Celtics go a long way to find out what they already knew

Celtics go a long way to find out what they already knew
December 31, 2012, 7:21 pm
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SACRAMENTO Now that the Boston Celtics' first jaunt out West is in the books, the goal -- to learn more about exactly who are the Celtics -- was achieved.

Not to go all Dennis Green, but they are exactly who we thought they were: A team that still doesn't know how to win or lose with any kind of consistency.

In the span of less than a week on the road, the Celtics only reinforced their status as a middle-of-the-road club.

And with that, here's a review of the Celtics last four games -- all on the road -- highlighted by the Good, Bad and Ugly times that have been a common thread that has tied this team down to being nothing more than a .500-playing ball club:

CHRISTMAS DAY AT BROOKLYN: CELTICS 93, NETS 76
The Good: The C's delivered the kind of Christmas Day present that their fans have been clamoring for all season. The defense limited Brooklyn to just 40 percent shooting while forcing 20 turnovers, which led to 25 points for the Celtics. The C's bench was especially strong, led by Jared Sullinger and Jeff Green, who had 16 and 15 points, respectively.

The Bad: This loss seemed to be what accelerated the eventual firing of Avery Johnson, who was cut loose after being named the Eastern Conference's Coach of the Month for October and November.

The Ugly: For the second time this season, things got a little testy between these two clubs, with the result being a nice Christmas Day bonus for NBA charities that benefit from the fines levied for player technical fouls. All total, four players -- Kevin Garnett and Courtney Lee of the Celtics, and Gerald Wallace and Andray Blatche of the Nets -- were each whistled for a technical foul.

DEC. 27 AT LOS ANGELES: CLIPPERS 106, CELTICS 77
The Good: There really wasn't much for the Celtics to take out of this one. The Clippers are an elite NBA team this season and proved it in emphatic fashion against a Celtics club that was overwhelmed in every way imaginable. Fortunately the Celtics will only see them once more this season, which is about the only positive they can glean from this one.

The Bad: Where do you begin? Losing to the hottest team the NBA has seen in years is nothing to be embarrassed about, especially in their house. But the Celtics showed no fight, no perseverance and for the most part, looked clueless in just about every phase of the game. It would serve as a humbling reminder of just how far away the Celtics are right now, from being able to compete with, let alone beat, the NBA's better teams.

The Ugly: Adding insult to injury was what else? Injuries. Rajon Rondo suffered a right hipthigh injury that limited his effectiveness. He played nearly 32 minutes but had just 10 points on 4-for-12 shooting, while tallying just six assists with four turnovers.

DEC. 29 AT OAKLAND: WARRIORS 101, CELTICS 83
The Good: The Boston Celtics may actually have someone not named Kevin Garnett who can score in the post. His name is Jared Sullinger. And, yes, he's a rookie, but he continues to play like a man wise beyond his years. And it took Rondo being out for the rest of the C's to actually make getting him the ball in the post a greater priority. He didn't have a monster game, but his 12 points and game-high 8 rebounds was the kind of performance both he and the Celtics should try and build on.

The Bad: The defense was as bad as we've seen it. The Warriors are a quick-shot, pull-up-in-transition team. They have been like that all season. But the Celtics played as though that caught them by surprise, frequently giving their shooters great looks on the perimeter. And making matters worst? Many of the shots they gave Golden State's shooters were from their favorite spots on the floor.

The Ugly: Not having Rajon Rondo on the floor was evident in so many areas. Courtney Lee (season-high 18 points) did a decent job of filling in for Rondo, but Rondo's on-the-floor leadership was clearly something that the Celtics missed dearly. "He (Lee) was fine," C's coach Doc Rivers said after the loss. "He played a lot of minutes which I thought hurt him, and Courtney is never going to make the passes that Rondo makes."

DEC. 30 AT SACRAMENTO: KINGS 118, CELTICS 96
The Good: Again, not a lot of positivity could be found on the floor or inside the locker room afterward. But anytime Kevin Garnett throws down a verbal challenge -- and it is rare -- the C's have responded accordingly.

He did so after a lackluster start a year ago, and it was among the factors that catapulted the Celtics to a 24-10 record after the break and a return trip to the Eastern Conference Finals, where the C's came within a game of advancing past eventual NBA champion Miami Heat.

The Bad: The defense seems to keep finding different depths of disappointment to reach. It's one thing to let the Los Angeles Clippers and the Golden State Warriors go buck wild offensively. They're really good teams. But the Kings? The previously 10-19 Sacramento Kings? Chris Webber is not walking through that door, Celtics. Allowing the Kings to go off like they did offensively, should never happen to a team with a defensive foundation.

The Ugly: The long trip home provided the Celtics with nothing to show for those miles logged but more miles of separation between themselves and the rest of the NBA's good teams. Losing three straight happens, even to good teams. But the three losses have all been blowouts, with the Celtics having not led after a quarter of play since they beat Brooklyn on Christmas Day. And considering how the Nets went about firing their head coach Avery Johnson less than a week after the C's beat them, it's clear that they had behind-the-scene issues that certainly factored into their poor play that night.