Celtics have lost their early season passion

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NEW YORK — What once defined these transitioning Celtics doesn’t define them anymore. They have turned into another run-of-the-mill pushover, a team that sometimes considers effort optional, such as Tuesday night against the Knicks.

The Celtics didn’t compete from the start in a 114-88 loss, and it wasn’t that they lost to the rejuvenated Knicks, it was how they lost. They refused to play defense, falling behind, 21-5, as the Knicks ran pick-and-rolls or launched uncontested 3-pointers.

An early identity of Brad Stevens’s team was effort and passion. It seems as if president of basketball operations Danny Ainge’s desire to squeeze assets out of every part of the team, such as trading Courtney Lee and Jordan Crawford, have robbed the spirit from this group.

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