The NBA All-Star break came at the exact right time for the Celtics, a team that’s suffered through a four-game losing streak and a three-game losing streak in the past month alone.
Despite the ugly stretch, the C’s are still just two games behind the Toronto Raptors for first place in the Eastern Conference and can make up that ground in the next week alone as they have four games in six nights.
The first test will come Friday night in Detroit as the C’s face the now-Blake Griffin-led Clippers.
“I think teams have outplayed us,” Celtics head coach Brad Stevens said before the break of his team. “I’ve said all along I don’t think we’re all that we were cracked up to be during our 16-game winning streak and it’s probably hit us more in the past month that it hit us before. Teams have outplayed us; good teams have out-played us.”
The Celtics are at their best when they are able to move the basketball and not get caught in a 1-on-1 game with Kyrie Irving as the focal point. Make no mistake, Irving is their best player – but he doesn’t need to be scoring 30 points for the C’s to be effective.
In the past six games that Irving has eclipsed the 30-point mark, the Celtics have lost.
“This [time of year] the stakes are at their highest,” Irving said. “Teams are starting to shape into what they’re going to be going into the playoffs. And that’s where my focus is. So obviously the last month we’ve had some slippage. But my focus is how to get the group to be better. Teams are raising their level. I have to figure out a way to get this group to another gear. Other teams are starting to get their gears. It’s about time.”
Following Friday night’s tilt against the Pistons, the C’s will play in Manhattan on Saturday night against the Knicks. Boston will return home Monday to face the Grizzlies and will host the Hornets 48 hours later.