Boston Celtics Analysis: What Has Caused the Recent Slump?

Evan PettyCorrespondent IJanuary 9, 2009

It was too good to be true.

27-2, the Boston Celtics had just dismantled the 76ers for their 19th straight victory. 

My, oh my, how times have changed.

After losing their third straight to Houston on Wednesday, the Celtics have dropped six of their last eight, including losses to Golden State, the Knicks, and Charlotte

Many people have pointed fingers in multiple different directions: Doc Rivers' questionable in-game decisions, fatigue, veterans finally showing their age, and of course: the bench. 

As bad as the Boston bench is, I am not even going to dip into that when talking about their main issue.  Right now, their problem involves the entire team. 

There is no flexibility in their personnel whatsoever. 

Teams like Golden State and New York have been able to beat Boston recently because they (as well as the rest of the NBA) have figured out Boston's weakness: They are stuck in the middle.

Their starting lineup is a microcosm of the entire roster.  Rajon Rondo: a definite point guard; Ray Allen: the classic dead-eye shooting guard; Paul Pierce: the typical 6'7" small forward; Kevin Garnett: the prototypical post player; Kendrick Perkins: the big banger down low.  This definition is fantastic for a starting lineup, but when the game gets going the Celtics truly miss that tweener that allows them to go big or go small. 

This was why James Posey was huge coming off the bench last year.  A small forward in the program; Posey could play the 4 position and allow the Celts to play small.  He could also play a little in the backcourt as a shooting guard if they needed to matchup with a bigger team. 

With their current bench, the Celtics have no flexibility like Posey provided them with last season. Although Doc Rivers has experimented with both Tony Allen and Eddie House at the point, they are both clear-cut shooting guards who just happen to be undersized. 

This basically leaves the Celtics with no backup point guard, and just two undersized shooting guards. Because of this predicament, it is no surprise both Pierce and Ray Allen are playing more minutes than Doc would like, despite the fact that many games this season they have sat out big chunks of time during garbage time.

In the frontcourt, there is the same old story. Leon Powe and Glen Davis are both very much undersized (vertically, in Davis' situation) but nonetheless, are solely power forwards. They are much too small to play the center spot, but do not come close to having the necessary ball-handling ability to play small forward. 

While Leon is giving quality minutes, and "Big Baby" is showing some improvement, the Celtics will need to find someone else in the frontcourt who is not so undersized, and can play multiple positions.

While getting quality bench play is still something Boston needs to address, getting a tweener, like Posey, who can play multiple spots well is a must if they want any chance of beating a team like Cleveland in the playoffs. 

If the rumor of Stephon Marbury becomes a reality, he could secure the back up PG spot, and free up Eddie House to play alongside Rajon Rondo. Much of Doc's reluctance to play Rondo and House together is that he needs Eddie to play the point when Rondo is out of the game. 

I think if Rondo and House play together in the backcourt, they could team up with Ray Allen, Pierce, and KG to make a solid small lineup for the Celts. With Allen and House spreading the floor, it would give Rondo even more space to penetrate and dump off to KG in the post or take it for a layup. 

To address the frontcourt, the Celtics must get someone who can fill in for Kendrick Perkins at center, whether that be Patrick O'Bryant stepping up and playing well, or trying extremely hard to lure P.J. Brown back for one more go-around, that weakness must be addressed. 

The next point of weakness is getting someone like Posey who can play the 3 and 4 well. Although their first try failed, I would like to see Danny Ainge go out and give Darius Miles another chance to succeed in Boston this year. He is a proven small forward, but is big enough to play the 4 successfully. While someone like Shawn Marion is too big a name for the Celtics to acquire, someone like him would be who the Celtics need to get over the top. 

Whether they bring guys out of retirement, or make a deal, the C's must address this glaring need to be flexible with their lineups. If they don't teams will continue to run and gun with small lineups loaded with shooters, or play big and take advantage of their undersized bench players. 

As I see it now, their most versatile guy off the bench is Brian Scalabrine; when "The Veal" fits that description, you know you have problems.