Celtics loss finishes worst month in team history

Celtics loss finishes worst month in team history
January 30, 2014, 12:00 pm
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The Celtics lost a game that they should have won on Wednesday night. Not only because they were playing the 76ers (and at home), but also because they were up 94-93 with less than five seconds left.
 
They needed one stop to secure a victory, and they didn’t get it.
 
In the end, Evan Turner’s buzzer-beater gave Philadelphia a 95-94 win, and more importantly, as far as we’re concerned, granted this Celtics team a special place in the franchise record books. But not the fun record book. Not the one with the fancy design cover featuring pictures of Russell and Bird and Pierce and Auerbach. Instead, it’s that record book the Celtics keep hidden in some random janitor’s closet underneath the Garden. The one that’s covered in dust, on top of a large photo of Vin Baker and Mark Blount standing back-to-back with their arms folded and giant grins on their faces.
 
Last night marked Boston’s 17th and final game in January, and they lost 15 of those games. Believe or not, that’s more games than a Celtics team has ever lost in a single month. Ever.
 
The 2006-2007 Celtics lost 18 games in a row, but that was spread over two months. They never lost more than 14 games in one month.
 
The 1996-97 Celtics went 15-67, and posted double-digit losses in every month but April (when they still managed to lose eight games in 10 tries), but again, their single-month high was 14.
 
I should probably mention that this year’s Celtics played 17 games in January, which is more than either of those previous two teams did in any month. If given the chance, it’s fair to assume that one of them would have seized the opportunity to tack on a few more Ls. But they didn’t get it. These Celtics did. They set the record, and I think I speak for everyone when I say that I hope this one remains in tact for a long, long time.
 
On the other hand, it’s fair to wonder whether Turner’s buzzer beater might also change Celtics history for the better. And in a way that’s far more significant than a meaningless record for “Most Losses in a Month.” After all, the Celtics and Sixers came into this season with the expectation to be among the worst teams in the league, and to this point, both have lived up to the hype. After last night, the Celtics are 15-33 and the Sixers are 15-31. These teams are running neck and neck at the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings, and there’s no reason to expect that to change. It wouldn’t be remotely surprising to see Boston and Philly remain with a game or two of each other for the rest of the season, and ultimately finish side-by-side in the standings. Maybe it’s the difference between the fifth and sixth worst record in the league, or as it stands now, the difference between third and fourth worst. Either way, that’s significant.
 
The third worst team in the NBA has a 46.9 percent chance at a top three pick and a 15.6 percent chance at the No. 1 overall. The fourth worst team has 37.8 chance at the top three and an 11.9 percent chance at No. 1. And if the Sixers finish one game ahead of the Celtics, as not-quite-logical as it might be, Danny Ainge will look back at that Turner buzzer beater and thank God. Sixers GM Sam Hinkie will curse its existence.
 
And OK, I know. There’s a lot of assuming going on right now. There’s just as good a chance that you’ll never think about Turner’s buzzer beater again for as long as you live. But you never know:
 
Earlier this football season — it was Week 10, when the Vikings hosted the Redskins — I remember reading a story about a similar situation that still haunts Minnesota to this day.
 
It was Christmas Eve 2011, and the Vikings (2-12) were in Washington. This was the game Adrian Peterson tore his ACL, and shortly after that, starting quarterback Christian Ponder was knocked out with an injury.
 
It looked like another Vikings loss until back-up QB Joe Webb (who’s since been converted to a receiver) came in out of nowhere, led Minnesota on three touchdown-scoring drives and pulled out the win. For a moment, it was a lot of fun. A great victory during a Vikings season that didn’t have many.
 
However, that one shining moment cost Minnesota the No. 2 pick in the NFL draft, which means it cost them Robert Griffin III. (And a potentially devastating RGIII/AP read-option backfield.) Or, seeing how they just drafted Ponder, that win cost Minnesota an opportunity to cash in on the No. 2 pick like the Rams did. St. Louis got three firsts and a second-rounder for Griffin, and thanks to how bad Washington was this season, one of those first rounders is this year’s No. 2 overall.
 
Instead of that bounty, the Vikings swapped their No. 3 overall pick with Cleveland for the No. 4 overall, plus a fourth, fifth and seventh rounder. They selected OL Matt Kalil at No. 4, and to his credit, Kalil has been solid. He made the Pro Bowl as a rookie and hasn’t missed a game in two years.
 
But while he was a nice consolation prize, that one random Joe Webb miracle still cost the Vikings so much opportunity, flexibility and potential. More than two years later, they haven’t forgotten about it.
 
And for my part, I haven’t forgotten the many, many differences between football and basketball and the NFL and NBA Drafts. I know it’s not the same exact thing. Or even close. But depending on how things play out, Turner’s shot could certainly leave the same ripple effect through Celtics and Sixers history as Webb’s performance did for the Vikings, Rams and Redskins.
 
Or maybe it won’t. Who knows?
 
In the meantime, I think I’d rather spend the afternoon thinking about how that buzzer beater might give the Celtics a better draft pick as opposed to the fact that it put a stamp on the worst month in franchise history.

Follow me on Twitter: @rich_levine