Consistently inconsistent - Why the Celtics may be ready to turn the corner

Tell me anything you want about the Celtics. Tell me they're great, tell me they're awful, tell me you love them, tell me you hate them.

Just don't tell me they are inconsistent.

The fact of the matter folks, is that the Boston Celtics may be the most consistent team in the league. They consistently play up (or down) to their opponents. They consistently lose games to teams they are more talented than. And they consistenly have all of us yelling at our collective television sets. They are remarkably consistent - at being inconsistent that is.

But that might all be about to change. The Celtics thrashed the Nets 93-76 on Christmas Day, playing the type of basketball that people expected them to play when this team was put together. They got scoring from their bench, defended the Nets relentlessly, and when it came time to close the game out; they did. After the game, Doc said the team was starting to turn it around.

I told our guys that I didn’t think we had a unit on the floor where someone didn’t do something good for us, I really thought it was a really good team effort.

I think we’re getting better. I think we’re very, very close to becoming a good team but we’re not yet. Our record says we’re not.

The record does tell us that the Celtics are not all that good, and as great as the effort against Jersey was, it was only one game. But in my opinion, it's a harbinger of things to come. As infuriating as the C's have been over the first third of the season, things are setting up nicely for them to make a legitimate run without the help of a mega-deal. Sure anybody would love to add a guy like Anderson Verejao to their team, and Danny sure as hell should have his feelers out, but at what cost? Bradley, Sullinger, and a first? I hate to break it to the armchair GM's out there but you are not trading a pu-pu platter of Courtney Lee, Brandon Bass and Fab Melo for a near all-star caliber big man. Unless you're the Lakers.

Here are three reasons why this Celtics team can make a run without the help of a big time trade.

1. Health - The Celtics have been remarkably healthy this season. The only member of their top 8 who has missed significant time thus far is Avery Bradley, and he's coming back on January 2nd.  Bradley's return will allow us to finally see this team at full strength. AB will take a ton of pressure off Rondo on the defensive end, add a dimension of offense that we do not currently have (his quick back cuts lead to a lot of points late in possessions after the play that was called falls apart), and will allow Jason Terry to slide into his natural 6th man/bench assassin role. The Celtics haven't had good luck in the health department since the '08 title run, but thus far this year, they have. Long way to go of course, but so far so good.

2. The upcoming schedule - I know what you're thinking, "but Mike, the Celtics are about to play 3 straight on the West Coast - how is the upcoming schedule a good thing?" I'll give you that. The next three games are tough. But after that the schedule is extremely favorableFrom January 2nd to February 3rd the C's play 17 games, 12 of which are at the Garden. Sure there will be some tough games (Clippers, Heat and Grizzlies to name a few), but the Celtics will get a chance to pad their record a bit with 7 games against teams well outside the playoff picture. Over the course of the 17 games the Green will only play three games on the road against teams with winning records (and two of those are in Atlanta). So what I'm saying is, even if the Celtics have a tough go on the left coast, don't be surprised to see them really start churning out wins when January comes around.

3. The overall awfulness of the Eastern Conference - I mean have you seen the Eastern Conference Standings? My dog has taken dumps that look prettier, and I don't even have a dog. The Heat are great. Hate them or not that team is heading towards 60 wins unless Lebron loses an ACL. The Knicks are at the very least pretty good. Their good start mixed with the weakness of the rest of the conference probably means they are headed towards a low 50 win total. Atlanta has improved, but honestly I'm finding it difficult to believe in the Hawks. The rest? Someone's gonna win the central, but the Bulls, Pacers and Bucks are all severely flawed basketball teams (Bulls and Pacers can't score and the Bucks have absolutely no reliable big men). The Nets and Sixers are dueling to see who can be the bigger mess in the Atlantic. And then there's the dregs. Detroit, Toronto, Cleveland, Charlotte and Washington are all truly awful basketball teams. The Celtics, for all of their flaws, could fall out of bed tomorrow and still find themselves at worst, in the 4-5 match-up come playoff time. It's a blessing for the Celtics to have such a mediocre start during a season where the East is having a throwback season to the early 2000's when only one or two teams would eclipse 50 wins.

So there you have it. I know it's been ugly, and this team is not perfect. But I just can't get past the simple fact that this team was 12 minutes away from the NBA Finals last year with far less talent. Of course that doesn't guarantee a damn thing, but it's reason to be cautiously optimistic that over the course of the next few weeks, the C's will rise in the standings.

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