Fresh off NBA In-Season Tournament elimination, the Boston Celtics return to action, still as leaders of the Eastern Conference, opening up a five-game homestand Friday night against the New York Knicks.

In handling the disappointment of falling short against a team that took a near-historic beating just a few weeks prior on Nov. 1 — Boston defeated the Indiana Pacers, 155-104 — the season still moves on. However, that doesn’t diminish the learning lessons in place that became most evident during that quarterfinal round loss on Monday night.

At moments, the Celtics have been reduced to a nearly unrecognizable team through their re-appearing shortcomings on the floor. They, more than perhaps any other team in the East, understand the cost of those blemishes, therefore, having the remaining 75%-plus of the season left to play means plenty of time to clean it up.

Here are the three biggest challenges for the Celtics before hosting the Knicks, Cleveland Cavaliers and Orlando Magic at TD Garden:

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3.) Limit the self-inflicted damage as much as possible
There’s no way to avoid the piled-up damage from committing 18 turnovers through four quarters. Boston found that out the hard way against Indiana, quickly ending its tournament run.

Regardless of how talented the starting lineup is, no team will bow just based on talent. If the execution isn’t present, the Pacers’ of the league will attack nearly every time given the opportunity. That can’t be the norm for an NBA Finals contender. There needs to be an established sense of urgency to prevent the head-scratching losses that can — and in Boston’s recent seasons, have — establish bad habits that become difficult to shake off toward the end of the year and entering the playoffs.

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So, combating that and re-emphasizing those habits like making the right read, protecting possessions, guarding the perimeter and slowing down the offensive pace to find a highly efficient shot, all need to be exercised within Boston’s next five games.

“Overall, we just gotta tighten up in the little areas of our game. Execution, discipline, turn the ball over, defensive assignments. Things like that, just little stuff we need to tweak,” Celtics forward Sam Hauser told reporters at Wednesday’s practice, per CLNS Media video. “Once we do that, we’ll be good. … Getting better from mistakes. That’s all it is.”

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The Celtics lead the East in defensive rating (108.2), but in their last five games played, opponents have scored 110.8 points, dropping them to sixth. They’ve also been in the middle of the pact, ranking 17th in turnovers committed (14.2), but that average has jumped to 16.4 in that same stretch, dropping the C’s to 26th in the NBA.

2.) Fire back at the Magic with a loud reminder
Getting punked by Orlando while playing a pivotal In-Season Tournament game leaves Boston just one option: Hit them even harder.

The Celtics host the Magic for the final two games of the homestand, after allowing Orlando to snag a confidence booster at Boston’s expense. In the 113-96 loss to the Magic on Nov. 24, which threatened Boston’s chances of escaping Group C and seizing a quarterfinal spot, the Celtics shot just 24.9% on 29 3-point attempts. They also committed 15 turnovers, while allowing Orlando to score 25 points off those miscues, and produced just 40 points of interior offense to 60 from the Magic.

That alone explains the final score.

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Hidden within Orlando’s now-four-game winning streak over Boston, which dates back to last season, is the ongoing villainous origin story of Magic forward — and former Celtic — Moritz Wagner.

The 26-year-old, who got traded by the Celtics after a nine-game run three seasons ago, notched the fourth (of 12 total) 20-plus-point performance of his career against Boston, leading all scorers with 26 in the most recent matchup. Needless to say, that trend needs to end considering Wagner isn’t that caliber a player by any stretch.

Magic guard Cole Anthony recently attributed Orlando’s occasion-rising play when facing the Celtics to past comments made by ex-Boston guard Eddie House. Anthony claims House labeled the Magic a “trash” team and that comment stuck with them ever since.

Boston has back-to-back matchups to refuel House’s assessment.

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1.) Take ownership of the third quarter
There’s been no greater Celtics kryptonite thus far than showing up in the second-to-final frame.

Among all teams across the NBA, there is none weaker when it comes to putting points up on the board in the third quarter than Boston. The Celtics rank dead last in third-quarter scoring (25.3 points) and field goal percentage (42.2%), giving opponents a freebie entryway to taking the lead right from their hands.

Most recently, this proved to be the case against the Pacers. Indiana trailed Boston by seven points at halftime, yet after the Celtics shot just 8-of-20 and scored 23 points in the third quarter, the Pacers took an 11-point lead into the fourth. Handing over that momentum is a major killer, especially when there are just 12 minutes left for redemption.

If that’s the norm moving forward, Celtics president of basketball operations Brad Stevens is going to need to pick up the phone and make some calls because the offseason overhaul wasn’t enough.

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Ultimately, the goal is for that to not ring true come Banner 18 hunt time.

Featured image via Trevor Ruszkowski/USA TODAY Sports Images