As playoffs near, just how good are the Celtics?

Appropriately enough, the Celtics clinched a spot in the NBA on Saturday night, simultaneously losing to the Utah Jazz. They blew an early lead, sputtering along on the wrong end of a 25-11 third-quarter run. They are 5-5 in their last 10 games. The likes of the MIami Heat, Brooklyn Nets and Atlanta Hawks are 5-5 in their last 10 games.

The Heat, Nets and Hawks are not given much respect in terms of their chances to win a championship in June. They haven’t clinched playoff spots, but they began Sunday seeded sixth, seventh and eighth in the Eastern Conference standings.

That puts them on a rung  just below the Celtics.

Let that sink in before embarking on the old “Yes, they blew another game they should have won – comfortably. But they’ll be fine in the playoffs.”

That crystal clear optimism may be warranted. It’s not like any wheels have fallen off the bandwagon.

But their ugliest moments – like Saturday night’s third-quarter meltdown – are happening with some degree of regularity.

There is something wrong with this club beyond its nagging injuries and nearly empty fuel tank. The best of teams have nagging injuries and often find themselves running on fumes as March trudges into April.

This is particularly galling because the best in the West are not powerhouses. At least none can be considered as such if compared to the Golden State Warriors of recent vintage.

If the Celtics more than faintly resembled the team that sharpies suggested they be last October it would be supremely foolish to suggest any of their conference rivals could smother that promise.

Most maddening of all is the lack of a clear scapegoat at whom to point. Management? Coaches? Players?

My only beef with players is their insistence on taking the first open 3-pointer on too damned many possessions. But having watched a lot of March Madness since Thursday, it is now clear that every team at every level is wired to take too damned many 3-pointers.

Some men turned 65 and say why; some turn 65 and, without a lawn available to shoo kids away from, look at this 3-point plague and say why not erase the arc from every basketball court on the planet.

Starting Tuesday night, the Celtics have 10 games remaining in the regular season.

Could they make at least one old guy happy by taking the ball to the hoop a little more?

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