Father Time Robbing Celtics and Spurs of Championship Contention
Father Time appears to have spoken.
While both the Boston Celtics and San Antonio Spurs certainly made the most of their time on top of the NBA , their respective performances to this point in the 2009-10 season suggests their glory days may be in the past.
Let's start with the Celtics.
Boston currently sits at 36-21 and in first place in the Atlantic Divison, five games ahead of the rising Toronto Raptors.
However, the once-proud Celtics have dropped two straight (including an ugly loss at home to the then 5-52 Nets), and are just 5-5 in their last 10 games.
Injuries have plagued the aging Celtics all season long, and there are doubts everywhere as to whether they will have enough gas left in the tank to battle with Cleveland and Orlando come playoff time.
Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Glen Davis, and Marquis Daniels have all missed notable time due to injuries so far, and, at this rate, it doesn't appear as though they're going to be able to recover in time to make a real run at another championship.
The Celtics have won at least 60 games in both seasons since Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen were brought on board after the 2006-07 season.
However, they'd have to win all but one of their final 24 games in order to reach that mark this season. In other words: not gonna happen.
Part of the problem early in the season were the struggles of Ray Allen.
Before February, he'd been having one of the worst seasons of his career, and the Celtics had lost tons of production in the perimeter scoring department as a result.
However, since the trade deadline, Allen has regained his shooting stroke, and has scored 20+ points in five of his last six games.
Unfortunately for Boston, right as Allen started to show signs of life, Paul Pierce went down with a thumb injury, and has missed the past three games.
Without Pierce in the lineup and playing to his fullest potential, the Celtics don't have a true go-to option down the strech of games, which has caused them to suffer through long dry spells late in games.
Pierce has proven time and time again that he's "the guy" when it comes to late-game situations, and without him, the Celtics have repeatedly coughed up winnable games in the fourth quarter.
Despite everything else that has gone on, the biggest factor, in my opinion, has been the lack of production out of Kevin Garnett.
KG has missed lots of time over the past two seasons with leg injuries, and since he's been back this season, he looks to have lost a few steps.
His athleticism is certainly on the decline, which has obviously limited his overall effectiveness.
Once a Dwight Howard-like player that dominated the paint defensively and snagged every available rebound, Garnett has looked sluggish on his legs recently and doesn't appear to be close to the player he was before.
While his numbers have looked decent in recent games, it's clear that he's still struggling to regain the mobility that has allowed him to dominate the interior for years.
Will KG ever be able to put everything together again?
There's no telling.
Undoubtedly, the Celtics have enough talent left on their roster to contend for another championship.
However, if they keep going the way they've been going of late, they could be ousted as early as the second round of the playoffs for the second consecutive season.
Speaking of early playoff exits, let us now focus our attention on the once-proud San Antonio Spurs.
Making sense of San Antonio's season to this point is no easy task.
Last Sunday, the Spurs inexplicably lost to the hapless Detroit Pistons.
On Wednesday, San Antonio recovered to beat the red-hot Oklahoma City Thunder.
Friday night, the Spurs lost again, this time to the struggling Houston Rockets.
How does this make sense at all?
The Spurs, a team that has made their name by priding themselves on their consistency, have been one of the league's most inconsistent teams this season.
They currently stand at 33-24, good for second place in the Southwest Division, and seventh place overall in the Western Conference.
While Tim Duncan is having yet another solid season (19 ppg, 11 rpg, 1.7 bpg), the rest of the Spurs have struggled to live up to their lofty preseason expectations.
Coming into the season, many predicted the Spurs would once again be amongst the league's elite, and would contend for yet another title.
Unfortunately, their season has not gone according to plan.
New addition Richard Jefferson was brought in to add scoring and athleticism on the wing, as well as insurance should Manu Ginobili suffer through another injury-laden season.
Instead, RJ is averaging just 12 points per game, and has been relegated to a role coming off the bench.
Matt Bonner, who used to start and provide consistent three-point shooting and post defense, now does absolutely nothing and has been racking up DNP-Coach's Decisions by the truckload.
The aforementioned Ginobili struggled with his consistency to start the season, but appears to have rounded into form lately, and averaged 18 points per game in the month of February.
Tony Parker is yet another guy that hasn't played up to par.
After enjoying a career year last season (he averaged 22 points per game), Parker's average is down around 16 this year, and he's missed games here and there all season long with several minor injuries.
He hasn't been able to find his normal rhythm, and, as he is the heartbeat of the Spurs, the team has struggled.
The addition of Antonio McDyess has also proved largely fruitless this season, and he's going for just six points and five rebounds a night.
The core of Duncan, Ginobili, and Parker was brilliant in its heyday, but it's not looking like a championship trio these days.
Like Boston, San Antonio boasts one of the oldest rosters in the NBA, and if they don't win now, they may have to wait quite some time before they're able to rebuild and start winning again.
So, what will happen?
A team that has won well over 50 games each season for quite some time is going to have to go on a furious run to end the year just to get to 50 this time around.
These potential matchups equate to a second-straight first round exit for the Spurs.
It's been shocking, but the Celtics and Spurs, two teams many thought would meet in the 2010 Finals, are on the outside looking in at the real contenders.
These two franchises combined to win four of the six championships from 2003 through 2008, but will now struggle to advance through one round of the playoffs.
The Boston Celtics and San Antonio Spurs have both been built to win in 2010.
Unfortunately, winning in 2010 doesn't seem to be in the cards for either franchise.
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