As the NBA heads toward the second half of the season, teams will be looking to make a hard push for the playoffs. Placement can be the difference between an easy matchup or an easy out, so look for the intensity to rise in the next coming months. For the Boston Celtics, it’s time to find some consistency.
To say that the Celtics have been a disappointment is an understatement. They were expected to be the best team in the Eastern Conference, but instead currently sit as the fifth seed. There have been games where they have shown out and then there are games where they’ve come out completely flat. It’s almost as if this team can’t get out of it’s own way and this has cost them a number of wins along the way.
But if we can be honest, it was always going to be bumpy. Integrating Kyrie and Gordon back into the lineup, while pushing Jaylen, Terry, and Tatum back into their original roles has caused some friction and it shows. Far too many times has each of the young Celtics tried to play iso-ball, which has killed momentum in Brad Steven’s motion offense. Each of these players were key contributors last season, but their inability to accept their roles in the offense has cost the team.
The starting 5 on gamedays now is vastly different than when the season first began. Marcus Morris and Marcus Smart have taken over for Jaylen and Gordon and for the most part have found good success. Smart has been a flamethrower recently and his shooting has been key to keeping defenses honest. Morris has been the most consistent player on the team as almost every shot he puts up seems to fall. While Gordon’s move to the bench seems sensible, he is barely a year removed from a gruesome ankle injury, Jaylen’s move was due to his inability to look for others as he is constantly looking for his shot.
With the rotations constantly in flux, the Celtics still have had no excuse to be this inconsistent. There is far too much talent on this team and there are multiple instances of them overwhelming opponents with their depth. The Celtics can practically go 12 deep but until they can prove to play unselfishly this won’t matter. Terry Rozier has struggled running the second unit at times as he seemingly looks for plays to open up his offense. His shot selection has been porous at times and can kill any momentum they have during stretches where the starters sit.
Kyrie Irving is a superstar, he’s having the best season of his career and has saved the Celtics from themselves on multiple occasions. He has also had a number of stretches where he has forced his offense and missed wide open teammates. There has also been issues regarding his leadership, as he has questioned the intent of the younger players on the team. Its obvious that he is going to have to carry the team moving forward by being an example on the court, but he is going to have to trust his teammates moving forward to ensure they are actively engaged toward the teams best interests.
What’s frustrating is that every so often, the Celtics will play multiple games where they are crushing opponents with ball movement and effort. Everytime it looks as if the team is on the verge of turning it around, they then go on a losing streak looking like a team that is in turmoil. The most recent three game losing streak comes at a time where the C’s had won 5 games at home by double digit margins. It really begs the question as to why this team isn’t playing with a consistent effort every night?
Usually the second half of the season is where the Celtics play their best. They ratchet up their defensive intensity and ball movement to keep opponents on their heels. Brad Steven’s has a plethora of talent on the roster that he can craft any lineup to counter opposing teams. But the Celtics success will ultimately rely on effort. They need to be consistently competitive as every team in the East has heard the noise regarding the Celtics. The media crowned them as the favorites in the East to challenge the Warriors and now is the time to prove it.
Consistency requires effort and losing to sub .500 teams will not get it done. When any team in the NBA recognizes a vulnerability, they will look to exploit it on every possession. The Celtics lack effort on some nights and teams will attack the paint challenging the overall physicality of the team. Normally the Celtics will look to attack to counter these efforts, but there have been nights where the team will give up easy layups and open shots with alarming regularity. To say the Celtics aren’t balanced in regards to the offense is accurate, as they tend to fall in love with perimeter shooting.
While the team is currently sitting above .500, it’s hard to feel comfortable about their current standings. They’ve struggled in back to backs, struggled against losing teams, and outside of Kyrie, you almost never know who’s going to show up from night to night. The sheer amount of talent on this team has actually been a detriment, which is particularly vexing with Brad Steven’s as the head coach. But, if this rosters accepts their individual roles and plays with effort and intensity, they may find themselves being the favorite again in the East. They’ve shown up against the best teams, now it’s time to show up against everybody. The Celtics are too talented to have struggled for this long.