Isaiah Thomas and the Celtics are in a major assist slump, Jae Crowder's return may be the answer
Following the Celtics 114-90 loss to the Clippers in L.A. Monday night (Boston's worst defeat of the season), Avery Bradley said in his postgame interview that the C's were playing too much "one-on-one" basketball.
Bradley hit the nail on the head--the Celts finished the game with just 14 assists as a team, the same number as Clippers point guard Chris Paul:
Assists tonight:— CelticsLife.com (@CelticsLife) March 29, 2016
Clippers - 29
Celtics - 14
Chris Paul - 14
(in just 26 minutes)
It was the second consecutive contest in which Boston totaled only 14 assists, not a good sign for a team that is averaging over 24 per game for the season. In both Monday's blowout loss in L.A. and the narrow victory in Phoenix on Saturday, Marcus Smart led the Celtics in assists--with four.
What's going on? It may not be his fault (more on that below), but starting point guard Isaiah Thomas appears to be the primary culprit:
Isaiah Thomas has 75 points over the Celtics last three games, but only 9 assists.— CelticsLife.com (@CelticsLife) March 29, 2016
Thomas just tied Larry Bird's Celtics record for leading the club in scoring 13 consecutive games. He's also put up at least 20 points in every outing this month (13 straight as well), the second longest such streak in the league after Kevin Durant's 59.
In March, Isaiah is averaging 26.2 points per game, but he's only dishing out 4.4 assists. Over the first four months of the season, Thomas posted 21.4 points and 6.8 assists per contest.
The Celtics are 7-6 this month. A difficult schedule and Jae Crowder's injury are likely the main reasons why. Crowder has missed the last eight games and hasn't suited up since March 11. Not only has Thomas been forced to carry more of the scoring load in Crowder's absence, Evan Turner joining the starting lineup has also left the second unit without its regular playmaker. The trickle-down has shifted backup point guard minutes to rookie Terry Rozier and thrown the entire system out of whack.
Brad Stevens says that Jae Crowder's absence hasn't affected the starters or bench more than the other; it has just affected overall depth.— Boston Celtics (@celtics) March 29, 2016
Crowder hopes to suit up on Thursday, which will hopefully get the C's back to their regular brand of team basketball and return the squad's assist numbers to normal.
Follow Mark Vandeusen on Twitter @LucidSportsFan