This is the time of year when the Celtics are usually gearing up for that one last push towards improving their playoff position.
More ping-pong balls, not playoff position, is what appears to be on the horizon for the Celtics this season. In fact, simply making the playoffs would be a major accomplishment. As much as the Celtics (19-39) have talked about surprising the masses and earning a spot in the postseason, that seems like a lot of wishful thinking right now.
But the increasing number of losses isn't what's most disturbing. After all, aren't the Celtics doing what we expected them to do this season -- lose a lot of games?
The true disappointment for the Celtics lies in how this group is trending towards losing its competitive spirit, crumbling when the slightest bit of adversity on the floor hits them. And that is what makes the team's current losing skid -- five straight losses -- so unsettling.
We saw that knack for competing early on this season, often to the surprise and amazement of foes.
"You always expect them to play hard," Toronto's DeMar DeRozan told CSNNE.com earlier this season. "They're the Boston Celtics. That's what they do."
But this recent West Coast trip featured a Celtics team that, for those who have watched them extensively this season, was at times unrecognizable.
In its four games against Western Conference talent, Boston averaged just 99.5 points per game which tied for the 25th-fewest points during that span.
More telling as to how Boston has struggled lies in their net rating (net points +/- per 100 possessions) of -10.7 in the last four games. The only team with a worse rating in that span is Philadelphia.
The sad part for the C's is things won't get any easier even with seven of the next eight games being at the TD Garden against most against teams that would be in the playoffs if the season ended today.
You will still hear Celtics players occasionally talk about their postseason potential, but there seems to be more of an acceptance that this season is likely to be one where the playoffs and the Celtics won't be hand-in-hand.
There will surely be more losses for the Celtics as they take on a number of teams that are simply better. But that doesn't excuse them from putting up a more competitive fight, especially when it comes to their play defensively.
"It's a matter of the team coming together collectively and having some better pride," said Rajon Rondo, "and get some stops defensively."