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Forget the trade deadline on March 25th, if I’m Danny Ainge I’m on the phone night and day starting yesterday to see who I can strike a deal with to bring at least one complementary player to Boston. We are nearly 1/3 of the way through the season and the Celtics sit dangerously close to .500. Despite still hanging around the playoffs, the Celtics look like an early exit if they continue this trajectory. Not only that, but they rank as one of the worst second-half teams in the league.
The Celtics have been outscored by 9.6 points per 100 possessions in fourth quarters, the second-worst mark in the league. They are just 0.2 points better than the Hawks, and they are the only team in the bottom eight in fourth-quarter net rating that currently owns a winning record.
Ever since their 124-97 win over the Magic Jan. 15, the Celtics’ fourth-quarter net rating is minus-11.8. They are 4-8 over that stretch.
In the nine games in this span that were within 5 points in the final five minutes, they were bopped with a minus-28.8 net rating. The most recent and obvious example came in Tuesday’s 122-108 loss to the streaking Jazz. The Celtics were within 105-101 with five minutes left before Utah closed the game with a crushing 17-7 run.
Are these statistics concerning? Absolutely. Could the issue lie within Kemba’s recent struggles both offensively and defensively? Perhaps.
For the entirety of his basketball career, Walker’s bread and butter has been scoring out of the pick and roll. Over the past three seasons, Walker has averaged a robust 1.04 points per play and has ranked in the 91st percentile or better when finishing plays as the ball-handler in pick-and-rolls, per the NBA’s tracking data.
This year? He’s down at 0.82 points per play and ranks in the 40th percentile. After shooting 47.1 percent in pick-and-roll situations last season, he’s at 36 percent this year. Even more concerning, his free-throw frequency has been sliced in half from just two years ago (only drawing free throws on 5 percent of his finished pick-and-roll plays this season).
Kemba is adjusting to his role as the third option in this offense after being first his whole career. That will take some time to adjust to. He has certainly struggled since returning, and there are many factors that play into that including his health. But as the season goes on I fully believe Kemba will settle in.
The real issue is that this team needs a spark. They are certainly capable of hanging with the best, but for some reason have lost their way and have fallen into a predictable pattern. Danny using that massive TPE to get scoring and bench depth is exactly the way to ignite this team and get them back into gear, finishing games. And it has to happen sooner rather than later.
Regarding the recent report that trade chatter surrounding the Celtics increased significantly of late, Danny Ainge offered this:
Ainge (on @Toucherandrich) addressed notion he was up to something lately: "Not any more than usual. It is the same. Even my wife, I come home from the office and she goes, ‘Did you get anything done today?’ And I go, ‘Yeah.’ She goes, ‘What did you do?’ I go, ‘Really nothing.’"
— Sean Deveney (@SeanDeveney) February 11, 2021
On Page 2, some clarity on the Jaylen Brown injury.
“We’re concerned. Jaylen has tendonitis in his [left] knee,” Ainge told the morning show. “We’re concerned about it. We’re doing everything we can. Giving him the two days rest isn’t going to cure it, it’s just going to lighten the load.”
This is a relatively new issue for Brown and the Celtics. “I’ve only known about it for the last two weeks that he’s had it, that he’s occasionally had it,” Ainge said. “I’m not a doctor, but – and I haven’t seen the images of it and haven’t really spent much time talking to our doctors about it yet. I look forward to catching up with them as they return from the road now, but probably even tonight.”
Ainge later softened his comments about the tendonitis, saying there are no long-term concerns. He also quipped that he played 14 years with tendonitis in his knees.
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