With the Boston Celtics’ 104-92 loss to the Houston Rockets on Monday night, the team extended its losing streak to nine games and are yet to register a victory in 2014. The Celtics, who have dramatically tumbled down the standings in recent weeks, endured one of the toughest stretches on this season’s schedule and despite fighting hard each and every night, the team has looked outclassed and outmatched more often than not. After losses to conference rivals Atlanta and Chicago, the Celtics have faced seven straight Western Conference teams, including a brutal five-game road trip that included the likes of Oklahoma City, Golden State and the Portland Trail Blazers. Despite the outcome being the same, the results have been mixed, they have lost three of these games by three points or less, but have also been on the receiving end of three double-digit blowouts. Losing streaks like this can be tough for players and fans alike to endure, so is it possible to find a silver lining in the Celtics’ recent struggles? We take a look at a couple of positives we can take from the losing streak and hope the team can turn it around soon.
Avery Bradley’s Scoring Ability
Avery Bradley has been the clear standout for the Celtics during this tough stretch and his scoring in particular has been a big development in the play of the talented fourth-year guard. A career 8.5 point per game scorer, Bradley has led the Celtics with 16.8 points per game during the losing streak and has looked far more aggressive looking for his shot. On four occasions Bradley has eclipsed the 20 point mark in that span and his improved shooting touch has been on full display. In each of the past two games he has connected on 11 field goals for a total of 25 and 24 points, while shooting considerably better than .500 from the field. The ability to score consistently would be a huge progression for a player that was widely viewed as a defensive specialist coming into the 2013-14 season.
The Play Of Kris Humphries
When Kris Humphries was traded to the Celtics prior to the season, he was seen as little more than an expiring contract required to make the blockbuster deal work financially, but surprisingly Humphries has become one of the most consistent and reliable contributors on the Celtics’ roster. Over the course of the team’s current losing streak, not only has Humphries continued to fight hard on the court and produce, he has impressed coach Brad Stevens so much he has been inserted into the Celtics’ starting lineup. Over the nine-game span, Humphries has averaged 9.3 points, 8.2 rebounds and just less than two blocks a game, bringing energy and effort night in, night out in spite of the result. His play has not only turned around many fans who once booed him and now cheer, but has also made it quite likely that Boston looks to keep Humphries around beyond this season as a valuable contributor in their frontcourt.
Rondo’s (Seemingly) Imminent Return
The Celtics’ coach is trying to play it cool, while the man himself tweets out cryptic messages potentially hinting at a return this Friday, but whatever the case may be Rajon Rondo is not going to be in a suit for much longer and the Celtics’ All-Star point guard will be back on court sooner rather than later. It has been nearly a year-long layoff for Rondo, who must be itching to get back on the court seeing the current state of the team and by all reports, he sounds eager to try and lead this young squad into the next great Celtics’ era. It will be one step at a time for Rondo when he returns, likely with a minutes restriction and no doubt rusty from his time off, but he will immediately become the team’s clear best player and vocal leader which could dramatically turn around the fortunes of the Celtics almost immediately.
The Tank Is On
Whether this Celtics’ team is designed to fail or not, fact is that with this recent losing streak the team boasts a dismal 13-26 record and is now tied for the fourth-worst record in the NBA. While you never want to be at the bottom of the league, there is a glimmer of hope with the 2014 draft looking to be one of the best in recent years and with what looks like a star-studded top tier of players, giving yourself the best chance of landing the next potential superstar may not be the worst thing to happen this season. Kansas big man Joel Embiid has wowed scouts and emerged as an early favorite for the No. 1 pick and it now appears likely that Australian star Dante Exum could join a 2014 class that has been on many teams’ radar for a number of years now. Exum, Embiid, Duke’s Jabari Parker and Embiid’s Kansas teammate Andrew Wiggins headline a lottery that could be littered with future NBA All-Stars and if the Celtics continue to struggle they could be quickly on their way back to the top with a little luck in the draft lottery and the right selection in June.
It’s not all doom and gloom for the Celtics as they will soon emerge from this nightmare month and look towards a brighter future. We will see if they can break their losing streak by the end of the week with games against the Toronto Raptors and Los Angeles Lakers giving them their best opportunity to win in weeks.