Man, that sucked.
If you watched the Kyrie Irving-less Boston Celtics lose to the Philadelphia 76ers Thursday night like I did, you probably had some pretty angry thoughts. It was unequivocally frustrating to watch turnover and brick after turnover and brick. The Celtics simply never looked comfortable last night.
Irving, who missed the game with a left shoulder injury, is the best player and scorer on the team and he usually dazzles. What the Celtics really need to work on is what to do when Kyrie is on the pine, or even worse, not able to play.
The first thing that really irked me about the game was the lack of shots put up by Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. When Irving is out, the Celtics needs to go to these young guys. Too many times, I watched Brown stand in the corner for most of a possession just to see Marcus Smart run the clock down and chuck up a contested shot. I love Marcus but that’s not his game.
The Celtics should be assertive in setting plays for Brown. He is becoming a good driver to the basket and has a greatly improved mid-range shot. I would have loved to see Brown try to use that more. He should want the ball and be more aggressive. So if you’re reading this, Jaylen, please take more shots next game.
Tatum also only took 11 shots last night. Yeah yeah, he could have taken less, I know. But when Irving is out, he needs to take more. Tatum is second-best scorer on this team. He can shoot at all three levels and has the creativity and handle to get his own shot.
I wanted to see 20 attempts from the kid last night. He is simply too good to not be shooting. Tatum should be assertive because it adds a new fear to other teams. You think they don’t know how good he is? They know, and they would much rather make Marcus Morris beat them than let Tatum do so. Not a knock on Morris, he just does not have the offensive intimidation factor that Tatum possesses.
The Celtics are going to run into a lot of trouble if they play sloppy offense with no Irving. They are too talented to look this bad at times. Players need to step up, because if they don’t Boston will not go further than last year. It has been a very promising and impressive season, but at times the Celtics look stagnant.
Against Philadelphia, there were countless possessions that had Smart or whoever standing at the top of the key with the ball until the shot clock was down to 12 seconds. No movement, no sets. They almost looked confused. It was pretty weird.
Guess how most of those possessions ended up. Here’s a hint: Not great.
The Celtics need to be moving without the ball. Strong cuts and good screens will create points for nearly any team. Boston is fortunate to have Al Horford. Players need to get the ball in his hands and then move. Sometimes it looks so easy for them, while other times I rip my hair out in frustration.
Here’s a list of things I would love to never see happen again.
- Marcus Smart and Al Horford play hot potato with the ball until there’s five seconds left and someone has to shoot it.
- Marcus Morris takes a contested 3-pointer with 20 seconds left on the shot clock.
- Jayson Tatum passing up a good look to get someone an OK look.
- STUPID, CARELESS TURNOVERS (sorry got a little worked up)
There really has not been a lot of reason to pick on the Celtics this season. They are still exceeding expectations, but sometimes they make the little things look hard. It often becomes easy to see how young they are. They let little mistakes trickle through that veterans do not make. It’s all part of the growing experience.
But, I’m impatient. I’m a Celtics fan and I am very accustomed to winning basketball. If Irving is off the court, the Celtics still need to put up points. This is becoming more and more of a struggle for a team with plenty of weapons.
Thank the lord Kyrie will be back. When he is on the court this team look like its record. When he’s off? Not so much.
I have enormous hopes for the Celtics this season, but they need to make immediate improvements.