The Celtics were embarrassed last season by the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference playoffs, and few believed they’d be a competitor for the conference title this season.
However, even the most vehement Boston adversary could not have predicted what has happened to the team thus far in 2012.
Veteran teams like the Celtics were predicted to benefit from the lockout. The extended period of rest would give players such as Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce an opportunity to refresh their aging bodies.
Instead of coming out of the gates flying, the Celtics showed their age especially in the early portion of the season.
Paul Pierce missed numerous games in the early going and admitted to not being in basketball shape to start the season. Pierce has picked up his game lately but lacks the burst he once possessed and often settles for jumpers instead of attacking the basket.
Ray Allen started the season off strong, but his play has slowed down quite a bit over the past few weeks. At this stage of his career, Allen is a player who relies on others to set up his shot, and at times his teammates have failed to get him the ball.
Kevin Garnett is still the anchor of Boston’s defense. When watching Garnett, you can still see his immense passion and love for the game, but his skills have greatly diminished and he is nowhere near the player he once was.
Many believed Rajon Rondo would step up and become a leader among his teammates this year. Unfortunately, Rondo has remained the same immature player the Celtics drafted back in ’06, and his lack of constraint cost the team dearly when he was suspended for two games after throwing a ball at a referee following a call he disagreed with.
Brandon Bass has been a great addition for the team, but besides Bass the Celtics' bench has been subpar thus far. The team lacks depth at almost every position, and when the starters are off the court, the team has great difficulty producing.
The biggest disappointment with the team has been their lack of offensive production. The Celtics have managed to score just 89.3 points per game, putting them 26th in the league. Their offense is routinely stagnant, and on many occasions consists of Rajon Rondo dribbling around aimlessly and taking an ill-advised jump shot as the shot clock expires.
The Celtics had 19 home games in the first half of the season, the most of any team. Boston had a prime opportunity to take advantage of their favorable schedule, but instead the team is one game under .500 through 33 games.
The Celtics have played 14 road games this season and have only won five of those contests. Of their final 33 games, 19 of them will be on the road which does not bode well for a team that has lost nearly twice as many road games as they have won.
Prior to their narrow victory last night over the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Celtics had lost five-straight games, their longest losing streak since acquiring Garnett and Allen in ’07.
The Celtics are currently hanging on to the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. If the season ended today, they would be forced to face the Miami Heat in the first round.
Many expected the Boston Celtics to take a step back this season. The team is filled with aging players whose best days are well behind them. However, it’s hard to believe that anyone expected the team to be battling the Cleveland Cavaliers for the final Eastern Conference playoff spot midway through the season.