Five takeaways: Booker's 70 from C's lack of D?
Five takeaways: Booker's 70 puts focus on C's lack of D
BOSTON – The Celtics' 130-120 win over the Phoenix Suns on Friday night wasn’t the first time the Green Team delivered an underwhelming win.
But in the aftermath of that victory, a familiar theme emerged from coach Brad Stevens.
Stevens reiterated that the Celtics (47-26) haven’t played as well this season as their record might indicate they’re capable of.
“I’m surprised at where we are record-wise because we’ve got to play at a higher level for 48 minutes,” Stevens said. “We just don’t do it.
Stevens quipped, “We’re good for six minutes [against Phoenix], though, at the start.”
That is not what Celtics Nation wants to here on the eve of the playoffs, which will likely begin in Boston.
And if things play out as expected, the Celtics will have the top seed in the East and with it, home-court advantage throughout the postseason in the East.
But as Stevens alluded to, that won’t mean much if they continue to have the kind of lapses we saw against the Suns.
Here are four more takeaways from the victory:
BAD BENCH PLAY
Other than Gerald Green (15 points, all in the first half), the Celtics didn’t get the high-impact, steady, difference-making play from their reserve unit. Part of that has to do with the unit being slightly different with Jaylen Brown starting for Avery Bradley (sick) who missed the game. Their job isn’t score or rebound or block shots. It’s to make their presence felt in a big way, something they collectively failed to do against the Suns.
As stated earlier, the Celtics bench did not play particularly well. But few struggled as much as Marcus Smart. The fact that he missed 12 of his 13 shots from the field wasn’t great. But more than that, Friday was likely the worst defensive performance he has had as a Celtic. Smart had a plus/minus of -18, and his defensive rating of 119.6 was the worst among Boston’s perimeter players which as we know, where the players who got the brunt of Devin Booker’s career-high 70-point night.
JOHNSON’S IMPROVED PLAY
Amir Johnson is in a good place right now for the Celtics. He’s healthy, defending at a high level while giving Boston some much-needed help on the boards. Against the Suns, he had nine points on 4-for-9 shooting while grabbing eight rebounds which included a season high-tying five on the offensive glass. And maybe most telling about his impact was the fact that Johnson had a plus/minus of +26 which was tops among all Celtics. Boston will need him to continue finding ways to make an imprint on the game, knowing his minutes compared to Boston’s other starters are likely to be limited.
RAISING THE BAR OF EXPECTATIONS
There wasn’t a lot of joy in the Celtics locker room following the Phoenix game and that’s a good thing. They won the game, but they know they should have played better. That somber environment speaks to how Boston isn’t just satisfied with keeping the wins coming. They want to win on their terms, terms that are centered around playing the right way for most of the game which is something that did not happen on Friday night.