Tonight, is probably one of the most disappointing losses that I’ve ever witnessed in a regular season game in a long time. The Celtics came out flat, almost like they did in the second half against the Miami Heat. Once again pick and roll defense and turnovers were the biggest issues tonight, and if Boston wants to start winning ball games, they will have to play much better defense. A tweet I read likened the Celtics defense to the New England Patriots secondary. After watching this game, I think that’s accurate. Boston’s defense was just downright horrible tonight, but that wasn’t the only thing that lead to the Celtics loss to Milwaukee 99-88.
Turnovers were almost as frustrating as the pick and roll defense. Eighteen turnovers is unacceptable, and while it could have been much worse, it was the types of turnovers that should make any Celtics fan’s blood boil. Careless passes, players not prepared for passes, and constant miscommunication lead to easy opposition fast break buckets. Turnovers have been a problem for Boston in the last five seasons, but with new players, they can’t turn the ball over more than fifteen times and expect to come away with a victory.
Ball movement and moving without the ball on the offense is what made the Celtics slow as molasses on a 32 degree day. Before the season began, Doc Rivers said that they were going to push the tempo and run the fast break a lot this season. But tonight Boston settled for the half court game, which lead to no ball movement and resulted in taking perimeter jump shots to beat the shot clock. When the Celtics were aggressive they got to the free throw line or made an easy layup. Boston can not afford to settle, especially with a team like the Bucks who are quick to the ball on defense. Teams who spread the floor tend to be successful on the offensive end, but tonight, the Celtics stood still and because of that, they attempted bad shots.
Rebounding is still a lingering issue with this team. Second chance opportunities were a killer, and what was really frustrating was that some of the Celtics players were in a position to at least boxout. I can deal with poor offensive rebounding, but to not grab defensive boards is inexcusable. Boston has rebounders, and when they went with their bigger lineup they should have been dominating the glass.
Lastly, as I stated above, the pick and roll defense is probably the biggest concern I have with this team right now. There was no switching, rotating, and when there were screens the players didn’t fight through the picks. With other teams knowing Boston’s weaknesses, I fully expect every opponent the Celtics face to play the pick and roll game. Why not; it seemed to work for Milwaukee tonight. To win games, Boston can’t simply outscore their opponents, and on nights like tonight when Paul Pierce couldn’t get it going, defense has to be what keeps them in ball games. Tonight and Tuesday we didn’t see that, and if Boston doesn’t get better rotating they will get blown out every game.
Tonight was a complete team loss. You can’t blame just one player or the coach, this loss was a team effort, or the lack thereof. The Celtics take on the Washington Wizards tomorrow in Washington. In 2007-2008, Boston usually came out flying after a loss, but with this team it’s not quite clear what we may see. One thing is clear, this team can play a lot better than what we have seen in the past two games. They have the talent level to get on the right track, and they have a great coach who can lead them. Hopefully tomorrow night, we see the team that we know they are capable of being.