Celtics Circuit: Late Poor Execution On West Coast
The Boston Celtics just came off a winless five-game road trip on the West Coast. The first two games consisted of a poor effort on both ends of the court and led to lopsided defeats in Oklahoma City and Denver. Then the next three games, the Celtics played with more intensity, but came up short to the Los Angeles Clippers, Golden State Warriors, and Portland Trail Blazers.
Everybody knew the Celtics would struggle in the fourth quarter, especially when the score was close. Since Rajon Rondo is out, the Celtics lack their floor leader who can create shots for others as well as himself. In the fourth quarter, teams need that presence on the court because players need to produce in their half-court sets on offense while clamping down on the defensive end. Rondo can run the sets efficiently while preventing point guards from dribble drives with his speed. While Jordan Crawford had a nice run early in the season as the starting point guard, he has reverted to his old form of forcing bad shots.
In the first contest against the Thunder, the Celtics played a supremely talented team who has one of the best players in the NBA in Kevin Durant. While the Celtics hung with the Thunder in the first half when they put up 56 points, they still allowed 66 points. The Celtics let Reggie Jackson score 27 points and Durant nearly posted a triple double (21 points, eight assists, and seven rebounds) as the Celtics fell 119-96. The Thunder was able to get many easy baskets around the rim, especially in the second half.
The effort against the Nuggets was abysmal. In the first half, the Nuggets were 10-of-17 from behind the three-point line. Another reserve guard pressed into a starting role (Randy Foye) recorded over 20 points and Foye knocked down seven treys. Jared Sullinger was ejected with two flagrant fouls in a span of 25 seconds even though one of those fouls was rescinded on the following day.
Last Wednesday night, the Celtics made an improvement in their defense even though they still gave up 111 points to Doc Rivers’ Clippers. Blake Griffin made some tough shots, including a fadeaway corner jumper late in the game. After the Celtics fell behind 100-84, they went on a 21-9 spurt. There was a questionable foul called on Jerryd Bayless when the Celtics put on a full-court press in the final minute. This foul even forced Brad Stevens to show some emotion on the sideline when he smacked the scorer’s table. Bayless missed an open shot in the last minute when the Celtics were trailing 109-105. During this game, the Celtics had an answer for every Clippers run. The game looked like it was going to get out of control when the Clippers jumped out to a 26-10 lead. In the third quarter, the Celtics even took a 72-71 lead on a Kris Humphries’ basket.
In the 99-97 loss to the Warriors, the Celtics fell behind, 10-2 in the first few minutes. The Celtics actually outplayed the Warriors. Jeff Green, Humphries, and Sullinger had triple-doubles. Andre Iguodala was hitting every shot, especially from the perimeter. There was a great article by Gary Washburn in the Sunday edition of The Boston Globe. He detailed how the Warriors were able to effectively use the pick-and-roll with Stephen Curry and David Lee. Lee swallowed Avery Bradley on the pick and Humphries was forced to switch on Curry. Curry drained the winning jump shot with 2.1 seconds left. When the Celtics had their chance, Green dribbled the ball off his foot. The ball kicked out to Gerald Wallace for an off-balance three-point attempt that was well off the mark. The Celtics had another turnover in the final minute when Sullinger also dribbled the ball off his foot. Stevens had a tough challenge whether he wanted to send Brandon Bass on the floor instead of Humphries, who had one of his best games of the season.
The Celtics got off to a hot start in the 112-104 loss to the Trail Blazers. They were shooting over 70 percent from the floor at one point in the first half. Despite the Celtics shooting 62 percent, they only held a two-point lead. The Blazers’ size was too much for the Celtics as the Blazers held a 31-14 advantage in second-chance points. In the second half, the Celtics dropped into a scoring slump and failed to recover. Crawford missed a three-pointer when the Celtics could have cut their deficit to one possession in the last half-minute.
During this trip, the Celtics were the less talented team in every game, but they had opportunities to come away with wins. At this point of the season, the Celtics cannot have moral victories. They struggled on defense, especially in the initial two games. The Celtics do not have the talent and they need to make less mistakes than the other team. There were too many errors and a lack of focus in the second half of these five games.