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Boston Celtics have long road ahead

Two games, two losses, and a lot of questions. The winless Boston Celtics have had their problems, but they also have a long road ahead.

Jared Wickerham

It's funny. Doc Rivers brought up the end of Game 6 of last year's Eastern Conference Finals before Friday night's Boston Celtics home opener against the Milwaukee Bucks. It was a game against the Miami Heat, and I probably don't need to describe what happened to most Celtics fans. LeBron James was otherworldly, putting forth a performance that he may never again replicate in the playoffs, one that literally changed the course of the season for the Heat and set them on the path for a Finals victory.

Anyway, as the game drew to a close, with all hope of a Celtics victory gone, the fans of the 17-time world champions joined together to create a unique moment.

They chanted, "Let's go Celtics! Let's go Celtics! Let's go Celtics!"

The serenade lasted for minutes, and having experienced it myself, it was chilling. Good chills, though. It showed the passion, love and commitment that these fans have for their team.

"Last time we played here in this building, I thought what happened was one of the best crowd things to ever happen in my career," said Rivers. "Other than Game 6 of the Lakers Finals, I'll probably remember the last minutes of the debacle against Miami because of our fans. They were phenomenal, and that's something you don't forget."

Jump ahead to Friday night, and those cheers were nowhere to be found.

Instead, fans hurled boos at the Celtics on more than one occasion.


The sad thing is, they were right to boo. These weren't the same Celtics that pushed James and the Heat -- the eventual NBA champion -- to the brink of elimination. Not even close. This team was much different.

In fact, the team that took the court on Friday more resembled the 2006-07 team that lost 58 games and was the laughing stock of the league than the one that nearly made the Finals mere months ago.

Embarrassing, unacceptable, frustrating, depressing. Those are all words that accurately described Boston's play in a 99-88 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks that wasn't as close as the final score would indicate.

Totally lost on offense and mostly apathetic on defense, the Celtics turned in a performance that had many shaking their heads in disbelief.

How could this Celtics team play a game like that?

All night, the Celtics were out of sync, disinterested even. There was no urgency, as Rivers would point out after the game. That was never more apparent than it was in the second quarter, when the Celtics score only 12 points on 5-of-21shooting and let the Bucks built a 46-30 halftime lead.

The sun would peak through for brief moments in the second half, but whenever Boston would put together a run, porous defense or careless ball handling would give momentum back to Milwaukee.

44.6 percent shooting. 18 turnovers. A combined plus/minus of -55. Those were the numbers the Celtics left on the court when they headed for the locker rooms once the clock hit triple zeroes.

Appropriately, the first question posed to Doc afterwards was, "Where do you start?"

"[Defense]," Rivers said. "But I thought offense was bad too. I thought we fumbled, I thought we had no rhythm. And we haven't graduated to the point where you can play bad offense and stay defensively. You know what I mean? So I thought it was both."

Where should we start?

The offense, which had put together a 107-point performance wile shooting over 50 percent in a season-opening loss to Miami on Tuesday, couldn't get out of its own way. Like Doc said, the Celts literally fumbled the ball away on multiple occasions, plays [if you could even call them that] broke down and nobody could revive them, and a malaise seemed to blanket them from start to finish. The turnover problem continued, and the Celtics have now given the ball away a whopping 34-times in 96 minutes this season.

Defensively, the Celts weren't any better. Milwaukee took whatever kind of shot it wante --- uncontested jumpers, easy layups and wide open threes -- and the Celtics did nothing to stop them. It really looked like a game of NBA 2K13 when I'm playing (except I can actually score with consistency -- maybe I should take a run at Doc's job?).

They consistently trailed by roughly 15 or more points for much of the last three quarters. Needless to say, this was not the Celtics team we have come to know since the new Big Three era was issued in.

"I think collectively we just gotta come together more and just figure out a way," Jeff Green said. "The game is going be tough and we're just going to go out there and be aggressive and make plays and start it off on the defensive end."

And yet the show will go on. The Celtics get right back at it Saturday night against the Washington Wizards in the first of a home-and-home series.

It's still very early, of course, and there's no question that the team we see now won't be the same Celtics team that finishes the season.

"[The loss is] unacceptable obviously, but tomorrow is another opportunity for us," said reserve guard Jason Terry. "These are growing pains. This is what the NBA season, this is what the journey is all about. We are going to look back at this and say one thing that we grew from it."

Rivers has his work cut out for him, with eight new players to integrate into his system and a plethora of problems to take care of on the court. Is he worries? Yes, but that isn't anything unusual.

"I'm concerned all the time, but ... it's early," Rivers said. "If this was game 30 and we were playing like this consistently, then I would be worried. If it was game 30 and we'd been playing well and we play like this once, you live with it."

It remains to be seen how the Celtics respond to this rocky start, but I they can work out the kinks in the next few weeks, we'll all just look back and laugh.

If we've learned anything, however, it's that there's a long, long road ahead.

Gethin Coolbaugh is the Editor of SB Nation Boston. Twitter: @GethinCoolbaugh.