LOS ANGELES – In the aftermath of Boston’s 103-95 loss to Orlando, the Boston Celtics did their best to maintain their “on to the next one” mentality.
It’s pretty easy to do when the wins pile up like New England snowbanks.
But that’s not where this team is right now … not even close.
They have lost three in a row for the first time this season, which in itself isn’t all that big a deal.
But it’s how the losses have come about.
The 116-13 overtime loss to New Orleans on Tuesday had a lot to do with a monster game by Anthony Davis. And Boston's 89-80 loss to Philadelphia had more to do with an anemic offense. On Sunday, it was one horrific third quarter of play (Boston was outscored 32-12 in the third) that dwarfed the other three.
The bottom line is simple: the Celtics are not playing good basketball and unlike earlier stretches when that was the case, the pathway to victory of late has been a dead end.
Now comes another challenge – taking their talents out West for four games beginning with the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday night.
Boston’s Jaylen Brown said his approach to this upcoming trip isn’t all that different than how he has approached previous games.
“Look at the film, see how we can play better, like we always do, win or lose, and try and come out and get a ‘W,’” Brown said.
Celtics head coach Brad Stevens echoed similar sentiments.
"One game at a time; one meeting at a time,” Stevens said. “Everything else, we’ll figure out how to play better.”
The Celtics (34-13) are in no position to approach any of these games, even against the struggling Lakers (17-29), as a matchup they can just show up and victory will fall in their lap.
“Once we get into games, we have to understand teams are coming for us, said Al Horford. “I’ve felt like we handled it okay throughout the season, but it’s even more evident now.”
Indeed, the Celtics have been among the teams in not just the East but the NBA, that most of the league’s teams have been trying to catch up to this season.
Even with three straight losses, Boston still has a two-game lead in East over Toronto (31-14) and have the third-best overall record in the NBA behind the Golden State Warriors (37-10) and Houston Rockets (32-12).
And while Boston will surely be challenged during its four-game trip out West, the Celtics have every reason to believe they will find success most nights.
For starters, Boston has a 12-3 record against the Western Conference this season - tops among all teams in the East - which includes wins over the top five teams (Golden State; Houston; San Antonio; Minnesota and Oklahoma City) in the Western Conference.
And of the four teams on the docket – Los Angeles Lakers, Los Angeles Clippers, Golden State and Denver – Boston has a perfect 3-0 record with the only team they have yet to play being the Clippers.
I asked Kyrie Irving how does the three-game losing streak change the mindset of the Celtics heading out West.
“It definitely puts a huge emphasis on the next game,” he said. “What we have to do to put ourselves in great position to win at the end of the day. We’re going to be playing against some hungry teams out in the Western Conference. They’ve come in here and played pretty well against us except for the Clippers. So, this is great for a young developing team like we have. And it’s fun. You can learn so much more about each other. Not that we didn’t learn anything after these last three losses, but going on the road is a test.”