The Celtics have fallen into the traps of last season and need to avoid a spiral
For most of the season, most of the talk around the boston celtics it’s been about how great their offense has been. In fact, until recently, they claimed the best offense in league history. But after a less-than-stellar three-game trip to California, that’s no longer the case. Instead, fans briefly got flashbacks to last year’s team, and not the one that ended up in the nba finals.
While Boston’s season last year ended up being extended through June, the change didn’t really start until late January. Now, obviously, that’s not technically true, but the version of the Celtics that made a championship run didn’t show up for the first few months of the season.
From October to January, the Celtics played very heavy on offense, couldn’t find their rhythm from the three-point line, and constantly blew leads. It was a stagnant brand of basketball that they had to (and did) overcome, but it’s the exact style of play they’ve employed in recent games.
All season long, the Celtics’ plan has been clear: move the ball around and generate open shots. Sounds simple, but last year’s early-season team failed to do that. It didn’t take long for Marcus Smart to publicly denounce Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown for their lack of passing. During the trip from Boston to California, a shooting slump led the Celtics back to those old bad habits.
The Celtics are shooting 41.6% on catch-and-shoot 3s this year, but over their last three games, that number has dwindled to just 32.6%. Part of that is his mediocre ball movement, but the harsh reality is that some players just hit a rough patch. Over the last three games, Derrick White shot 2-for-10 on catch-and-shoot 3s, Sam Hauser shot 3-for-11, and Grant Williams shot 3-for-10. On the year, all three of those players have shot well above 40%. .
Losses happen, but it’s the way the Celtics responded to the slump that’s concerning. Instead of relying on ball movement, following through with plans, or finding other ways to score within the flow of the offense, Tatum and Brown often took it upon themselves to score.
Boston’s collapse against the los angeles lakers it was an excellent example. They played great basketball for the first two and a half quarters, they made smart shots, they shot well and they took care of the basketball. But a couple of turnovers turned into an avalanche, and for the rest of the confidence, the game plan seemed to be passing the ball to Tatum and Brown.
Come overtime, the Celtics seemed to have things under control, clearing the floor with the Lakers, but until then, they relied on their stars. And while that may sound like the right way to play, it only works when scoring falls within the flow of offense.
With 6:57 remaining in the third quarter, the Celtics led the Lakers by a score of 81-61. But with 4:25 left in the quarter, Boston trailed by 13 points, 106-93. In that time, they turned the ball over 10 times and their offense has stalled.
At the time of this possession, the Lakers were on a 5-0 run. In a vacuum, that seems like nothing, but Boston’s offensive picks boosted the Lakers. Tatum is in a tricky spot here, and the shot clock was a factor as well, but any time he leaves his feet before a pass, it’s bound to be a bad possession.
Tatum tries to get out of the situation, turning around hoping to nail a jumper. When he realizes that option is gone, he tries to get into the paint, which leads to a turnover.
Then came this Brown-only possession that brought the Lakers’ streak to 7-2.
Joe Mazzulla loves to preach the idea of taking quick shots, but that comes with the caveat that they have to be good shots, too. Driving the length of the court just to make a reverse layup on the outstretched arms of Anthony Davis (one of the best defensemen in the league) probably isn’t considered a good shot, especially when it immediately leads to a fast break for the resulting opponent. in an and-one for Lonnie Walker IV and extending LA’s run.
And then there were plays like this, which came near the end of the Lakers’ monstrous comeback. At this point in the game, they were on a 32-5 run as Boston struggled to keep possession of the ball. While they eventually made their own miraculous comeback, choices like this kept them from doing so.
Brown takes the ball himself, shoves Austin Reaves and finishes with a tricky, faded jumper at midrange. Sometimes the stars must be allowed to run things on their own and come to their places. But ball movement and quality shots should be the priority when a team is on the wrong end of a run like the one Los Angeles was having.
Mistakes make mistakes worse is the motto of Boston’s collapse against the Lakers. They were present throughout their three games in California and a microcosm of what they must avoid moving forward. Turnovers, iso-balls and a stagnant offense created the three-headed monster that led Boston’s failures in the early parts of last year. losses for the Los Angeles Clippers Y warriors of the golden statealong with his struggles against the Lakers, they reflected that style of play perfectly.
Talent can win team games, and the Celtics have two of the best players in the league in Tatum and Brown. That talent got them out of a game they should have lost after it was thrown in the trash. Talent is important, but talent alone doesn’t win championships.
The key to that is consistency, playing the right way and flow, three of the hallmarks of Boston’s best offense in the league. If the Celtics want to push for a title this year, they need to stick to that script and trust the process. (And trust him more consistently than his divisional counterparts.)