One day after the massacre in Miami, the short remainder of the Celtics' regular season may be not much more than a formality. They can still possibly clinch the second seed in the Eastern Conference thanks to the tiebreaker they own over the the Heat. But at this point, after such lackluster showings against two of the East's top teams under playoff-esque conditions in the last five days, perhaps it would be best to just be content with No. 3, preserve health and get ready for this weekend's post-season opener, likely against the New York Knicks.
Whether the C's take this route remains to be seen. The first chance to see what their plan for the regular season's final two games is comes Monday night against the Wizards in the nation's capital at 7 p.m. EDT, on Comcast Sports Net New England. In between their two dreadful losses to the Bulls and Heat, the C's beat the Wizards on Friday by a 104-88 count. The Wizards are a lowly 22-58, but the last time they hosted the Celts, on Jan. 22, they erased a 16-point, second half deficit and won, 85-83.
The Celtics issues at this point are multitudinous, but the most pressing one, as it has been for weeks, seems to be the play of Rajon Rondo, who has gone from a sure-fire All-Star to a complete enigma in less than two months. Rondo, to be kind, was practically invisible in the losses at Chicago and Miami, totaling 14 points and 11 assists in the two games. Whether he is saving himself for the playoffs, is still upset over the trade of his best friend Kendrick Perkins or has simply forgotten what makes him great, he will have to pick it up soon if the C's hope to go anywhere come playoff time. Rondo torched Washington rookie point guard John Wall on Friday night to the tune of 20 points, 14 assists and six steals, breeding confidence that he will be back on his game on Monday.
Another giant question mark surrounds Ray Allen, who seemed to be the odd man out again on Sunday, getting only nine shots against the Heat. He's averaging just 9.1 attempts over his last 10 games and hasn't taken more than 11 in any of those. Coach Doc Rivers remarked after the loss in Miami, "We've got to do a better job of getting him shots. I have to do a better job. He has to do a better job of being patient and we've got to set picks. I think our pick-setting is horrendous right now." Allen took just two shots in 20:25 minutes of first half playing time against Miami, a stat that makes little sense.
The C's can get back into a tie with Miami for second place in the East with a win Monday night and a Heat loss in Atlanta. Both teams close out the regular season on Wednesday, the Celts against the Knicks and Miami at Toronto.