No matter how talented an NBA team may be, they are going to experience some disappointing losses along the way.
But even in defeat, the better teams still play with a certain level of consistency that’s unmistakable regardless of the game’s outcome.
That’s why Boston’s 119-99 loss at Denver on Friday night was more than just a bad night for the Celtics.
It was yet another reminder of how, as talented they are collectively, the Celtics still don’t play with the consistency you would expect from a top-five NBA team (record-wise at least).
That’s why after the game, head coach Brad Stevens wasn’t overly concerned about his team getting smoked by 20 points, or the way they were tossed around like a rag doll for long stretches.
“My biggest concern right now was the fact that we were flat getting to loose balls,” Stevens said after the loss. "and giving up those uncontested lay-ups … they just got to the rim without anybody getting in front of them.”
The Celtics didn’t play with the kind of grit that a team playing the final game of a long road trip, needs in order to win.
Yes, the Nuggets have been playing better basketball of late and yes, they are a team that the Celtics do not match up well against.
But there’s no reasonable explanation for the Celtics to have been blown out like they were on Friday, a game in which Boston trailed wire-to-wire.
“Gotta give them credit,” Al Horford said following the loss. “We couldn’t keep up with their pace. They were doing a great job cutting, getting everything they wanted. We didn’t do as good a job defensively as we did the other night (at Golden State), all of us. I wasn’t there a lot of the times at the basket to contest as I should have been. We just need to be better.”
Isaiah Thomas echoed similar sentiments in describing yet another game in which Boston didn’t deliver the kind of consistent play needed to give themselves a chance to win on a night when they weren’t at the top of their game.
“It was just one of those games,” Thomas said. “We have to figure out how to be more consistent, each and every night. That’s not about me making a bunch of shots. That’s bringing it. When we bring it, we know what we’re capable of. Tonight, we didn’t for whatever reason.”
Thomas added, “if we can turn that switch and be consistent, we can be a really good team. That’s just bringing it every night, being what makes us really good – defending, being physical, getting loose balls – when you see the other team getting loose balls you know what type of game that is especially with the group we have here.”
The good news is that the Celtics are well aware that consistency is an area of weakness that they have to shore up in time for them to have the kind of postseason journey they believe they’re capable of having.
But Thomas believes all the talk about being more consistent is just that … talk.
“It’s way past talking about it,” he said. “We just have to do it. Tonight, we were a step slow on everything, that’s communication as well. When we’re like that we’re not good. For whatever reason these games keep happening every now and then. We have to fix that.”
Otherwise, games like Friday’s loss will litter the Celtics schedule between now and the playoffs.
“If we play bad, we get beat. It doesn’t matter who. That’s the way it goes,” Stevens said. “We have to play well to have a chance to win. Our margin is not what other team’s margin is. We can’t be inconsistent in that.”