The Boston Celtics concerns continue to mount after last night’s embarrassing loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers. With a final score of 117-110, the Cavaliers controlled the game from wire-to-wire, and never allowed the Celtics to truly get back in the game. After trailing by 21 points late in the second quarter, the Celtics made a game of it in the second half, bringing the game to within three points on multiple occasions in the fourth quarter. But as has been the case so many times this season, the Celtics couldn’t recover from their uneven performance, and find themselves back in the loss column for the second time in as many nights.
Whereas the Celtics previous loss to the Utah Jazz came at the hands of the best team in the league currently, this loss to the Cavs comes against one of the worst teams in the league. Prior to this win, the Cavaliers had gone three games without hitting the 100 point threshold, and played some of the worst offensive basketball the league had seen in awhile. Even on the second half of a back-to-back, the Celtics should have been able to steamroll the Cavs and pick up an easy victory. But things are never that easy with this Celtics team, as they only managed to score 38 points in the first half, and gave a bottom tier Cavs team way too much respect. By the time the Celtics got their act together, it was too late, and they now find themselves back at the .500 mark.
Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown did all they could to erase their miserable first half performances, as they both took control of the game at different points in the second half to keep Boston alive. Brown had 13 points in the third quarter, and had a particularly impressive stretch towards the end of the quarter where he scored nine straight points for the Celtics to bring the game within single digits. Tatum then took over in the fourth, dropping 15 points in the fourth, including 10 straight early on in the frame to help keep the Celtics in the game. However, these moments were fleeting, and ultimately left much more to be desired from the Celtics.
Offensively, the Celtics problem is that Tatum and Brown spend too much time settling for shots behind the arc. Sure, shots like these look great as highlights, but won’t tell you the full picture, as Tatum only shot 3/13 from three point land, while Brown only managed to shoot 2/10 from the same distance. Yet they shot 8/11 and 9/16 on two point shots, which begs the question; why on earth are they forcing up so many threes? Tatum and Brown are clearly skilled shooters, but there’s no reason to continue forcing threes when you aren’t hitting them, especially considering how lethal scorers both players are from all over the court. If you aren’t hitting threes, just take it to the paint. Brown demonstrated this best during his third quarter tear when he consistently drove to the hoop, and led the C’s on a run as a result. Too often the Celtics settle for threes, even when they aren’t hitting, and it’s cost them dearly more than once so far this season.
Defensively the Celtics have just been a mess all season, and it continued tonight. Colin Sexton and Darius Garland are very talented young players, but they were pretty much getting any look they wanted all night. Too often someone just makes a confusing rotation at the wrong time and leaves somebody wide open, leading to open buckets for the opposition. The Celtics tendency to switch on pretty much every screen has just killed them this season, as it ends up leaving big men like Daniel Theis matched up against guards, which typically ends poorly. When Theis gets burned by a guard, and it happens quite often, everyone decides it’s their duty to help him out, and then just leave their own guy wide open. There’s clearly been little to no communication on the defensive side of the ball, which has led to some ugly defensive play from the Celtics all season really.
With each passing loss, the Celtics playoff aspirations get diminished. The Celtics should be able to hold onto a playoff spot, but it’s beginning to seem increasingly likely it will be a short postseason for the Celtics. If the season were to end today, the Celtics would be in line for a first round series with the Brooklyn Nets, who have been able to easily dispatch the Celtics on multiple occasions without even being at full strength. It’s clear the Celtics aren’t on the level as the top teams in the East right now, which raises the issue of whether the Celtics should even bother making a trade at the deadline coming up. It will most likely be for nothing, so what’s the point in moving assets for a team that sees their championship aspirations rapidly fading away? They may be better off just waiting until the offseason and trying to build up a title contender for next season at this point. Either way, these next few games will play a big part in determining what the rest of the Celtics season will look like.
The Celtics will return to the TD Garden for a matchup against the Sacramento Kings tomorrow night. The Kings offer the Celtics another shot at an easy victory, but that’s what we said the Cavaliers would be, and look how that turned out. Hopefully the Celtics will be able to pull out a win over the Kings, or else things could really start spiraling out of control.
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