After a loss to the Detroit Pistons on Friday night, the Boston Celtics had a chance to get back on track Sunday afternoon when they visited another of the Eastern Conference's worst teams. Instead, they never showed up and lost 104-91 to the Washington Wizards.
Once 8-3, the Celtics have now lost 10 of their last 15 games to fall to 13-13 on the season. That record has them in fifth place in the East, and just two games ahead of the ninth-place Miami Heat. If they don't turn things around soon, they could find themselves in a real playoff battle -- yet another strange twist in this COVID-19 season.
During his postgame media session on Sunday, Kemba Walker didn't mince his words. He called out the team's work rate and demanded that they improve, but also maintained faith that they'll figure things out.
"We're just not playing the way we know that we're capable of playing," Walker said. "That has to be fixed. And soon ... We've gotta change some things. And we will. It can't get no worse than this. So we're gonna fix it for sure."
"Positive? It ain't many positives [right now] I'm gonna be honest," Walker continued. "We just are not good right now. But it's very controllable."
Over this 15-game downturn, the Celtics have managed to hang in their defensively, and their main problems have come on the other side of the ball. They're 23rd in the league in offense during that stretch, scoring 109.1 points per 100 possessions, and 28th in assists per game at 20.9. Asked about the team's poor ball movement in recent games, Jaylen Brown somewhat strangely offered "no comment" Sunday.
But while there are certainly concerns about the Celtics' situation, it's also hard to get too worked up about them considering they've only very briefly been at full strength this season.
Walker missed the first 11 games while recovering from an offseason knee procedure and still doesn't play in back-to-backs; Jayson Tatum tested positive for COVID-19 and missed five games; Brown has been sidelined a few times because of a minor knee problem; Marcus Smart has missed the last seven contests due to a calf injury.
As a result, the Celtics' four best players have shared the floor for a measly 28 minutes together this season, and there's often only been two of that quartet available on any given night. You simply can't make any significant judgements about a team when that's the case.
Maybe this group truly isn't a contender, but they're coming off a trip to the Eastern Conference finals, so they at least deserve a chance to get healthy before we write them off. Until that happens, it's probably best to just relax and try to enjoy the ride as much as possible.