Updated: March 27, 2013, 1:52 AM ET

1. What's Up, Doc? Not These Celtics

By Chris Forsberg | ESPNBoston.com

BOSTON -- The New York Knicks have always brought out the best in the Boston Celtics in recent seasons. Which is why it was so startling to watch the visitors flat-out steamroll the Celtics on their home turf Tuesday night at TD Garden.

But this team hardly resembles the Celtics, in both looks and performance.

The Celtics took the floor Tuesday without Kevin Garnett, who is on the shelf for two weeks due to left ankle inflammation. Another starter, Courtney Lee, is battling a sprained left ankle that forced him to miss his second straight game. That's on top of the season-ending maladies previously endured by two other starters in Rajon Rondo (torn ACL) and Jared Sullinger (back surgery). Along the way, bench spark Leandro Barbosa was lost for the season with a torn ACL of his own.

Heck, the film from a January game here in Boston between these two teams that looped in the Celtics' locker room looked like something dug out of the archives with all the players missing on Tuesday.

Doc Rivers
AP Photo/Winslow TownsonDon't worry Doc, the playoffs are almost here.

The Knicks laid a 100-85 thumping on the remaining Celtics, all but ensuring what we already knew: the Atlantic Division crown will trek outside the Bay State for the first time in six seasons (presumably to the Big Apple, so long as the Knicks can prevent a Brooklyn detour).

Forgive Paul Pierce if he had a flashback or two to the 2006-07 season on this night. With many of his teammates marred in slumps and the team turning in one of its least energized efforts of the year, the Celtics at times resembled the overmatched squad that predated the latest Big Three era.

"We didn't have it tonight," sighed Celtics coach Doc Rivers. "I wish I knew why."

Let us help you, Doc. Here, in no particular order, is just a handful of the reasons for this debacle, the latest dud in a five-game losing streak for Boston:

• The Celtics are playing without Garnett, their defensive anchor and, honestly, their only consistent rebounding big man. The Tyson Chandler-less Knicks turned 15 offensive rebounds into 29 second-chance points on Tuesday and, despite shooting only 43 percent overall, took 21 more shots than Boston.

• If Garnett is the defensive anchor, guard Avery Bradley is the rope tying it to the Boston boat. It's not far-fetched to say that Bradley turned around the Celtics' season with his defensive intensity when he returned in early January, but he's struggling at both ends of the floor right now. And it's one thing to miss shots (Bradley is shooting a mere 32.3 percent over his last 10 games), but when 40-year-old Jason Kidd blows past one of the league's top on-ball defenders, there's something larger at play. "I feel for him," Rivers said. "He wants to play hard, he wants to play right, but you can see it. We'll get [Bradley] going."

• Even after losing Rondo for the season, robbing the Celtics of their only pure point guard, Boston took remarkably good care of the basketball and its turnover rate actually dropped without its All-Star point guard. Over the last five games, the Celtics' turnover percentage has skyrocketed to 18 percent, which would easily be a league-worst level if maintained (the Rockets turn the ball over a league-worst 16.6 percent of the time), and is nearly three percent above Boston's season average (15.3). "I think we're trying to do too much," Rivers said.

• The Celtics are still waiting for Jason Terry, the man nicknamed JET, to take flight. Terry chipped in 10 points on 4-of-8 shooting on Tuesday, but the rest of his stat line was an eyesore as he had zero assists and one rebound over 22 minutes and was a team-worst minus-18 in plus/minus. Terry is far from the only individual on the team underperforming, but the Celtics need more from a player brought in at a steep price tag (three years, $15.7 million) with the goal of being the bench spark they've long coveted.

• The Celtics are thin up front -- super thin. Chris Wilcox played nine minutes off the bench Tuesday and didn't grab a single rebound. All while Kenyon Martin sought revenge on Boston after it passed him up this season, forcing him to wait until late February to find an NBA home. The Celtics might have to give an honest-to-goodness long look at the likes of Chinese Basketball Association imports D.J. White and Shavlik Randolph, and that alone tells you the state of this team at the moment.

Despite all their woes, Celtics know that no one is shedding any tears for them.

"We can't feel sorry for ourselves," said Celtics captain Paul Pierce. "We got a job to do, we have to compete every night and figure it out ... This is what's going to have be out there, we can't look over our shoulders [or] look for Kevin to be back tomorrow."

If they're being honest, the Celtics are just looking to survive the next three weeks. There will be nights like this where they take their lumps while waiting for Garnett to get rid of his. But Boston has a fairly strong grip on the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference, and that would be enough to avoid seeing the Heat until the conference finals (assuming, of course, Boston could get there).

A common refrain in the Boston locker room after Tuesday's loss was that the Celtics just weren't themselves. The roster changes prove that. But the Celtics are adamant that a veteran core with Pierce and a healthy Garnett can lead them to familiar postseason success.

As Rivers reflected on the impending departure of the division title, he noted, "Whether you win it or not, your season will be defined by what you do in the playoffs. For us and them."

There's a strong possibility the Celtics and Knicks will cross paths again in the postseason. Boston hopes it will look like a different team then.

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