BOSTON Injuries, players reporting out of shape and the new guys playing like, well, new guys.
You'd think someone had it in for the Boston Celtics with all those factors spiraling together in some wicked vortex that has them spinning out of control while dropping five in a row.
But the C's have apparently caught a break - we think - from the basketball gods this week. On the docket are not one, not two, but three games against teams that are struggling as much - or worst - than the Celtics.
Tonight's game will be against Toronto (4-10), losers of five in a row and a team that the C's have dominated for years. Boston has won at least three out of the four regular season meetings with the Raptors, in seven of the last eight seasons.
The lone exception during that span came during the 2006-2007 season, which was also the last time Boston lost five in a row. That year, the C's lost three of the four matchups with the Raptors.
Only 48 hours later, the Phoenix Suns (4-9) will ride into the Garden, currently saddled with a five-game losing streak.
And then there's Sunday's game at Washington (1-12), clearly the NBA's worst team which has just one victory to its credit all season.
The Celtics would love a win over all of those teams.
For now, the C's can't be greedy.
"All we need right now is just one win," said Celtics swingman Mickael Pietrus. "It can be against anybody, we just need that one win to get everybody regrouped and feel better."
BOSTON – Here are a few odds and ends to keep an eye on heading into tonight’s game against the Sacramento Kings:
· The Celtics have won eight in a row over the Kings in Boston, with the last loss to Sacramento at the TD Garden coming on Jan. 19, 2007. Current Celtic Gerald Green was in the starting lineup that night.
· Only six times in franchise history have the Celtics launched 38 or more 3-pointers in a game, four of which came in the month of November this season.
· Speaking of 3-pointers, 36.2 percent of Boston’s shots are 3s. That ranks fifth in the league behind Houston, Cleveland, Brooklyn and Golden State.
· Don’t be surprised if Avery Bradley gets off to a good start tonight, especially from 3-point range. He’s shooting 59.1 percent on 3s in the first quarter which ranks second in the league.
· Isaiah Thomas tallied 395 points scored in November, the most by a Celtic since John Havlicek had 406 points in November during the 1971-1972 season.
· Boston leads the NBA in points scored (46.3 per game) by second-round picks. The Celtics’ second-round picks include Isaiah Thomas; Jae Crowder; Amir Johnson; Jonas Jerebko; Demetrius Jackson and Jordan Mickey.
· The Celtics are 5-0 this season when they outrebound an opponent.
· Tonight’s game will be Boston’s fifth set of back-to-back games this season. In the first game, they are 3-1 this season. On the second night, they are 2-2.
BOSTON – When it comes to defense, the Celtics are quick to claim that it is indeed the foundation for which their team is built upon.
Still, far too often this season, we have seen cracks in their usually Teflon-tough defense, the kind that ultimately means the difference between winning and losing.
The Celtics’ defense will once again need to step up and play well tonight against a Sacramento squad that has shown it can fill it up offensively of late.
Sacramento (7-11) has scored 100 or more points in eight of their past 10 games. In that span, their 107.2 points per game ranks ninth in the league.
In that same span, the Celtics have allowed opponents to score 100.3 points per game, which ranks 10th in the NBA in fewest points allowed.
And when it comes to winning, limiting teams to less than 100 points has been huge in Boston’s win total.
The Celtics have held eight opponents to 100 points or less this season.
Their record in those games? 8-0.
Within that limited scoring, Boston must also make sure teams don’t get into a nice groove shooting the ball.
Boston is 0-5 this season when an opponent shoots 48 percent or better from the field.
While there are several things Boston must do to be successful, having the right kind of defensive disposition ranks at or near the top of that list in their efforts to play with the kind of defensive success that gave so many hope that this would the year Boston would hold court among the top teams in the Eastern Conference.
“We have to get a little more nastier on the defensive end and not let a team come in and get comfortable,” said Boston’s Jae Crowder.