Then, something — or some things — happened.
There were trades, there were injuries, there were slumps. With them came truly puzzling losses to teams like the Clippers, Sixers and Nets.
Of course, this is the same Celtics team that followed up its opening night victory over the Heat with a stinker in Cleveland, so the recent losses aren't unprecedented. Still, this is the time of the year when you'd like to see the team operating at full speed, looking like a world-beating juggernaut. Instead, the Celtics are just looking average.
The reasons are many, but what's been the biggest cause for the C's 4-3 record in March?
The first thought on many fans' minds is likely injuries. Shaquille O'Neal hasn't played since Jan. 30, and, aside from popping up at hospitals and children's museums, nobody really knows what he's doing. Jermaine O'Neal might be a lost cause at this point, Delonte West is experiencing injuries at an almost absurd rate, Rajon Rondo's battling through plantar fasciitis and the rest of the veteran team is dealing with the normal fatigue that the grind of an 82-game season can bring.
Separating the injuries for a second, the absence of Shaq might be a big enough reason of its own. Prior to his 39th birthday, Shaq was flying with high efficiency in the paint. With Kendrick Perkins no longer around to carry the load, Shaq's absence has become an even bigger problem. Nenad Krstic has been a good player, but he's not the guy the Celtics want to rely on for big minutes in the playoffs.
Also tied to the injuries but separate in its own right is Rondo's play. He leads the league with 11.7 assists per game, but he's been held to single-digit assist numbers for five straight games. That simply doesn't happen to Rondo, and it's no surprise that the team is 2-3 in that stretch. Add in his 34 percent field-goal percentage and just two total free-throw attempts in that period, and Rondo's clearly having a rough go of it lately.
Another possibility is the overwhelming number of new faces. With Krstic, Jeff Green, Carlos Arroyo, Troy Murphy and Sasha Pavlocic joining the team so late in the season, there are bound to be some growing pains. Krstic and Green have had some offensive outbursts, but none of the new guys has shown a complete understanding of the Celtics' system. That, of course, takes time.
Lastly, there is the idea that the Celtics, being a team of veterans, may simply not care too much about the outcome of games in March. The team's goal is to be on top in June, and this may just be a lull.
Why are the Celtics losing? Share your thoughts below.
Monday, March 14: Which current player on Celtics' roster had the best college career?
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