Every morning, we compile the links of the day and dump them here… highlighting the big story line. Because there’s nothing quite as satisfying as a good morning dump.
L.A. got whatever shot it wanted and attacked the paint at will to escape with a 10-point win in a game that wasn’t that close in terms of control.
Celtics coach Brad Stevens has been sounding an alarm of concern most of this season.
“I think teams have outplayed us,” Stevens said after the disappointing loss prior to the All-Star break. “You know I don’t think – I’ve said all along, I don’t think we were all we were cracked up to be during our 16-game winning streak, and it’s probably hit us more in the last month than it hit us before, and teams have outplayed us, good teams have outplayed us; that was the case again tonight.”
Maybe Stevens is right.
Maybe the Celtics aren’t as good as their 40-19 record might indicate.
Those of us who see the resilient fight, the never-say-it’s-over brand of basketball that has become synonymous with the Celtics for most of this season, are indeed searching for answers as to how a team that was so dominant defensively, has fallen off so quickly with no clear-cut signs of improvement.
NBCBoston — Celtics find themselves broken at the break
When the Celtics were the feel-good story of the NBA, ripping off win after win, Brad Stevens tried to tell us– that the ways in which the Celtics were winning most of their games was a harbinger of what was to come. Comebacks and overtime and back-and-forth struggles with the Dallas’ and Charlotte’s and Atlanta’s of the world. Sure, there were home wins over Golden State and Toronto mixed in, but they were close games that could have gone either way.
Those weren’t the real Celtics. Are these? I’m going to hope not and chalk it up to a formidable set of opponents, the absence of the Punisher of Picasso, the Destroyer of Dali, the Michelangelo Masher himself– Marcus Smart, and some youngsters hitting relative rookie walls.
What worries me, though, is that with the Celtics somewhere in the middle, they’re just about in the middle of the Eastern Conference. Nothing tells me that they’re on Toronto’s level, and the retooled Cavs look like they could be a different animal. The way the Sixers, Heat and Pacers play, could these in-the-middle Celtics take four games from any of them?
The sky isn’t falling, and they have the right guy at the helm to right the ship, but while other teams around them in the east figure it out (like the ones above) or persevere in the face of challenges (Washington without Wall) the Celtics flounder.
Let’s see how they respond next week.
On page 2, lineup tweaks may be coming
Both before and after the game, Stevens suggested lineup changes could be coming soon. While talking about his team’s troubling habit of missing open shots, he said improvement can come from internal development, increased comfort, or “by changing your rotations.”
Later, Stevens said he will use the All-Star break to explore new combinations.
“It’s going to be a tough ending if we don’t change a little bit and I’ll look at what I can change as well. I think we’re probably due for some of that,” said the coach. “We’ll look at everything. Obviously, you’re always looking for small tweaks defensively and offensively, but we haven’t gotten enough out of our rotations and subs and all those things. We’ll take a deeper dive into that into the next week.”
Mass Live — Brad Stevens says he’ll explore roster changes
The Celtics were a few plays away from limping into the break with a six game losing streak, and so while effort certainly needs to change, the Cs could benefit from some rotation adjustments. So as Brad Stevens tinkers in his basement while sipping on a glass of apple juice and munching on a turkey and cheese sandwich on white bread with the crusts off, it’s time to start wondering what those changes may be.
For one, once the team has Smart and Shane Larkin back, it’s time to deepen the rotation to 11 guys and insert the players who are giving a damn defensively. Two, more small ball lineups with one big as opposed to some of the two-big lineups that Stevens has tried out with little success lately. That again will come with the return of Smart and Larkin. Other than that? I’m not quite sure. If the Cs don’t want to start a traditional five, they can insert Morris into the starting lineup, but they’ve done some of that already. The team could go even smaller and start Terry Rozier or Smart with Irving in the backcourt. I’m not sure I’d move/reduce minutes for Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum, who probably both need to play through any struggles and remain starters for the sake of their confidence.
Other thoughts? Sound off in the comments. We’ll let Brad do the real experimenting.
And finally, you just knew this was coming
It’s been a rough few months for Isaiah– who was supposed to get a tribute video for the Celtics but instead the most viewed video including IT will be this one with Rondo. Two headstrong dudes who clearly don’t like each other or agree with one another. This wasn’t hard to see coming.