Starting to look like this Celtics group's time is over

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Cheers and Jeers,Sports,NBA,Craig Stouffer

The last time the Boston Celtics had a losing record midway through an 82-game NBA season, Paul Pierce wasn't an All-Star -- the only time he hasn't been in the last 10 years -- Rajon Rondo was a rookie and one of the NBA's most storied franchises finished with a mere 24 wins.

Boston was 12-29 at the halfway point of the 2006-07 campaign, which led to the audacious acquisitions of Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen in the offseason that paved the way for a championship the following year and no less than the conference semifinals ever since.

Sitting on a four-game skid, the current group is 20-21 and in theory should still make the playoffs in the mediocre Eastern Conference. But just as concern mounts for the Lakers out West, the Celtics are at a crossroads, one they've known was coming for a long time.

Coach Doc Rivers and general manager Danny Ainge have responded in disparate fashion. Rivers, who rallied a team that was 16-17 at the middle of last year's 66-game slate, is doing his best with repeated and increasing criticism to motivate his offensively challenged group, which is 21st in the NBA in efficiency (100.0) and 23rd in scoring (94.9 points per game).

Ainge has tamped down threats of major change, but at some point he may need to choose between his beloved core and his prized younger assets.

The schedule could force that decision sooner than later. The Celtics' next three games are against New York, Atlanta and Miami.

- Craig Stouffer

cstouffer@washingtonexaminer.com

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