Up until last Saturday, the Boston Celtics looked like they might run the table for the rest of the season. They were steamrolling just about every team in their path to the point where it was straight up comical. Boston ran the Phoenix Suns out of their own building, leading by as many as 45 points.
Everything changed when they returned to the Chase Center for the first time since the NBA Finals. In the game against the Golden State the team couldn’t find any sort of rhythm and looked lost out there. The funk has carried over throughout the last four games, five if you include the Warriors loss, and Boston has won just one time.
The poor shooting for the Celtics has taken a toll on the team’s success as of late. Throughout the entire month of December, Boston has netted the league’s worst offensive rating at 105.6. The good news is that they’ve been so good offensively over the course of the season that they’re still at the top of the league for offensive rating at 116.8.
B/R highlights the Boston Celtics’ greatest weakness
Despite their current slump, the Boston Celtics are still very much so championship contenders. Bleacher Report’s Greg Swartz analyzed several of the NBA’s best teams and highlighted their greatest weakness in a recent article. Swartz brought attention to Boston’s struggles when MVP-candidate Jayson Tatum isn’t on the floor, writing:
"“Jayson Tatum is playing like an MVP with a career-high 30.2 points, 8.2 rebounds, 4.1 assists and 1.1 steals per game, leading Boston to a 22-9 record.Despite the talent on the roster, however, removing Tatum would make the Celtics unremarkable.In 771 possessions without Tatum, Boston has a net rating of plus-1.4, ranking in the 59th percentile, or about league average. With its superstar, however, this figure jumps to plus-9.3 and is in the 93rd percentile.Finding ways to still beat opponents shouldn’t be this difficult, especially with another two-way force at forward in Jaylen Brown. Despite his almost equally impressive production (26.4 points, 7.4 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 1.2 steals), Boston is actually 7.6 points per 100 possessions worse with Brown on the floor.Trying to find ways to maximize Brown when Tatum rests will be crucial to the Celtics’ success, especially in the postseason.”"
In fairness to this season’s Boston Celtics team, the on/off numbers for Jayson Tatum were very similar last season. His on the court net rating was +8.8, while his off court net rating was -0.9. However, Boston is much deeper as a team this season and shouldn’t suffer from the same struggles. During their recent stretch of games, the most glaring issue has been the lack of production the Cs have gotten from shooters who are typically reliable. Derrick White, Sam Hauser, and Grant Williams have shot 17.6%, 21.1%, and 30% respectively from beyond the arc.
At the end of the day, almost every NBA team is going to be worse when their best player isn’t on the floor, that’s kind of how basketball works, but in order for Boston to lessen the blow during the non-Tatum minutes, they’re going to have to see the shooting touch of their rotation players return.