Danny Ainge Explains Celtics’ Biggest Problem Amid Disappointing Season

A lack of consistency has killed Boston

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The Boston Celtics have been stuck in neutral for most of the season.

For every positive, there’s been a negative. For every step forward, there’s been a step backward. And for every win, there’s been a loss.

The Celtics, with a record that’s been hovering right around .500, entered Thursday’s NBA trade deadline with the look of a fringe playoff team rather than a legitimate NBA Finals contender.

“Consistency,” Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge said Friday when asked during a video conference what Boston’s biggest problem has been. “I feel like since the beginning of the season, it’s been a challenge for us, for whatever reason. I won’t make any excuses, but I feel like all year long, I have seen a lot of good things on the court. I think that I generally focus more on the positives than the negatives, just by my nature, and I’ve seen so many good things in so many games this year, and yet there are moments and quarters that have just been a disaster and just far below what we’re capable of doing.

“So I don’t know all the answers. But I feel like pretty much most games, I feel that for 30 or 32 minutes of the game we play really, really well and do a lot of good things, and I don’t know why we’re not able to sustain it.”

The Celtics enter Friday night’s game against the Milwaukee Bucks having lost five of their last six, dropping Boston to eighth in the Eastern Conference standings with a 21-23 record.

The C’s were busy Thursday, most notably acquiring guard Evan Fournier from the Orlando Magic and trading center Daniel Theis to the Chicago Bulls. While it remains to be seen whether the roster shuffle will spark a turnaround, it was clear Boston needed to do something to disrupt the status quo.

“Sometimes, it’s we get behind and then our great play comes when we’re making comebacks. Sometimes, we get a big lead in the first half and we can’t sustain it going into the fourth quarter,” Ainge said. “So it’s been an interesting year. I don’t have all the answers. I’m asking those same questions myself. Obviously, defensive intensity has been a staple of this team over the good positive runs over the last handful of years. And that hasn’t been there. Our defensive consistency just hasn’t been there. We’ve had good stretches — good 10-game stretches, good 15-game stretches — but our defense has been subpar.”

The Celtics, who have been to the conference finals in three of the past four seasons, had championship aspirations when the current campaign began. Three months later, they’re still trying to find another gear.

Boston Celtics center Tristan Thompson (13) and forward Semi Ojeleye
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