Star game was approaching, the Celtics dropped four straight to the Pistons, the Bulls, the Grizzlies and the Knicks. The Celtics once again hit the .500 mark at 19-19 and they were in arguably the worst position they have been since the first three game losing streak of the season. The Celtics were hitting rock bottom and the response is what has come to define this Celtics team.
The Celtics put that four game losing streak behind them with their longest stretch of consistent basketball for the year. The Celtics climbed up the eastern conference rankings and held on to the three seed with a record of 20-7 in their next 27 games. The Celtics responded to their first four game losing streak by elevating their level of play to a point where they were finally getting the respect they felt they deserved in the East. That great run also included their phenomenal home game winning streak and their level of play had them on track to claim the three seed in the east.
Then came the Jae Crowder injury and one of the toughest stretches in their schedule has them right back where they were before that 20-7 stretch, losing four straight games. This has been a disastrous stretch for the Celtics but this has arguably been the hardest level of competition out of all of their losing streaks and if what they have done this season is any indication, they should be ready to go close out the season on a high note.
Unfortunately, bouncing back this time will be even harder as Crowder is still going to be missing but the Celtics have now had more time to adjust their rotation and they should have no problem putting this losing streak behind them with their next opponent being the 76ers.
The Celtics have bounced back multiple times this year but this becomes the most important potential bounce back. The Celtics still have a great opportunity to get home court advantage but with the results they have been getting with Crowder out, simply making the playoffs is appearing to be a bigger issue than home court advantage.
The Celtics have embraced adversity all season long and this season has long been about proving their doubters wrong. The final 13 games of the season are going to be the most important for the Celtics but if they stay true to what they have been doing following losing streaks throughout this season, they should be entering the playoffs on a hot streak.