Danny Ainge: Celtics Need to Play Harder

Danny Ainge
Danny Ainge / Tim Bradbury/Getty Images

The Boston Celtics are in a slump. After kicking in Toronto's teeth on their home floor Christmas Day, the team has struggled against subpar teams; they barely scraped by the Atlanta Hawks, the worst team in the NBA by record, before fighting out an ugly win against the Hornets. They then lost to the Wizards absent both Bradley Beal and Rui Hachimura and were blown out by a Spurs team coming off an eight-game losing streak at home.

Boston has struggled with injuries all season and still have yet to play a significant amount of games with their five best players healthy. This includes last night, when Kemba Walker wasn't himself after coming down with the flu (and was also ejected for the first time in his life). Despite all the caveats you can come up with, the Celtics haven't looked good since the turn of the decade. Danny Ainge is displeased with the effort they're putting out, and said as much on Boston radio this morning.

This is a bit of a shock coming from Ainge. He didn't say a negative word about last year's underachieving and very frustrating squad. This version of the Celtics hasn't had a good few weeks, but they're a functioning team, an improvement over last season. But Ainge came out swinging with comments that surely won't make Brad Stevens feel very good.

Ainge is right, though, and things won't get easier for the Celtics. After playing less games than any team in December, they have games every other night and a handful of back-to-backs in the next month leading up to the All-Star break. They aren't going to get a break to mentally reset and get it together. Because, as Herm Edwards once famously said, you play to win the game.