Five takeaways from C's loss to Trail Blazers
Five takeaways from Celtics' loss to Trail Blazers: Home not so sweet
BOSTON – Another home loss, another stretch of days trying to figure out how to get back on track. This is the life of the Celtics these days.
While the big picture says Boston (26-17) has played relatively good basketball this month with wins in six of their nine games in January, there are concerning trends for them going forward.
Even though they have most of their core players back from last season’s team, this is a different squad in how they play as well as their overall identity.
They talk a lot about being a defense-first team, but that’s just not what’s showing up on a nightly basis. Far too many games have been more about shootouts than shutting down teams.
It creates a lot of toss-up games and for the most part, Boston has done just enough to win most of them. So, the idea that they have lost back-to-back games to New York and Portland that were indeed up for grabs, doesn’t set off too many alarm bells.
But the Celtics are trying to gain ground on Toronto which leads them by 2.5 games for the No. 2 spot in the East, and the Atlanta Hawks on right on the Celtics’ heels.
Every game should matter to the Celtics who, while clearly continue to make strides as a team and an organization, has lots of room for improvement if they are to ever reach the levels of success they envision for themselves.
And no matter how you look at it, Saturday’s loss to Portland was a setback.
Here’s a look at five other takeaways from Saturday’s game.
AVERY BRADLEY IS MISSED
We all know how important Avery Bradley to this team’s chances at success. Not only because of the 17.7 points per game he brings every night, but also because of what the first team All-NBA defender brings in terms of ball pressure and overall defense. And the last two games, both Celtics losses, were fueled by players who Bradley would have likely defended if his right Achilles' strain injury wasn’t bad enough to prevent him from playing. And with coach Brad Stevens indicating that Bradley would be out for the rest of this week, the Celtics will be hard-pressed to regain their winning ways.
ROZIER'S MAJOR CONFIDENCE BOOST
If there has been one bright spot to Avery Bradley’s Achilles' injury, it is the fact that it has given Rozier a chance to get back on the floor. Rozier’s confidence in his game has never faded away. But since he was taken out of the regular rotation on Christmas Day, he hasn’t played with the same kind of swagger we saw earlier. As a second-year player who went from not playing as a rookie to solidifying a rotation spot when this season began, Saturday’s game was a big deal for Rozier. Not only did he score 15 points – the most he has scored in more than a month – but he also drained a 3-pointer with 8.4 seconds to play that forced overtime.
DEFENSE STILL NEEDS WORK
The Celtics don't get enough stops throughout the course of the game to really feel as though they’re shifting towards being the defensive nightmare they were to opponents last season. Celtics coach Brad Stevens felt better about his team’s defense following Saturday’s loss to Portland, but that optimism certainly can’t be seen in the numbers posted this month which are worst in a number of key defensive areas such as points allowed (109.2 in January compared to 105.3 for the season), defensive rating (110.0 in January compared to 106.3 this season), and opponent’s effective field goal percentage (.516 in January compared to .505 this season)
TURNOVERS ON THE RISE
No matter how good the defense was, it didn’t really seem to bother the Celtics when it came to ball security. They have been among the league’s top three in fewest turnovers committed most of this season. But there has been some noticeable slippage of late. They turned the ball over a season-high 21 times against Portland, and now find themselves fifth in the NBA in turnovers (12.6), which includes them slipping to 11th in turnovers (13.2) for the mont. after dropping their last two games.
WANTED: SECOND-HALF SCORING HELP FOR THOMAS
Isaiah Thomas had 24 of his game-high 41 points after halftime on Saturday, the kind of second-half dominance we’ve seen from him most of the season. As good as Thomas is, Boston has to find others who can also provide a big lift offensively in the second half of games. Against Portland, Jae Crowder had 11 of his 16 points in the first quarter. But in the three following quarters of play and overtime, Thomas was the only Celtics player to reach double figures scoring in a quarter. The Celtics player coming closest to doing so was Marcus Smart, who had seven points in the second quarter.