Five takeaways from C's loss to Pelicans
Five takeaways from C's loss to Pelicans: Playing down to opponents?
BOSTON -- When the Boston Celtics learned that Al Horford would be a no-go on Monday, they put him on a plane back to Boston.
The rest of us were not as fortunate as we watched Monday’s 106-105 loss to New Orleans.
It was a classic example of what can happen if you give a team that has struggled some early confidence.
Anthony Davis is always a load, but he isn’t the sole reason for New Orleans’ win. It was his supporting cast who seemed to get any shot they wanted, when they wanted it.
And the Celtics put up little to no resistance most of the night until the end of the third quarter and parts of the fourth.
”We’re not that good a team to wait that long,” Thomas told reporters after the loss.
Here are five other takeaways from Monday’s game.
Mickey ahead of Zeller?
It wasn’t all that shocking that head coach Brad Stevens used Jordan Mickey off the bench. But it was a bit unexpected to see the second-year big man being Stevens’ first choice off the bench among the bigs. And to Mickey’s credit, he did a lot of nice things while on the floor trying to defend Anthony Davis. Tyler Zeller eventually got into the game, but was a non-factor. Throw in the struggles Zeller has had to rebound coupled with the job Mickey has done in spot-duty minutes, don’t be surprised to see Mickey continue to eat away at Zeller’s playing time.
Bench is feast or famine
Until Al Horford (concussion) and Jae Crowder (ankle) are back, the Celtics’ second unit will be short-handed when it comes to offensive firepower. But that shouldn’t prevent them from being better defensively than what we’ve seen thus far. They were thoroughly outplayed by New Orleans’ second unit which outscored them 57-20. The Pelicans’ best reserve scorer was Langston Galloway who single-handedly outscored Boston’s bench by himself, 21-20. This group doesn’t need to put up big numbers offensively to be effective. They need to defend at a relatively high level, something they failed to do on Monday.
Thomas can only do so much
So much for having a bum middle finger. Isaiah Thomas was battling a painful middle finger injury all game, but that didn’t stop him from being effective. Gimpy finger and all, he led all scorers with 37 points on a relatively efficient 13-for-29 shooting performance which included him going 8-for-10 from the free throw line. But he needs guys to be more comfortable stepping up in critical moments. Boston can at times be predictable with its late-game offense that usually ends with the ball being in Thomas’ hands. That’s not a bad thing, but the Celtics know they have to mix it up some which they did not do a very good job of on Monday.
Defense a work in progress
There was excitement surrounding the Celtics defense after winning a pair of games that were both fueled by strong play defensively. But as Monday’s loss proved, the Celtics still have room to improve. It was another game in which Boston’s defense showed flashes of being really good, but never sustained long enough to make a major impact. They only lost the rebounding war by two (46-44), but it felt like the gap was larger than that because of New Orleans (and most teams really) being able to capitalize on their offensive boards better than Boston which had more offensive rebounds (11-8). New Orleans turned those offensive boards into 20 second-chance points compared to 16 for the Celtics.
Play opponents, not their record
The Boston Celtics say they truly respect all opponents, but their actions suggest otherwise. It’s hard to imagine that the focus level they had coming into the Pelicans game was the same or on par with their mental approach to say, the Cleveland Cavaliers. That needs to stop. The Celtics are not good enough to take any team lightly as they experienced first-hand on Monday. They will credit New Orleans for playing a good game and getting contributions from a lot of players. But the truth is, they didn’t play with the same level of focus and intensity that we’ve seen them have against the top teams in the league. And as Isaiah Thomas mentioned earlier, they’re just not good enough to do that.