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January 8, 2009

Are Celtics finally feeling Posey exodus?

BOSTON — Here's a hard fact the Boston Celtics and several million of their ardent fans had better understand: James Posey, now of the New Orleans Hornets, is not walking through that door.

Through that 27-2 start and franchise-record 19-game winning streak, you forgot about Posey, didn't you?

Posey was the quintessential Celtic, even moreso than the Big Three. Minutes, points, rebounds, assists and fouls didn't matter. He cared about one thing: Winning.

Well, I will amend that a bit. He cared about defense first. He was that last line of defense. You remember him in the NBA finals? He covered Kobe Bryant, a guard, as well as he covered Lamar Odom, a power forward.

Posey played only half a game as a Celt. Sometimes he hit open 3-pointers and sometimes he didn't. But what he did every night was make sure hard-nosed defense was being played.

As the Celtics were trying to explain away their sixth loss in eight games over 12 days — this one a somewhat embarrassing 89-85 loss to the Houston Rockets — to a man everybody said their skid correlates to their desire when they don't have the ball.

"Our goal is to shut teams down," said Paul Pierce, who is as guilty as any Celtic over the recent stretch when it comes to defending the opposition. "We have to get our defensive swagger back. We've lost it the last 10 days."

That's not entirely true.

The winning streak, especially at the end, masked a defense that bent and broke. But because of a flashy offense, particularly with point guard Rajon Rondo and center Kendrick Perkins scoring, passing and rebounding better than ever, the wins kept coming.

That was until Christmas Day.

That was the afternoon the Los Angeles Lakers turned the tables and shut down the Celtics in the fourth quarter, allowing only 16 points, which was too little and too late.

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