FINAL: Orlando: 105 Boston: 103
I kind of put my foot in my mouth on Wednesday night when I declared that the Celtics were back. That’s on me, and I’ve come to realize that with this team we can’t get caught up in the highs and lows because they’re just wildly inconsistent. As I said in my recap on Thursday Night , it’s not game to game, it’s not quarter to quarter, it’s minute to minute. There’s no way to tell which team is going to show up. That inconsistency, a putrid performance by the bench, poor free throw shooting, and lackadaisical defense in the second half all contributed to what was an ugly loss for the green.
Let’s start off with the performance from the bench last night cause it was embarrassing.
First look at that, and then look at what the starters put together for the Celtics.
That was the game right there. As a bench they were a combined -73 in a 2-point loss. A MINUS SEVENTY-THREE…FOR A BENCH. The starters were a +63 and it’s mind blowing to me how much of a difference there was in terms of starter play and bench play.
The one that really sticks out to me there is Terry Rozier. He legitimately came into the game, ruined everything, and then continued to be put back into the game. I don’t know when they’re going to stop letting him run the second unit and look elsewhere on the roster. The offense is at it’s worst when Terry has the keys and decides to just seize the entire offense to try and get his. He’s been so selfish this season and I’m starting to wonder why Brad Wanamaker hasn’t been given a shot at commandeering the second unit. At least he has to claw for his minutes and will fight to be on the court, Terry just looks like he wants to inflate his averages in preparation for this summer.
The Magic on the other hand got some huge contributions out of there bench.
A +57 as a unit and a huge game out of Terrence Ross that put them over the top. Khem Birch also made an impact as he hauled in 10 rebounds and gave the Celtics fits all night long tallying 4 blocks as he made a difference protecting the rim. There is something to be said about a bench unit of Wes Iwundu, Isaiah Briscoe, Terrence Ross, and Khem Birch vastly outplaying one of Terry Rozier, Gordon Hayward, Jaylen Brown, and Daniel Theis. With their level of depth and having starter level players coming off of the bench, they should be obliterating units like this, not getting obliterated by them.
While the bench was the main story for the Magic, Aaron Gordon put forth a dominant performance. 28 points and 12 rebounds on 7-14 from the floor and 13-13 from the free throw line. That free throw shooting is the most impressive figure to me as he didn’t leave any points at the line and it clearly made a difference in the final score.
Free throws were another deterrent for the green as they went 19-28 (67.9%) from the stripe and it’s hard not to look at that number and say it wasn’t a factor. Gordon Hayward was 2-5 on his own and that is an anomaly as he’s been lights out from the line this season (85.2%). When your opposition goes a smooth 22-24 from the line it’s hard to win close games shooting below 70% from the line in a game.
The last figure that really concerned me was the 64 points they gave up in the second half. The Magic are a bottom 5 offensive team and the Celtics let them get whatever they wanted in the second half. It all goes back to the idea of consistency and how the Celtics don’t have any of it. They held them to 41 points in the first half and then once they all came out of the locker room for the second half, it all fell off of a cliff defensively.
The end of the 3rd quarter, start of the 4th troubles for the Celtics continue to be a crippling issue for this team. With 1:39 in the third (up 72-66) they took Kyrie out and then put him back into the game with 7:48 in the fourth (83-82). In that span they were 3-12 from the floor, had 0 assists, and ultimately, a 6 point lead became a 1 point deficit as the momentum had swung all the way in Orlando’s favor. From there, in about a minute, the lead ballooned to 91-84 in Orlando’s favor with 5 minutes left and put the Celtics in a tough spot. They eventually did have a chance to tie it with 2.9 left on the clock but Jayson Tatum wasn’t able to knock it down.
Things even boiled over a bit as on the final play Gordon Hayward went with Tatum in the short corner, instead of getting it to Al Horford, who eventually was going to get it to Kyrie Irving. Here’s the play, the premise is that Al pops up, then Kyrie comes to get it as he sprints in from half court, while Tatum is the second option if Al’s covered.
Instead of letting the play unfold, Hayward looked for a split second at Horford at the top of the key, and then passed it to Tatum, who had to take a tough fall-away at the horn. I do get Kyrie’s frustration here but the side-show he made on the court afterwards was a bit over the top. He’s the leader of this team and having a mini meltdown on the court isn’t what I’d want from my leader. It’s exactly the type of stuff he sought to get away from when he left Cleveland and that part of the whole ordeal last night was disappointing.
He then had a lot to say to the media post-game in regards to what’s wrong with the Celtics. While I didn’t like his actions after the final buzzer, I thought all of what he said post game was spot on and I couldn’t agree with him more.
I think this a clear dig at specifically Jaylen Brown, Terry Rozier, and maybe even Tatum to a point. There’s also a connection here to what Morris was saying the day before when asked about the altercation between him and Jaylen. It’s about accountability and it’s about giving your best effort every single day because nobody is going to hand it to you. I sense the exact same thing that the veterans on this team have been preaching. They don’t look like a team night in and night out that’s fighting tooth and nail for a win and that is concerning. They’ve been The Little Engine That Could since this rebuild began and with all of the talent on the roster now, they’ve lost that a bit. Remember the days when teams feared playing the Celtics and knew, no matter who was playing, they’d give them a full 48-minutes and scratch and claw to the final buzzer? That hasn’t happened this season as it seems like they think they can just coast on their talent and that was the message Kyrie wanted to send. Talent means nothing if it isn’t coupled with hardwork and an unwavering desire to win at all costs. They don’t have an edge to them right now and until they find that, we’ll be seeing more head-scratching losses like the one we saw last night.
The Celtics return to action Monday night as they travel to Brooklyn to take on the Nets.
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