Coming into the 2018-2019 season, the Boston Celtics were placed on the title contenders’ list with unshaken assurance by a circle of fans greater than that of New England.
Since the October 16th tip-off, however, Brad Stevens’s roster seems to lack the confidence shown during the 2018 playoffs, leaving room for uncertainty. Even though wins against big teams speak for their dominance, the track record of inconsistency raises questions about struggling aspects of their game.
After falling at home to the Jazz on Saturday, the Celtics now sit fifth in the Eastern Conference with a 9-7 record. Against Utah, Irving finished the game with 20 points and eight rebounds, while Tatum, Horford, and Hayward trailed on the stat sheet with single-digit entries. Although the loss comes with its expected negative connotations, it is partially justified due to Friday’s exhausting showdown against Toronto, when Kyrie’s dominant efforts stole the game from the Raptors in overtime.
When looking at the overall track record of the team, it has to be noted that Boston’s performances do follow a slightly concerning pattern.
In the wins against other Eastern Conference teams like Philadelphia and Milwaukee, the Celtics have met expectations to seemingly make a statement in the league. They have now beaten four of the teams that currently sit higher than them in the current power rankings, a fact that speaks in Boston’s benefit.
While taking into account the grueling consequences of traveling, back-to-back games and injuries, it is more than reasonable to see losses on their record. However, with Kyrie scoring 35+ points in double-double games, and to still have a .563 winning percentage as a team, attention has to be directed to defensive issues.
In tandem with Irving, players like Al Horford, Marcus Morris, and Gordon Hayward have shown valuable consistency, while the rest of the team has struggled to score, and more importantly, defend. Marcus Smart and Aaron Baynes were pivotal in last year’s campaign to the Conference Finals. This year they have repeatedly allowed open shots and have lost encounters in the paint, forcing the offense to play a catch-up game with the scoreboard.
In Friday’s game, many of Boston’s 18 turnovers came as a result of loss of possession after many offensively rebounded balls. The Celtics were not able to place themselves in front of offensive efforts during consecutive fast breaks and layups, resulting in Leonard’s 31 points, Ibaka’s 21, and Siakam’s 16 points. For the Raptors, offense is indeed one of their most skilled and efficient points, but to make matters worse, many of Leonard, Lowry, and Siakam’s three-pointers were scored from undefended points on the court.
Understanding this, Stevens has admitted that the roster lacks the element of strength in their performances. While Hayward continues to improve game after game, hinting at a slow, but existent recovery process, Boston has work to do in order for players to improve on stamina and building physical confidence in order to be in touch with the pace of the game.
The beginning has been rough for the Celtics, but the season has just started, and the playoffs being after the last snow of winter has melted. With time on their side, it is safe to say that Brad Stevens will most likely be able to pinpoint weaknesses for the players to bring up their game on par with an NBA Finals level.
Cover photo: businessinsider.com
Mitchell photo: msn.com
Irving photo: nbc.com
Hayward photo: sltrib.com
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