Last season, the Celtics rattled off 11 wins in a row, a streak that was halted on Dec. 14 in a loss to the 76ers. In that game, the C's only managed 21 points in the fourth quarter, as the Sixers put them away late.
Flash forward 376 days. The Celtics, riding a 14-game win streak, went into Orlando for a Christmas day rematch of last year's Eastern Conference Finals and blew a late lead, by only scoring a measly 15 points.
The Celtics get their first chance to bounce back on Tuesday night when they head to Indiana to take on the Pacers. Starting there, the Celtics will hopefully try to prove that Christmas day was an aberration, not the development of another ugly trend.
That's what happened last year following that Dec. 11 loss. Counting that loss to Philadelphia, the Celtics went 7-9 in their next 16 games. In those seven losses, the C's mustered only an average of 21 points in the game's final stanza.
That ugly 7-9 stretch pretty much set the tone for the rest of the season for the Celtics. Sure, they were doing what they could to rest up for the playoffs, something that's certainly understandable. And insinuating that one poor fourth quarter against the Magic over the weekend will start another poor stretch for the team is reckless — especially when you consider the deck they're playing with right now, injuries and everything considered.
But for a team that has the same exact record at this point that it did last season, it's certainly something to keep an eye on.
As the Celtics approach the midway point of the season, it's also important to note that this could be the point of the season where a team with this much talent gets disinterested, bored even. They know they're a team built for the playoffs, and because of that, they start to take games off, something that is most noticeable down the stretch of games.
When you start to get careless and forget to close out games, though, that's when you start losing. And while it may not seem like much in December, those are the type of games that cost you home-court advantage in the playoffs.
The Celtics, who only had home-court advantage once in four series in last year's playoffs, got by — all the way to Game 7 of the NBA Finals, when it may have finally caught up to them. And it caught up in them in the form of a fourth-quarter collapse in L.A. against the Lakers.
The C's get the Pacers on Tuesday night. It's a game Boston should win. If they play a full four quarters of quality basketball, they'll do so, likely with ease. A sense of urgency now, especially late in the game, could pay dividends for the Celtics later on.