Saturday's Defeat Felt Like a Microcosm of the Season

ORLANDO – Al Horford couldn’t help but to laugh at the first question he was asked following Saturday’s defeat to the Orlando Magic.

"Did this game kind of feel like a microcosm of your season so far, with all of the highs and the lows?" he was asked.

Horford laughed, raised his eyebrows in acknowledgement and replied, “That’s pretty accurate… That’s pretty accurate.”

Indeed, it was.

At moments Saturday night, the Celtics looked like a top-flight team that would blow the Magic away and get back into the win column.

At other times, they looked like a team with no rhythm or cohesion, and a team that was deservedly outplayed by a sub-.500 squad.

Boston opened up the game with a 14-5 lead, and then built a double-digit advantage heading into halftime. That lead hovered at 12 points until the final minutes of the third quarter, when the Celtics lost their way.

While Boston’s offense went stale and its defense went sideways, Orlando closed out the third period on a 14-7 run that greatly impacted the game. Not only had the Magic pulled to within five, but they had also built significant momentum against the Celtics, momentum that eventually carried Orlando to a 105-103 win.

This type of up-and-down play has been the hallmark of Boston’s season. Its ability to consistently be inconsistent has truly been remarkable. The Celtics have gone from a perplexing 10-10 start, to an encouraging eight-game win streak, to now going 7-7 over their last 14 games.

No one has been able to find the answer to solve their problems, and that fact is hanging heavy over the team’s shoulders.

“It’s all I think about every day, unfortunately,” said Brad Stevens Saturday night. “But it’s my job, so I’ll keep thinking about it.”

From the players’ viewpoint, Gordon Hayward added, “It’s definitely a little frustrating. Puzzling is a good word.”

It is a word that’s applicable because, as Kyrie Irving noted after the loss, this Celtics team is superior to most in the NBA when it comes to individual talent and ability. Most of the players in the rotation have proven themselves on the league’s bright stages.

Yet, somehow, consistency has alluded this group all season long.

“We have stretches where we’re really, really good, and really tough,” Hayward commented. “And we have other stretches where we’re not at all.”

Horford has an inclination as to why such is the case, and although his viewpoint may sound harsh, he did not hold back from revealing it following Saturday’s defeat.

“I think we play hard at times,” he said. “I don’t think that we’re playing hard enough all the time as a unit.”

Two questions later, he revisited that sentiment yet again.

“One thing I can say is that we have to be able to maintain that high intensity throughout the game,” said Horford. “I kinda sound like a broken record, but that’s what I see. Not consistent enough playing hard. And winning is tough. And you have to do those right things every time.”

Boston has done those things sometimes, but certainly not every time. As a result, the Celtics have been forced to endure many highs and many lows throughout this season, just as they did throughout Saturday night’s matchup with Orlando that resulted in another disappointing loss.