FINAL: LA Clippers: 123 Boston: 112
Just when we thought the House Of Horrors was over after that debacle Thursday night, the Celtics told us to hold their proverbial beer. After blowing an 18 point lead to the Lakers, the Celtics one-upped that performance with an even more confusing one Saturday night. They held a 28 point lead in this game, to the Clippers, who just traded their best player, and they still were able to figure out how to lose. They got booed right off the court after that performance and it was for good reason. Not only did they get booed off of the court, but one of their leaders in their locker room had a lot to say postgame, and no, it was not Kyrie Irving.
Marcus Morris Sr. had a string of quotes on what he thinks is wrong with this team and why they continue to take these bad losses.
That’s the full interview, but there were a few quotes that stood out to me the most out of Morris’ response.
The part that is most telling is the line “when I look at us I just see a bunch of individuals”. When you think of Celtic basketball, you think of ball movement, you think of toughness, and you think of unity. Down the line you think about this unity; from the Russell years where they had 8+ Hall of Famers sacrificing, The Bird years where they played some of the best team basketball the game has seen, and 2008 when the motto was Ubuntu (I am because we are). Throughout the history of this franchise we’ve seen so much sacrifice and guys doing whatever the team needs to win. This team on the other hand, they play for themselves, and they play to put up their numbers.
Morris also cites later on that whatever the team needs to do, he’ll do it. He doesn’t care if he’s coming off of the bench, he doesn’t care about his role, and he just wants to win. I think this trend of sacrifice is an important thing for this team right now and that starts with Brad Stevens. He said last night that a lot of this is on him and that he needs to “look at himself first” and search for an answer. He needs to define set roles for this team because right now there’s no consistency and it seems like a lot of guys don’t know what’s expected of them. There’s no way for them to sacrifice when they have no idea where they fit into the puzzle because that just causes pressing and indecisiveness (For example, Terry Rozier this season). While it starts with Stevens, it’s on the players to adhere to this and play the roles that best position this team to win.
Now onto where things went awry on the court for Boston. They started out on fire as they hung 43 points on the Clippers in the first quarter as 8 of the 9 players that entered the game had a bucket. Kyrie was doing his thing as he had 12 first quarter points on 4-6 shooting from the field. His night would come to an end shortly after the first unfortunately as he suffered a right knee sprain on this play late in the second.
He left the game and so far there have been no updates further from “Day-to-Day (Right Knee Sprain)”. The silver lining here is that it is the opposite knee from what he’s had surgery on in the past. It looked like he just tweaked it a little bit as he was trying to go through the screen and hopefully it’s nothing serious.
After Kyrie’s exit is where things started to go horribly wrong for the green team. Before the Kyrie injury the Celtics shot 23-40 and the Clippers went 13-35 as the Celtics led 68-40. After the injury, the script flipped completely and the Clippers went 27-49 from the floor while the Celtics went 16-52. For everyone wondering, that also equated to an 83-44 run by the Clippers the rest of the way. If you want a how-to guide on “how to blow a 28 point lead” it’s right here. They were utterly outplayed on both sides of the ball as they just looked lazy and like they didn’t want to be there.
While the Celtics lagged and played like individuals, the Clippers showed what team basketball looks like. They got contributions from so many different guys and they were able to ride the wave to a victory.
The combo of Harrell/Zubac down low with the threat of Gallinari outside was something that gave the Celtics trouble all night long.
If there is any player in the NBA that will repeatedly kill lackadaisical play, it’s Montrezl Harrell. The man is a workhorse and when there’s a loose ball or a rebound in his area, he’s going to get it. It seemed like he got every single loose ball and it hurt the Celtics down the stretch.
What also hurt the Celtics down the stretch was defensive rotations. The Clippers got so many wide open looks from simply driving hard to the basket, kicking it out, and either shooting it or swinging it to an open man. Both of these shots from Shamet show these poor rotations.
They lost guys and were late on their rotations and they paid for it on the scoreboard. They always talk about how their defense is what fuels their offense and lately, I don’t think it’s been very good at all (119.2 opponent points per game their last 4 games). They got burnt by the Lakers’ three point shooting on Thursday due to poor rotations and these same demons haunted them last night.
While as a team they were a huge disappointment, I did think a few guys stepped up and actually had solid performances last night. Gordon Hayward was one of those people as he posted 19/5/3 and had two huge shots late as the Celtics tried to fight their way back. While his clutch shots were big, the most important play to me though was one that Gordon did not finish. The play is here for you below.
Hayward, for the first time in his Celtics career tried to dunk on someone. It wasn’t a fast break, an open alley-oop, or a simple 2 handed jam, he tried to dunk ON somebody. I think this is incredibly important and I hope it’s a sign of things to come. He’s been going to the basket harder lately and with how timid he’s been all year, the attempt to finish that on Harrell is huge for him. He had it going last night and if the Celtics were able to pull it off, his performance would’ve been lauded.
Other than Hayward, Terry Rozier (16/5/3 2 steals) and Daniel Theis (10 points 5 rebounds) both had solid nights. After Irving went out with his injury, starter Terry came out to play and he was awesome last night. He had merely one turnover and shot 50% from the field as he was in control.
Theis on the other hand continues to give the Celtics big minutes off the bench while they’re thin up front. He went 4-4 from the field and his consistency around the basket has been important for this team. While Theis has been good, I think the Celtics would be smart to get another big on the buyout market. In a game where they were clearly overpowered by guys like Harrell and Zubac, some depth at that position wouldn’t be a bad thing. Keep an eye out for someone like Marcin Gortat that the Celtics can add to their front court and have some needed depth down the stretch.
Another dumbfounding loss for the green and a frustrating night for the whole organization. While this one hurts, the Celtics don’t have time to dwell on it as they travel to Philly for a date with the Sixers Tuesday night at 8:00 PM ET.
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