Celtics Are Running Out Of Time And Options To End Skid
Should Danny Ainge dismantle the Boston Celtics roster?
The Celtics are still searching for their identity halfway through the season. They are the losers of four straight games with three (New Orleans Hornets, Detroit Pistons, and Cleveland Cavaliers) of those defeats against teams who are below .500. Now the Celtics are in the eighth spot of the Eastern Conference at 20-21.
In the 103-88 loss to the Pistons on Sunday, Doc Rivers criticized the team in his postgame press conference and said the team will have to make changes if the Celtics continue to play inconsistent basketball. Everybody thought the Celtics would be better and take off when Avery Bradley returned. Bradley did provide a jolt in the backcourt on defense, but he suffered a rib injury against the Hornets. He missed the overtime defeat to the Chicago Bulls on January 18th. Then he came back to start the game in Detroit, but he is clearly playing in pain and he is not the same player he was when he initially returned.
There are more glaring problems such as the lack of stable production from role players such as Jason Terry, Jeff Green, and Courtney Lee. Brandon Bass was scoreless against the Pistons and appeared to lose confidence in his mid-range jumper. The role players are relying too much on Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Rajon Rondo to the point that Rivers may need to perform his best Rick Pitino impression. Garnett and Pierce are not the Hall-of-Fame caliber players they were earlier in their careers. Rivers and the coaching staff have been attempting to get more from their younger veterans to preserve Pierce’s and Garnett’s legs for the length of the season.
The only player who has been performing above their expectations is Jared Sullinger. Sullinger spends limited minutes on the court because he is constantly in foul trouble. He has given the Celtics energy with his ability to rebound and score in the paint.
The Celtics failed to execute offensively in the excruciatingly poor 95-90 loss to the Cavaliers on Tuesday. There were possessions when Pierce and Garnett were just passing to each other with nobody moving on the other side. The spacing was horrendous. One time both Rondo and Bradley cut to the basket that led to a turnover. On defense, the Celtics let Cavaliers guard Kyrie Irving (40 points) have his way with them. Irving hurt the Celtics with the pick-and-roll. He was either making open jumpers or dashing to the basket with no resistance.
There was one play late in the fourth quarter that explained the Celtics recent skid. The Celtics were trailing 84-83 with a shade over two minutes left in the game. After a Garnett missed shot, the battle for the rebound spilled to the other end of the court when Rondo attempted to save the ball from going out of bounds. Rondo tried to throw the ball off Irving, but the ball just went right into Irving’s hands and he went in for an uncontested layup. Rivers was furious after the game that none of his players moved down the other end of the court to help Rondo.
These are all mistakes that should not be happening with a group that looked to contend for an NBA title. Now, the Celtics should focus on the fundamentals and not continuing to make mental mistakes. They have too many players who have contributed to successful teams, but it seems like these players are afraid to step up and take control of games for the 2012-2013 Celtics.
Fans will throw out who could be traded and the rumor mill will persist. This team is too talented not to turn around their season. The Eastern Conference is in a logjam with nobody establishing clear dominance. The Celtics have only played three teams who are currently in the playoffs three times each. Also, the Celtics are dangerously close to the $74.3 million luxury tax threshold. Since they used a mid-level exception on Terry, they cannot go over that mark. The only role players who would bring anything in return are Bradley and Sullinger
This group has a three-game in four day stretch where they play the New York Knicks, Atlanta Hawks, and Miami Heat this weekend. If the Celtics want to get back in the conversation among the Eastern Conference elite teams, they have to start by beating these teams and taking care of business against the lower level teams.
These players have to find their identity and outplay their opponents in the closing minutes of tight contests. If they fail to do this, then the fans can kiss this season and possibly the careers of Garnett and Pierce good-bye.