Before the season began, the talk surrounding the Celtics was whether they could coast through the regular season, earn a first-round home playoff series and conserve their energy for a grueling playoff run.
Now, just avoiding the draft lottery would be an accomplishment.
The Celtics entered Monday with a 4-7 record, a game behind the Cleveland Cavaliers — yes, the Cavs — for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. In a relatively light January schedule compared to the insanity that ensues later in the season, the Celtics were expected to bolster their record with 11 of 16 games at home and only three back-to-backs.
The Celtics instead have stumbled, losing three straight at home, and championship contender Oklahoma City visits Monday night. Participating in the postseason looks less and less likely with every Boston loss.
There is still time to get things right. Kevin Garnett showed signs of getting his jumper back in the last two games and Paul Pierce is just rounding into form after missing training camp with a bruised right heel. Ray Allen is shooting better than ever and Rajon Rondo hit the ground running to open the season.
This group of players has pulled off the impossible before. The question is whether they have any magic left.