For just the second time all season, the Boston Celtics have dropped three straight contests. In each one of them, Joe Mazzulla and the Cs found a different way to lose. From blowing a fourth-quarter lead in Miami to forcing overtime against the Knicks before falling short, this stretch of games has been one this ball club would rather forget. Injuries have to be to blame in two of those losses, with players like Justin Jackson, and Sam Hauser receiving significantly more minutes than usual, but back at the Garden with nearly everyone on the floor, Boston still could not get the job done.
From up 15 early on to being down by 13, the Celtics desperately need a spark to put this team back on track. In both games against Miami and New York, it was evident that Marcus Smart was a player the Mazzulla and his coaching staff were missing.
From his ability to command an offense to create havoc for the opposition on the other end of the floor, Smart is a critical piece that prevents those lulls in offensive production throughout a game. The Boston Celtics went nearly five minutes between the first and second quarters on Thursday night without a single point, and during that run, the home side settled for six shots from behind the arc instead of finding a way to the basket. There is no way of knowing if Smart would have changed that, but given what he has done with the ball in his hands this season, things could have panned out differently during a stretch where nothing was going in for the Celtics.
Eddie House sums up what the obvious issue has been during this three-game stretch:
Over the last three games, Boston has shot under 44% from the field and turned the ball over 17 or more times twice over that span. Despite this slight regression from the mean, Boston still holds onto a comfortable 2.5-game lead at the top of the Eastern Conference over the Philadelphia 76ers. Over this stretch, the Cs are respectively 12th in defensive rating, but on the other side, Boston sits in 25th in offensive rating. Only the Miami Heat are shooting a worse percentage from the field during this span than the Celtics.
It may have been a run of games filled with concerning offensive possessions that ended in frustrating turnovers, but at the end of the day, this is how teams grow. Seeing Jayson Tatum turn the ball over in the final seconds in South Beach is a learning moment for the young superstar. Watching Jaylen Brown miss two consecutive free throws with under 10 ticks remaining against the Knicks should light a fire under a player even more after he missed out on being selected as one of the All-Star starters.
Boston managed approximately four fewer assists than its season average since it made its way to Florida. Following the Celtics’ previous three-game skid, they would go on to win four straight, defeating the Bucks, and Clippers in the process. Six out of the next eight games for Boston are on national television, and as the All-Star break nears, this is an opportunity to stretch the lead at the top of the conference even more.
Injuries have been causing big issues for the Boston Celtics
Injuries are a part of every sport, and no matter how deep a team is, it is nearly impossible to overcome the loss of four of your top seven players in the rotation. This looks to be like another rut in what has turned into a remarkable season for the Celtics. By no means is Boston’s offense going to be this stagnant, and loose with the basketball this consistently given its track record so far. If the Celtics can overcome their dismal display in Oklahoma City with a victory over the Mavericks two nights later, there is almost nothing this team cannot do.
It is not one of the best offenses the NBA has seen, like it was at the start of the season, but so far, the NBA world has seen the Boston Celtics have the ability to bounce back. In order to win in this league, these veteran players know that playing all 48 minutes is essential. Being selective on when you want to turn it on has been a constant theme during this poor run of form. Complacency kills, and if whenever this team takes their foot off the gas pedal, even just a little bit, they have been constantly punished. Smart should be back in the lineup soon, but even before he does, this ball club is filled with a bunch of players that know how to hold each other accountable in order to right the ship to bring that lead at the top of the conference back to where it should be.