Celtics have back-to-back worst defensive games of season

The Boston Celtics are obviously struggling. This has been the worst month of basketball that they've played all season. No question. They've now lost three games in a row, four of their last five, and nine of the past fifteen. Ew.

Since January 16th, the Cs have only won six games, and the lack of production shows in the standings. The green team no longer leads the East, and is now two full games behind the Toronto Raptors

To make matter worse, the Cleveland Cavaliers are on a four game winning streak and are gaining valuable ground on their Eastern Conference rivals.  They sit just 4.5 games behind the Celtics going into the All-Star break. 

And while the last month has consisted of pitiful performances, the past two games have been especially pathetic

On Sunday, February 11th, the Cs nearly spoiled Paul Pierce's big night, when his number 34 was raised to the hallowed rafters of the Garden in Boston. They allowed the Cavs to score 121 points, the most that the they've let up all season. 

The Cavs had seven players who put in a double-digit amount of points, led by LeBron James who dropped 24 points, 10 rebounds, and 8 assists. The Celtics were nowhere to be found on the defensive end, and the Cavs scored drive after drive. The worst part of all was seeing LeBron happy. He's so insufferable when he's feeling joy. 

The epitome of this happiness came after a Larry Nance Jr. fast-break, pull-up three pointer that put the Cavs up by nearly thirty points. 

Here's some lazy transition defense, especially the sloppy reach from Terry Rozier

No one stepped up to help down low, which is something that the Celtics have excelled at this season.  You know things are bad when J.R. Smith is getting large on you
Every clip from the game is ugly. The Cavs shot 53.6% from the field and a similar 53.3% from behind the arc. The Celtics hit just 40.6/23.3% of such shots.

In the end, the best defensive team in basketball let up 30+ points in three quarters, a season-high 121 points in total, and lost the game 121-99.

The next game versus the Los Angeles Clippers seemed like deja vu. 

Like the Cavs, seven players on the Clips scored at least ten points. Four of them scored at least 19 points. And one particular big-man, DeAndre Jordan, put up a career-best 30 big ones.

The Cs' season-worst 121 point allowed versus Cleveland didn't stay their season-worst for long. When the Clippers came to town the next game, they let up 129 points, and lost the game 129-119.

I miss this.

And here's the thing about these losses: the Celtics didn't play particularly poorly on both ends of the floor. Their shooting percentages were decent both nights. Versus the Clippers they hit 43.3% of their shots from the floor and an efficient 48.8% from deep. They scored 119 points for goodness sake.

They out-rebounded both the Cavs and the Clips.

It's their defense, and a big part of that comes from their effort. At the beginning of the season, the effort was prevalent. Kyrie Irving, a notoriously bad defender, led the league in steals early on in the season. He had something to prove and was hustling to stick it in the nay-sayers' faces. The team had multiple guys who topped the league in defensive efficiency.

What happened!? Who's to blame!? Or shall I say, what's to blame.

That damn picture frame!

Marcus Smart is not only a great defender, but he's the heart and soul of this team who knows what to do with the ball when it really matters. Sure, most will say that he shoots bad shots or jacks early into the shot clock. Yes, I remember the buzzer beater versus the Los Angeles Lakers. But I've said it before an I'll say it again: if Brad Stevens trusts him late into games, then I trust him late into games. And when he was getting touches in those final minutes, the Celtics ended up winning a lot.

Plus, check out how much the Celtics have struggled defensively without him.

The numbers don't lie.

Tonight is the last day of NBA basketball before the All-Star break, and fortunately, the Celtics aren't scheduled to play. They're already resting, which I think will be a great remedy for their recent play.
So be on the lookout to for the Celtics at All-Star Weekend. Al Horford will be with Kyrie in the actual All-Star Game, and the two young guns, Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum are what we know them to be: Rising Stars. It should be some good spectating. Something that we haven't done in a while.

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Photo: Sporting News