Wednesday marked another night to forget in the Boston Celtics' disappointing 2020-21 season.
The C's lost 102-94 to a Cleveland Cavaliers team that entered with an 11-game losing streak. Jayson Tatum (29 points) carried the load with Jaylen Brown, Kemba Walker, Marcus Smart and Robert Williams out, but it wasn't enough. Kevin Love (30 pts) and Collin Sexton (28) propelled the lowly Cavs to their first win since April 21.
Here are three takeaways from the Celtics' latest defeat as they move to 35-34 on the season with two games remaining.
This loss perfectly summed up the Celtics' season
Sure, it was on the second night of a back-to-back. Sure, they were without Brown, Walker, Smart, and Time Lord. But there are just no valid excuses for losing to a rebuilding Cavs team that was in the midst of an 11-game skid.
There was no excuse for ending the Oklahoma City Thunder's 14-game losing streak, either. Or for allowing the New Orleans Pelicans to pull off a 24-point comeback and win in overtime.
Point being, this loss to the Cavs -- while embarrassing -- wasn't all that surprising. This is what the Celtics have been all season long. They've given no reason to feel any sort of confidence heading into a matchup, regardless of the opponent.
Cleveland hadn't beaten a team with a winning record since March 17th. Who'd they beat, you ask? That would be the Celtics.
The C's have been struggling to find their identity all year, but it's clear who they are. They're simply a maddeningly inconsistent team that consistently plays down to their competition. Wednesday night was just the latest example.
Changes need to be made
With the end of the season in sight, it's time to start thinking about what this Celtics team needs to do to turn it around in 2021-22.
Some will speculate about head coach Brad Stevens' future in Boston. Others may look at a roster shakeup involving a notable name like Marcus Smart. There are a number of ways the Celtics could go, but it's clear something big needs to change.
The bench is another major area of concern. Payton Pritchard had a solid Wednesday night with 15 points, but the rest of the second unit was invisible on a night they were needed. Grant Williams (seven points in 32 minutes) and Luke Kornet (three points in 18 minutes) were the only other C's bench players to score.
That won't cut it.
On to the play-in tournament
The Celtics entered Wednesday's game with a chance -- albeit a slim one -- of avoiding the play-in tournament and sneaking into the sixth seed. That won't be happening.
Boston needed to win its three remaining games and the New York Knicks had to lose the rest of theirs for the C's to slide up to No. 6. With the loss to the Cavs, the Celtics almost certainly will be the seventh seed and host either the Charlotte Hornets or Indiana Pacers in the play-in tourney.
The Celtics are 2-1 this season against both teams. The play-in tournament is set to begin Tuesday, May 18.
Next up for the C's is a Saturday matchup with the Minnesota Timberwolves.