Even the best team in the NBA has its flaws.
While the Boston Celtics boast the league's best record at 35-15, they've now lost three straight after falling to the New York Knicks in overtime Thursday at TD Garden. And while three games shouldn't warrant overreactions, it's also worth highlighting what's caused the Celtics to hit the skids.
If you ask former Celtics guard Eddie House, effort and consistency are two primary culprits.
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"The Knicks just played harder than us from tip to end. From start to finish, they played harder," House said on "Celtics Postgame Live" after the loss. "... We play great in spurts, and sometimes it seems like we have to get behind to play collectively together on both ends. We're digging ourselves out of a hole, and now we're in a dogfight, because we allowed a team to get a lot of confidence.
"... Guys are pros, and if you continue to do that, you're falling into a situation where you're creating bad habits -- bad habits of not finishing the job, not starting fast and not continuing to play the same way and playing strong."
The Celtics boast one of the league's deepest rosters, and their strong bench play was a big reason why they won 21 of their first 26 games. A handful of injuries have tested Boston's depth, however, and the C's haven't always been up to the challenge, with the active roster failing to keep its foot on the gas for the full game.
Thursday night was the latest example: The Celtics led by as many as 15 points in the first half but allowed the Knicks to crawl back in the game and fell behind by as many as 13 points in the fourth quarter before rallying in the fourth quarter. In Tuesday night's loss to the Miami Heat, Boston went scoreless for more than six minutes in the fourth quarter to squander a double-digit lead.
"That's concerning to me," House added. "Those are the things that I'm concerned about, is the fact that we haven't put together a 48-minute game in a long time. We've just been playing in spurts.
"The fact that we've been more talented and deeper than other teams, we've been able to get away with it, but these last three games, you can see, guys are getting the best of everybody."
The Celtics have the talent and the depth to make another NBA Finals run, and they still own a 2.5-game lead as the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference. But if they want to keep that position, they'll need to play with more consistent effort to avoid letting teams back into games and getting into "dogfights" that they've had difficulty winning of late.