Celtics

Blakely: Celtics offense dictating poor defense

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Blakely: Celtics offense dictating poor defense

OAKLAND, Calif. The Boston Celtics have built a foundation on strong defensive principles that at the very least, are unsettled right now.

The identity of this team has been that they are a cohesive unit defensively with any number of able-bodied players who can put up big numbers scoring.

Because of that, they could withstand an occasional offensive lull and still hold their own or more often than not, win.

But this is a different season, a different team.

And that defensive foundation?

It has changed too ... and it's not for the better, either.

These days, the Celtics tend to allow their offense to dictate their play defensively.

So when shots don't fall, they have nothing to lean on to carry them through the tough dry spells that all teams have to endure over the course of a game.

And that inability has been at the core of this team's problems this year, problems that were apparent for most of Saturday night as the Celtics dropped their second straight game, 101-83, to Golden State.

The loss slips the Celtics (14-15) to below-.500 status, a position they have not been in since Nov. 9.

And while there are sure to be parallels drawn between what the C's are doing now and what they did last year (Boston was 15-14 after 29 games a year ago), there's one big difference:

Last year's team was out of shape courtesy of the NBA lockout. And even that didn't take away from them having a strong defensive identity even in those early season losses.

This group?

Game after game, it's one defensive breakdown after another that add up to rough times and most significant, mounting losses.

Doc Rivers won't hesitate in letting anyone within earshot know that he's still learning about this team.

Sadly, there are some truths about the C's this season that he'd wish didn't exist.

The way they let their shooting dictate their play is one of them.

"That's the one thing I do know about this team," Rivers said. "In the past, we could play bad and still win because we didn't get frustrated if the offense (struggled). This is not that group so far. When we miss shots, we are a bad defensive team. Right now, our offense absolutely dictates how hard, how well, how disciplined we stay on defense. That's something I've seen and continues."

Rivers added, "that's our identity. That's who we are right now. You got the whole year to change it, but you have to change it quickly."

Celtics big man Kevin Garnett has also recognized the change with this team - so far at least - not being as locked in defensively as C's teams of the past.

"Since I've been here, we've been a defensive team that has been fueled by the defense," Garnett said. "And that has turned into some offense. Right now, we're not that. Somehow through practice, through repetition, whatever it may be, we have to change that."

Said Paul Pierce: "We have to figure out who we want to be. Do we want to be a defense-first team? If we're not going to be a defensive team, we have to be a better offensive team. It's gotta be something. We still have to find our way."

BOSTON SPORTS TONIGHT PODCAST: Celtics streak comes to an end

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BOSTON SPORTS TONIGHT PODCAST: Celtics streak comes to an end

0:41 - Tom Giles, Kayce Smith, and DJ Bean discuss the Celtics 16-game winning streak being snapped by the Miami Heat.

6:05 - Tom Curran and Mike Giardi talk about Tom Brady missing practice due to an Achilles injury and Randy Moss’ chances to make the Hall of Fame.

11:15 - A. Sherrod Blakely joins BST to discuss the mental and physical fatigue that the streak had on the Celtics and if there is a sense of relief that the streak is over.  

16:11 - With it being the 5th anniversary of the Butt Fumble, we compare it to other embarrassing sports moments in history. 

Little things prove costly for Celtics as streak comes to an end

Little things prove costly for Celtics as streak comes to an end

When you reflect upon Boston’s 16-game winning streak which came to an end with Miami’s 104-98 win on Wednesday, there were moments in just about every game that played a major factor in their success.

So it was only fitting that in the Miami loss, it would be a whole lot of little things that ultimately brought the fourth-longest winning streak in franchise history to a screeching halt.

  • Al Horford missed a pair of free throws.
  • Marcus Smart split a pair that had he made both, would have tied the game up in the fourth quarter.
  • Jayson Tatum had his only turnover of the game, in the fourth.
  • Terry Rozier had a rebound that he could not corral and bounced off his hands out of bounds.

And that doesn’t even factor in the missed open shots and unforced turnovers that collectively played a major role in Boston’s winning streak being a thing of the past now.

“I turned it over, we missed some free throws . . . we had some unfortunate things happen,” Tatum told reporters following the loss.

MORE:

Even with the loss, the Celtics (16-3) still boast the best record in the NBA.

Kyrie Irving has elevated his all-around play to a level to where he’s legitimately in the conversation as a league MVP candidate.

Jayson Tatum has established himself as one of the league’s top rookies from his draft class.

“As you could see, they kept hitting us, hitting us, until we were knocked out,” Irving said. “They deserved that win tonight.”

Disappointed with the loss, but it was not at all surprising to head coach Brad Stevens who has been raising concerns about his team’s attention to detail for the past few games and sensed it would catch up to them sooner or later.

“I told you, we’re not as good as the 16-game win streak,” Stevens said. “But we do have a lot of resolve. I can’t say enough about our guy’s will to come back. It’s incredible we were able to erase that lead that quickly and give ourselves a chance.”

Indeed, the Celtics rallied from a double-digit deficit to come within a single point in the fourth quarter. But unlike previous games, Boston couldn’t find a path to victory.

“We’re just going to continue to learn and continue to get better,” Irving said. “It’s the same things echoed when we were winning. Just continue to get better and understand, there’s still a lot for us to accomplish going forward.

He added, “It was a good streak, and it’s finally come to an end.”

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