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Celtics culture

Considering the way the Celtics got blown off the Kaseya Center the other day, even their diehard fans have cause to concede the inevitable. Including the Nuggets’ sweep of the Lakers yesterday, teams down zero to three in National Basketball Association annals have gone on to lose the best-of-seven series 150 out of 150 times. Perhaps the green and white would be given the benefit of the doubt were they at least competitive in Game Three. Instead, they managed to keep pace only for the better part of the first quarter; they were thoroughly outplayed the rest of the way.

The Celtics looked broken in the aftermath of the shellacking they received the other day. It wasn’t just that they looked clueless against the Heat, supposedly overmatched from the start of the East Finals as a shocking eighth seed. It was that they failed to meet expectations in both ends of the court. And because the challenges have permeated every aspect of their system, all and sundry have no idea what they need to fix first, not to mention how they will be addressing their concerns.

Defeat is not something the Celtics are normally associated with, but it was etched in the face of just about every single player after their embarrassing showing in Game Three. Significantly, head coach Joe Mazzulla’s shoulders were slumped when he faced members of the media and said the loss is “on me.” He said he did not prepare his charges properly for the task of winning on the road the other day. And unlike after their Game Two loss, few quarters came to his defense — in no smallmeasure because, well, he’s right.

It bears noting that the word “culture” has been brought up in explaining away the Celtics’ fall from grace. They were title favorites when the playoffs began. Now, as they’re about to bow to the Heat, they appear lost and unable to acknowledge their identity. Early in their 2022-23 campaign, they hung their hats on defense. As the season wore on, however, they seemed to show a purposeful predilection for producing points. Even their substitution patterns changed in favor of getting baskets instead of preventing the opinion from doing the same.

To be sure, hindsight provides 20/20 vision. That said, there can be no denying the enormity of the Celtics’ work in shaping their future. In the context of their monumental collapse, do they stick with their core? Or do they break it up and start over? Will Mazzulla be back for another run? Or will he be given the axe? These and more questions will determine their fate.


Anthony L. Cuaycong has been writing Courtside since BusinessWorld introduced a Sports section in 1994. He is a consultant on strategic planning, operations and Human Resources management, corporate communications, and business development.

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