The Boston Celtics struggle in February has been eye-opening. These last two weeks have changed how many people perceived the Celtics. The recent addition of the Celtics struggle saw the Celtics lose to the worst teams in the NBA. The Celtics dropped two games back-to-back against the Detroit Pistons and Washington Wizards. The Celtics have looked anything but a top contender in the Eastern Conference, let alone the NBA. Sunday’s loss to the Wizards was just another example of the Celtics’ struggle to stay atop the East. Thankfully Marcus Smart was not present at Capital One Arena because he would have thrown a chair or maybe even punched another painting after watching that performance.
The Boston Celtics Struggle to Stay Relevant
Celtics Struggle Without Marcus Smart
Some may say that the leading cause for the Celtics’ struggle is Smart being out. Smart suffered a grade one calf strain on January 30 against the Lakers and the Celtics have not looked the same since. Since the Celtics lost Smart, the Celtics have dropped six of their last nine games. Obviously, Smart not being on the floor is hurting the Celtics. Smart is seen as the backbone of this team and keeps the guys focused on the end prize. But his absence isn’t the main reason for the fall off, as the Celtics struggle to keep pace in the East.
Recently the Celtics have lacked ball movement. During their games, it’s a common play to have someone 30 feet away from the basket and dribble the ball until the shot clock reads somewhere between 15-10 seconds. On previous Brad Stevens’ Celtics teams, the Celtics have been amazing at passing the ball and finding the open guy. But these last two games have told a different story. On Friday’s loss to the Detroit Pistons, the Celtics had 15 assists and on Sunday’s loss to the Wizards, they had 14. These are season-low totals for the Celtics. Why has this happened?
You could look at those numbers and think that the stars need bench help and that is the answer to fix the Celtics struggle. After all, the majority of the bench consists of young, inexperienced guys. The Celtics average 32.4 bench points per game, which ranks twenty-eighth overall.
There are two ways to take that statistic. You could say that the Celtics bench is so weak that it is the cause for the Celtics’ recent struggles. But you can make the argument that this is on the starters.
In Friday’s loss, Jaylen Brown finished with 27 points and zero assists and on Sunday he finished with 25 points and zero assists. This is the guy who is supposed to be a starter in the NBA All-Star game yet in back-to-back games he had zero assists? It only gets worse from here. Brown averages 3.4 assists per game and Kemba Walker is averaging four assists per game. Yes, you read that right, your All-Star shooting guard and point guard are averaging 3.4 and four assists per game.
But there is a stat that saves the stars. The NBA defines a potential assist as a pass that leads to a shot, foul, or turnover. Smart, Brown, Walker, and Tatum all average at least six potential assists per game (Smart and Tatum lead the team with 9.3 and nine respectively). As a team, the Celtics rank twenty-ninetieth overall in potential assists and twenty-eighth overall in assists per game.
Whether you want to blame the stars for not making the right passes or the bench not converting opportunities, something needs to change.
If the Celtics want to bounce back and end “the month of Celtics struggle,” they need to focus on moving the basketball and playing as a team. No one is debating if this team has talent, but we are debating how to utilize that talent to win basketball games. It all starts at the top, and that includes the front office. Although this team has talent, they do not have the talent to go to the promised land.
Danny Ainge should be aggressive at the deadline. Whether that’s moving fan-favorite players or trading picks. He needs to do something. And for the players, just play basketball. As cliche as that sounds, it’s the truth. Guys like Tatum and Brown seem to have tuned out the coaching staff and need to focus on team basketball, not hero ball.
Jake Seymour is a writer for LWOSports. You can check him out on Instagram and Twitter, @JakeSeymourNBA. Make sure to check out his podcasts, Football On The Barbie, and GRD Podcast, available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and other popular streaming services.
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