TOST Question of the Week: Can the Boston Celtics come back in their first round playoff series against the New York Knicks?

Todd: In honor of Earth Day earlier this week, should I recycle some old jokes about the Celtics' poor shooting or how they've been conserving their energy through the first two games?

Ouch.  But all kidding aside, I guess it would be good idea to talk a little Celtics before their season ends sometime in the next few days.  How’s that for a long-winded way of saying no?

Actually, I would not be shocked if Boston makes this series mildly interesting by winning at least one of the two games at TD Garden this weekend, nor would I be shocked if Carmelo Anthony continues his offensive tear and singlehandedly finishes off the Green in a four-game sweep.

One thing is for certain, and don’t let certain members of the media or some of your basketball buddies tell you otherwise.  The Boston Celtics miss Rajon Rondo in these playoffs.  When Doc Rivers rolls out a starting lineup featuring Paul Pierce in his backcourt, that’s all you need to know.  If the Celtics captain is busy being trying to be a facilitator, then he is less busy trying to be a scorer.  If Rondo is on the floor this postseason, opponents must divert their attention to him while his teammates find their preferred shooting spots, and then Rajon finds them for open jumpers.  Right now the Celtics’ spacing on the floor and their entire offense execution are completely out of sync.

Then there’s Kevin Garnett, who’s battling both injuries and fatigue.  Chris Wilcox was playing decently in the final weeks of the regular season.  I wonder why Wilcox has been a complete non-factor in this series when he could spell KG for 10-15 minutes a night?  Which also reminds me that the C’s bench has pretty much been a non-factor in the first two games of this playoff series.  That will have to change if there is going to be any significant change in this series.

While Jeff Green and Avery Bradley have gained some playoff experience, their overall development won’t be helped much if they’re choosing their favorite golf clubs come Monday.  I think the Celtics should feed off their emotion of their home crowd and win Game 3 tonight (the first home game for the C’s since last week’s events in Boston), but that will probably be their last hurrah this 2012-2013 season.

Mike: Todd, I completely agree. I think the Celts ride the emotion of a return to Boston for a win, but then, that’s it. Stick a fork in them, they’re done.

What is more concerning to me is the fact that they have played well for parts of the first two games, but then utterly collapsed down the stretch. The team is getting old, and it’s starting to show. I do think they miss Rondo, but I also don’t think he’d make much of a difference here, this is starting to look like the end of the old (I prefer to call them the “Real”) Big 3, when Larry Bird, Robert Parish and Kevin McHale were coming to the end of their careers and the Celtics were good enough to get into the playoffs, but didn’t have the horses to go anywhere once they started.

Let’s hope this current issue of the Celtics avoids the problem that befell the team at the end of the Bird era, when they clearly held onto aging superstars way too long and stunted a rebuilding process, clearing the way for some dismal teams (and coaches – see “Pitino, Rick”) around here.

I don’t think Danny Ainge (who was shipped out of here as a player as the Bird era ended) will make that mistake this time, as he has already made the decision to let Ray Allen go to Miami a couple of years ago. But, the fact that the team still seems to be built around Garnett and Pierce is a concern. Sure, in the regular season, you’ll get wins and a playoff berth, but it will be a low seed and an early exit. Is that worth it? I don’t think so.

Every team needs to clean house and take a step back once and a while (except for the Patriots, who seem to be able to retool while staying on top every year), and this might be the time for the Celtics. Build the team around a returning Rondo, and look to get some younger players up front, while gently easing Garnett and Pierce out the door.

It doesn’t have to be a long rebuilding process, and it shouldn’t be. Last time the Celtics went into a hole, they stayed there for a long, long time, and in fact, almost became irrelevant around here. A championship in 2008 brought them back into the local and national spotlight, and they can afford to get younger now.

While it’s tough to see players who have poured their heart and soul into the team like Pierce and Garnett go, it simply has to be done. The team and fans deserve a winner, and with a little retooling, they’ll get one.

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