Even casual observers of the 2018-19 Boston Celtics know something seems a little off about this group.
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How else to explain one of the NBA's deepest, most talented rosters sitting fifth in the Eastern Conference with 21 games remaining?
Apparently their head coach concurs. Brad Stevens was asked directly Wednesday on 98.5 The Sports Hub's "Zolak & Bertrand" if there's a "chemistry issue" on the Celtics and seemed to confirm as much.
"As I've said many times, in our locker room I think we have a bunch of well-intentioned guys. I really do," Stevens said. "But there's been no question that ever since the start of the year, being able to play well together has been off and on. It hasn't been as good as it can be or needs to be."
Stevens insisted it's not rare for a club to struggle finding its identity over the course of the season. But Boston still hasn't put all the pieces together, and with 21 games remaining, it's possible the chemistry puzzle gets left unsolved.
"Most teams go through a period where they have to become a team," Stevens said. "And sometimes that period takes 10 games, 20 games, 30 games, 60 games and sometimes it never happens.
"Those are the teams that fall short of where they want to be. And we're not where we need to be or where we'd like to be consistently enough.
" ... We've got a month and a half left in the season, so the clock is ticking on that."
The Celtics now are 9.5 games behind the No. 1 seed Milwaukee Bucks after an embarrassing loss to the Toronto Raptors on Tuesday night. More than poor shooting or defensive lapses, Stevens is perturbed by the Celtics' season-long inability to play connected on a consistent basis.
"That's been an issue all year," Stevens said. "You could see it as early as the preseason games. I think we've had our moments where we've gone on runs ... where we've shown when we really play with the intensity, pace and togetherness that we need to, we can be a good team. We don't always do that.
"That's a frustrating thing, and if we don't get that fixed, then I would say we don't have near the shot that we do if we can start connected on both ends of the court."
Boston has no time to dwell on Tuesday's loss, as the Portland Trail Blazers visit TD Garden on Wednesday night.
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