These Celtics are absolutely maddening

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The Celtics lost to the Spurs Friday night.

Not the Manu Ginobli, Tony Parker, Kawhi Leonard, Tim Duncan or even LaMarcus Aldridge Spurs No, this 96-88 loss came at the hands of a San Antonio team that had won just four games in 17 attempts and was riding a six-game losing streak.

It only gets worse. The Celtics were forced to crawl out of a 24-point, first-half hole only to watch the Spurs rattle off the game's final 15 points over the course of the game's final 2:58.

Break it down however you want. Unfortunately for the less-than-inspiring 2021-22 Boston Celtics, this sort of crooked performance has been their calling card.

A few years ago Tom Brady proclaimed that he was the most miserable 8-0 quarterback ever. Well, let us scream from the early-season mountaintops that this is the most unwatchable 10-10 bunch we've seen in some time.

At this point, the perception was that the fan base would be beating their collective chest regarding the presence of two legitimate NBA All-Stars, who would be seamlessly shaking off the world of isolations and early-shot-clock three-pointers.

Nope.

“It’s habits we need to break – not trying to go isolation," said Celtics coach Ime Udoka. "We got Marcus (Smart), Jaylen (Brown), Jayson (Tatum), and Dennis (Schroder) starting. They need to learn to play together. Not try to just get baskets for themselves."

All of this comes in the shadow of a dud of a loss to the Nets on Thanksgiving Eve, along with an ESPN.com story quoting one NBA assistant coach as saying, “Jayson Tatum is about Jayson Tatum. I don’t think he cares about winning now, and if he does, it is on his terms. ... He doesn’t want to score 15 and win. He wants to score 39 and win.”

Well, in this case Tatum scored 24 points, grabbed 12 rebounds and totaled a minus-13. Oh, and his team lost. But this sort of dynamic is at the heart of the Celtics' current conundrum. Sure, you want the team's best player to will his team to not only win, but evolve while doing so. Yet, if you take him out of the equation ... Good luck.

Despite the Celtics' run before that Brooklyn loss - in which they won eight of 11 - his has felt like Turkey without the dressing. Something just doesn't feel right.

They can win if Schroder shows up as an elite scorer, or the good Marcus Smart gets the better of the uncomfortable Marcus Smart. And perhaps the more consistent presence of Robert Williams and Jaylen Brown will lengthen what seems like a less-than-impactful second wave of scoring.

But let's be honest, guys like Romeo Langford, Aaron Nesmith and Payton Pritchard (who got another DNP-Coach's Decision) were supposed to more of the solution by now. Instead it was Grant Williams, Enes Kanter and Jabari Parker filling in the gaps, usually watching as their teammates lined up for isolations.

Make no mistake about it, this Spurs game should be a reality check.

After 20 games, it's time to start figuring out exactly who these Celtics are because the combination of "December" and "work in progress" will get more unappetizing by the day.