With their fourth loss in their last nine games, Brad Stevens' team still finds itself struggling amidst it’s worst two weeks of 2017. To put it simply, this is not the Boston Celtics squad we saw in November.
As fans will try put their finger on the problems plaguing this team, the most glaring issue has to be the bench’s poor play without Marcus Morris. Since his last appearance on December 8th, the Green have posted a very mediocre 3-4 mark. The worst part of this stretch isn't just the Celtic's own problems themselves but the teams these losses are coming at the hands of.
Starting by getting wiped up and down the floor against a Chicago Bulls squad sporting the league's worst record at the time, the Celtics followed that with home losses to the Utah Jazz, sans Rudy Gobert, and the Miami Heat, sans pretty much everybody of relevance. I love you Kelly (Olynyk), even though your stupid tie-dye shirt probably lost us the Kevin Durant sweepstakes, but it's true.
Continuing last night in Madison Square Garden, the New York Knicks we're the most recent beneficiary of Boston's skid. Even with human unicorn/star player Kristaps Porzingis scoring all but a point (yes, just one), Michael Beasley and the rest of the Knicks had no problem scoring over 100 points against the Celtics. Hell even the loss in San Antonio to a Kawhi Leonard-less Spurs team a few weeks back starts to look bad paired with these other losses as well.
With the bench Stevens has been wheeling out looking like a shell of what it was in weeks past, the void left by Morris looks more and more obvious with each game's passing. Lacking the versatility and toughness of #13 to cover forwards/bigs in a range of sizes, even with bulldogs Marcus Smart and Terry Rozier leading the way, the second unit's defense has struggled in that stretch. But what's even scarier? It's offense.
Posting a .401 field-goal percentage since Morris' last appearance (69 makes out of 172 total shots), the bench is only averaging 27 points per game without him. While the Celtics aren't probably the first contender in NBA history who's bench has shot that poorly for a length of time, the point total still speaks volumes. Combining for 41 points in the last two games, the second unit was outscored by 21 points by Kelly Olynyk and Michael Beasley and hence shall be sentenced to a tour of the Pit of Misery (not really but I wish).
There is absolutely no excuse as to why one of your starters (Kyrie Irving) has scored more points per game (30.2) in that span (he actually didn't play vs. Chicago) than your entire bench. That's one player scoring more points himself (3.2 more to be exact) than four/five others not just on one night but every night during those seven games. Unless that one player happens to be Michael Jordan in the prime of his career playing for a team who's bench is made up of men's league scrubs, this should almost never happen.
It's pretty obvious to now say this team is in need of a change of pace and luckily they'll have that soon. Due to the NBA league office's phenomenal scheduling, the Celtics will somehow have played 40 of team's 82 total games by the start of the new year. Didn't there used to be a saying "the season doesn't start till Christmas"??
This is Boston’s league-high 35th game of the season. We’re only 66 days in. No other team in East had played more than 32 games entering tonight.
So while they've played roughly half of their games in the first two and a half months of the season, this young bunch will have a lot of time off in the last four and a half as they'll only have 42 games left. Whether it be the upcoming rest, Morris' eventual return or something else, let's hope change is brought to the Celtics' current predicament soon.
Photo/Screenshot via CLNS Media Network
Photo via David Butler II, USA Today Sports