Checking in with the Celtics… Part VI: Make or Break

Los Angeles Clippers v Boston Celtics

Record: 38-26

Notable Wins: @PHI

Notable L’s: home vs. Lakers, blown lead vs. Clippers, @ CHI

Washington Wizards v Boston Celtics     Well, what can I say at this point?  I continue to be positive and support the Celtics but it’s getting so damn difficult to defend this team when they don’t go out and put forth the effort needed on a nightly basis.  A terrible home loss to the Lakers, a huge blown lead to the Clippers, followed by 4 straights L’s to Milwaukee, Chicago (!!!), Toronto and Portland.  Yeah, 3 of those 4 teams are playoff teams but this is the time of year when the Celtics should be making their push up the standings and winning those games. They tried to bounce back with a lackluster win over Washington and then got Houston at home Sunday afternoon.  Houston is one of the hottest teams in the NBA right now while the Celtics are creeping in the opposite direction.  This game was as close to a must win as possible and the Celtics came out flat for three quarters before finally making a push in the 4th.  Below is my running diary of the last nine minutes when I was beginning to think the Celtics would come back…

  • 9:01: 10-0 run by the C’s to start the 4th until Tucker hits a corner 3 off of an offensive rebound.
  • 8:15-7:35: two straight stops by Jaylen Brown while guarding James Harden, 103-90 HOU
  • 7:15: Theis rim run dunk off Houston turnover, 103-92
  • 6:35: strong take by Tatum for two, 103-94
  • 6:06: brown dunk in transition, 106-96. Caps an 18-6 Celtic run before Houston timeout
  • 5:18: Great Boston defense but they don’t finish and Nene gets fouled on a put back attempt. 1/2 ft’s, 107-96
  • 5:00: Ballsy 3 pointer by Rozier who gets fouled. 0/3 ft’s, 107-96
  • 4:41: Marcus Smart offensive rebound and putback (18 second half points for Smart), 107-98
  • 4:15: Harden takes Kyrie to the cup (39 points for Harden), 109-98
  • 4:00: Tatum answers, 109-100
  • 3:23: great defense by the C’s leads to Harden hitting a crazy stepback 3 over both Kyrie and Tatum late in the clock while getting fouled (42 points, Harden), 112-100
    • author’s note: This ended the comeback
  • 3:06-19.3: Celtics score a few more times and squander more opportunities while Houston knocks down free throws….
  • 115-104 FINAL

Those kinds of games are becoming too frequent.  As a fan, I’m tired of seeing the Celtics not give a shit for three quarters only to make a mad dash for a comeback in the fourth.  Part of the problem is the Celtics are a team without an identity.  A Championship contender should not be in the process of discovering it’s identity, it should already be established.  For a number of reasons, this Celtics season has been a roller coaster ride full of ups and downs.  All year the Celtics have been teetering on the precipice of turning it around only to drop consecutive games or take a bad loss. As a fan, I’m sick of the negative media surrounding my team but I also understand why it’s there.  All the bad publicity will go away once the Celtics string together a few W’s and right the ship.  Until then, the scrutiny is more than warranted. 

Houston Rockets v Boston Celtics      Despite all the awful things I had to say above, there have been some bright spots in these last ten games.  I just had to look a little harder this time.  The defense has been solid.  The Portland and Milwaukee games are two great examples of losses that good things came out of.  In both cases, the winning team had under 100 points.  The Celtics simply broke down late against Portland and couldn’t hit a bucket for stretches in the Milwaukee game.  While the lack of execution at the end of games is troubling, it’s not something that scares me because as of this posting, the Celtics still employ Kyrie Irving.  I have 100 percent confidence in Kyrie that he will knock down the shots needed or make the decision necessary for the Celtics to win close games. Rather, the bright spot of those games (MIL/POR) was the elite defense the Celtics trotted out.  If Boston continues to play defense at that level, it’s going to be hard to score on them in a seven game playoff series which players like Kyrie have alluded to.  As I’ve stated in this space before, I think Aron Baynes is a huge part of the Boston defense and I think his return to the rotation will only help the Celtics get better on that end.  Now if we could just get that effort every single night.

Boston Celtics v Chicago Bulls      A huge positive for the Celtics during this stretch has been the play of Al Horford.  My MVP from last recap has built on his return from injury and is now rounding back into form.  His fingerprints are all over the Celtics three wins during this stretch and even in losses, he has played well.  A healthy front court of Horford and Baynes should stabilize the defense going forward while also giving the Celtics two reliable, versatile bigs who can fill multiple holes.  I can’t go this whole recap without mentioning Jayson Tatum either who has calmly been averaging 16 and 6 all season while finally turning 21 this past Sunday.  The consistency Tatum gives Boston in the starting unit has been invaluable all season and it’s shame that Tatum gets overlooked for guys like Ben Simmons and Donovan Mitchell (though obviously they are deserving) when people talk about last year’s rookie class.  Smart’s recent scoring surge has been a bonus as well and we can only hope he will continue to shoot like this into the playoffs.  Marcus Morris has been going through a rough spell lately but I’m confident he can turn it around.  Morris has also been a spiritual leader of sorts with tweets like this. As I’ve said all season, this roster has exactly what it takes to win an NBA Championship.  Now, they gotta start playing like it.

Boston Celtics v Philadelphia 76ers      Perturbed would accurately define my mood on the Celtics season right now.  I hate watching some of these losses and even some of the wins are cringeworthy (see: Washington) yet I remain loyal through and through. I bleed green! I fully believe the Celtics are going to turn it around and be ready come playoff time.  The unfortunate part in that plan is that the Celtics have seemingly already ceded home court advantage.  Toronto and Milwaukee have long surpassed Boston record-wise and Philly and Indiana are making ground everyday.  The more losses the Celtics pile up, the more likely it is that they will have to travel for round 1 of the playoffs (possibly in Philly).  That’s when we will see how much this recent stretch of losing has affected this group and their trajectory.  More pressing though, the Celtics have Golden State, Sacramento and both LA franchises on the road next week in what is shaping up to be a make or break week for my favorite team.  Hopefully my “Part VII” recap is more jovial than this one… but until then…it’s still C’s up til infinity and nothing but positive thoughts for the team in green this week. #greenrunsdeep

Los Angeles Lakers v Boston Celtics

Results:

  1. L. 128-129 vs. LAL: Player of the Game: Rondo (hit game winner)
  2. L. 112-123 vs LAC: Player of the Game: Montrezl Harrell (21 and 6)
  3. W. 112-109 @ PHI: Player of the Game: Al Horford (23/5/8 with 4 steals)
  4. W. 118-110 vs. DET: Player of the Game: Al Horford (17/8/14)
  5. L. 97-98 @ MIL: Player of the Game: Giannis Antetokounmpo (30/6/13)
  6. L. 116-126 @ CHI: Player of the Game: Zach Lavine (42 pts)
  7. L. 95-118 @ TOR: Player of the Game: Pascal Siakam (25 and 8)
  8. L. 92-97 vs POR: Player of the Game: Damian Lillard (33 pts)
  9. W. 107-96 vs. WSH: Player of the Game: Al Horford (18/3/6)
  10. L. 115-104 vs. HOU: Player of the Game: James Harden 

Portland Trail Blazers v Boston Celtics

Record in last 10 games: 3-7

Part VI MVP: Jaylen Brown

  • Jaylen Brown has been playing out of his mind the last ten games.  Brown is often the forgotten man among the Celtics young pieces with Tatum and even Rozier getting more limelight and I’ve always felt that’s unfortunate and unfair.  Brown has been one of my favorite Celtics from the moment Boston drafted him out of Cal.  His reduction to a bench role this season will only make him a better player moving forward and I think we are already seeing that happen.  During this stretch of games, Brown has averaged 13.1 points per game while shooting a scorching 53% from the field.  The craziest part of Brown’s recent play is how atrocious he’s been from the 3 during that same stretch (23% 3pfg) which can only mean he’s raising that field goal percentage through strong drives to the rim and high percentage looks.  He’s also picked his defense up and seems to be one of the only Celtics readying himself for the playoffs through his actions rather than words.

Los Angeles Lakers v Boston Celtics

 

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