The Boston Celtics are a mess this season. Thursday’s loss to the New York Knicks in which they blew a 25-point lead just exposed a lot of their flaws that have been there since October. They can’t seem to go on a winning streak and somehow now find themselves holding the 11th seed in the Eastern Conference.
What happened to the Celtics against the Knicks on Thursday’s thrilling matchup continues to raise red flags. Is it time to panic? Not just yet, but there are reasons to be concerned.
Here are five things currently wrong with the Boston Celtics.
What’s wrong with the Boston Celtics?
1. Celtics’ offense gets too stagnant
In the modern NBA, it’s difficult to rely on iso basketball so much throughout the game unless you have elite iso scorers. The Celtics invested in defense with the hiring of Ime Udoka, but little did they know that their offense was going to suffer despite having Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown on their squad. They currently rank No. 22 in the league in offensive rating (108.3) and don’t get creative with their offensive sets and actions, especially in crunch time.
Isolating on so many possessions when the game is on the line often leads to a lot of tough jumpers. Udoka has to do a better job of putting his players in the right place to succeed on offense. He needs to balance the possessions between both Tatum and Brown and find ways to develop their chemistry together on the court, while also finding the right lineups around them to provide enough shooting and defense.
2. Ime Udoka needs to be a better leader
After Thursday’s collapse to the Knicks, Udoka called out his team and mentioned that they need more leadership, or basically someone who can help the Celtics calm down when they face pressure situations. Maybe it’s time for Udoka to look in the mirror and realize that he has to not just be the coach but also the leader of this young team. He’s the coach and cannot lose the respect in the locker room by pointing out that Boston doesn’t have any form of leadership.
Celtics comments this season
Marcus Smart on Tatum and Brown: "They don’t want to pass the ball."
Jaylen Brown on Al Horford’s comments: "Searching and looking in the mirror? Nah."
Ime Udoka on team: "They lack mental toughness." pic.twitter.com/IZwNxUo0kZ
— StatMuse (@statmuse) January 7, 2022
3. Get Jayson Tatum some help
Aside from blowing a 25-point lead, another ugly problem for the Celtics is that Tatum cannot do everything. He had a spectacular game, scoring 36 points to along with nine assists and six rebounds in 40 minutes. He also carried the team on every single play down the stretch. How much more can he do?
we have a 23 year old reminiscing about the good old days, this is absolutely a code red situation https://t.co/copRRSdpZn
— Neon Genesis Evan Fournier (@JeremyFrom413) January 7, 2022
In addition to Tatum carrying the load, how would he feel afterwards knowing that his head coach just pointed out the lack of leadership in his team? Maybe Tatum isn’t this sensitive, but he certainly could use some help right now. When the 23-year-old is reminiscing about the good ol’ days, there’s certainly a problem with this team right now.
4. Their current record is a concern
As mentioned, the Celtics are now 11th in the Eastern Conference standings, and they’re also last in the Atlantic Division. Some of their losses can be blamed due to their injuries and the effects of COVID, but they have no choice but to deal with it. It’s going to be tough for them to climb back up and make a playoff push if they still want to have home-court advantage or even avoid the play-in tournament.
I know divisions don't matter anymore, but it's still startling to see the Celtics in last place pic.twitter.com/STAqm6biGq
— Zach Kram (@zachkram) January 7, 2022
This season’s Eastern Conference is pretty deep and filled with teams that have played better than they have compared to a few seasons ago. The last thing they want to do is to start watching the standings and hope their competitors in the East fall back down since they no longer can control their record.
5. Celtics’ perimeter defense has to be better
One of the most glaring problems the Celtics had against the Knicks was letting Evan Fournier score 41 points on them. Besides Fournier’s outburst, the Celtics also let the Knicks shoot 50% from the 3-point area. Where was the perimeter defense? Marcus Smart is supposed to be their anchor, but Boston’s defense heavily depends on switching, which requires everyone to cooperate.
Evan Fournier has tied J.R. Smith's Knicks record with 10 3-pt FG tonight against the Celtics.
He is the first Knicks player with three 30-point games against the Celtics in a single season since Patrick Ewing had 3 in 1996-97. pic.twitter.com/6ORC0Kymzl
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) January 7, 2022
The Celtics have to find a way to improve their point-of-attack defense and also rim protection when it matters. This will help lessen their load on offense as well, especially if they allow their opponents to score less.
Boston may have several issues, but here’s the good news: they still have time to fix all of this before the playoffs. Maybe the trade deadline or some buyout market acquisitions can hide the flaws of this team.