BOSTON – Brad Stevens has quite a few things he would like to see his Celtics players do a better job at going forward.
Near the top of that list has to be enacting their highly effective down-by-20 points approach to playing, you know, BEFORE they're down by 20 points.
Because lately, it seems that the only time they dig down and play great basketball is when they have a deep hole they are trying to dig out of.
And that is why Stevens is giving some thought to a roster shake-up of some kind to inject a greater sense of urgency in the lineup sooner rather than later.
“Still talking about it,” Stevens said on Tuesday when asked about possible roster changes. “Obviously, the easy question and the easy thought is, who starts? It’s just as much rotations in the game that we need to be better with, maybe find some groups that play better together. I thought actually in the Portland game, I saw some of that in the second half. The hard part is right now, when we play really urgent and desperate, we’re pretty good. We’re just not there enough. It’s hard to really pin that on a lineup, on a person, as much as we just have to be better.”
We’ll find out on Wednesday if this trend continues when the Celtics (7-6) begin a three-game homestand against the Chicago Bulls.
The Celtics are pleased with being home after having played their past five on the road, all but one resulting in a loss.
But reversing their fortunes will have more to do with execution and urgency than location.
And while players and coaches agree that what ails this team can be fixed, a sustainable turnaround begins with playing with a greater desire to win, especially in close games.
Boston comes in having played in a league-high 11 clutch games (that’s when the score in the final five minutes is within five points) with a not-so-stellar 5-6 record.
The Celtics played in 46 clutch games last season which tied for the sixth-highest total in the NBA. Their winning percentage (.630) in such games was tops among teams that played as many games and was fourth overall.
What we’ve seen this season in the clutch from Boston is a team that often struggles to get points most of the game all of a sudden transform into Golden State of the East in the fourth quarter.
According to NBA.com/stats, the Celtics have an offensive rating of 129.4 in the clutch, which ranks fourth in the NBA, a significant improvement compared to their offensive rating for the season, which stands at 103.4 (21st in the NBA).
That’s great, right, Celtics fans?
Not if your defense can’t get stops which has become an all-too-common occurrence for this team this season in close, late-game situations.
In the clutch, Boston’s top-ranked defense has a defensive rating of 120.1, which is 23rd in the league.
One of the theories floated out there is that the Celtics, predicted by many to advance to the NBA Finals this year, might not be taking their opponents as seriously as they should be.
“I don’t know what it is,” Gordon Hayward said. “I don’t think, at least for me individually, it’s not like we come out feeling...I don’t come out the gates thinking we’re going to walk through this game. We have to be able to play like our backs are against the wall.”
Jaylen Brown believes there are a multitude of contributing factors playing a role in the Celtics' struggles such as players not being as assertive as they should be.
“I don’t think it’s too much of a frustration thing,” Brown said. “We just have to get on the same page. What’s on the other end of this is good. We have to continue to stay with it, keep fighting and not lose hope and continue to get better.”
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