The Celtics enter the All-Star break on their second 5-game losing streak of the season. They are currently eighth in the Eastern Conference playoff picture, 1 1/2 games ahead of the Cleveland Cavaliers for the final playoff spot. Last season, they were the top seed heading into the break.
Here are 10 trends to note about the Celtics’ first half performance:
As their veteran core has aged, the Celtics have played progressively slower each of the last three seasons, dropping from nearly 95 possessions per game in 2009-10 to their league-low this season.
3. Playing catch-up for a change: With the swift arrival of the All-Star break, Boston’s Big 3 find themselves in a very unfamiliar position. In each of their previous four seasons together, the powerful triumvirate had the Celtics playing at least .600 basketball; however, the C’s have won fewer than half of their first 32 games this season and are currently the eighth seed. The Celtics entered the break as the East’s top seed in 2007-08, 2008-09 and 2010-11 and were fourth in 2009-10.
4. Can we expect a post-break surge?: Having lost 17 of their first 32 games, the Celtics must drastically improve their level of play if they expect to finish anywhere remotely close to their previous four seasons. Boston played at least .550 basketball after the All-Star break in each of the last four seasons and will have to play even better to make up for its poor start.
The Celtics are over 10 points better per 48 minutes with Garnett on the court and have been dominated in the paint without him.
6. As is Pierce: Although he has logged over 1,100 career games (including playoffs), Paul Pierce remains an integral part of Boston’s success.
7. No Tommy Points for like this one: One of Boston’s major problems this year has been free throw disparity. The Celtics are in the bottom third of the league in fouls drawn (19.9 per game, 20th in the NBA) and free throw attempts per game (20.1, 27th) while their opponents are outshooting them from the charity stripe by more than three per game.
8. Off the boards: The Celtics are last in the league in rebounds per game (38.8) and are among the bottom five teams in rebounding margin (-3.1, 26th) and rate (48 percent, 26th).
9. Trouble in the half-court set: The Celtics offense has struggled in the half court this season. Boston ranks 21st in points per play (0.853) in the half court, down from 0.927 points per play last season, good for 11th in the league. At the same time, their transition offense (0.907) is putting up similar numbers compared to last season (0.972).
10. Don't want to be on this list: The Celtics enter the All-Star break at 15-17 despite having three future Hall of Famers on their roster in Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Ray Allen. Over the last 35 seasons, only 5 teams finished the regular season under .500 with 3 future Hall of Famers on their roster, the last being the 1992-93 Pistons who went 40-42.