After trailing by 20 points at halftime against the New Orleans Pelicans, the Boston Celtics were able to cut the Pelicans lead to single digits a handful of times in the second half.
But ultimately, they weren't able to overcome the deficit and fell to the Pelicans.
The Celtics got 20+ point outings from Kemba Walker (35), Gordon Hayward (23), and Jaylen Brown (20), but they weren't able to get enough from the rest of the team to stay competitive against Zion Williamson and a rejuvenated-looking Pelicans squad.
Here are three instant overreactions from the C's loss, which drops them to 30-15 on the year.
1. Rebounding is a major issue for the Celtics
The Celtics struggled mightily on the glass against the Pelicans. And two defensive possessions showcase that very well.
At one point in the game, Zion Williamson got to the rim and put up a shot. He missed it but kept putting up shots after getting three or four consecutive offensive rebounds. Williamson didn't ultimately get a bucket on the play, but the fact that he had so many chances was certainly a negative.
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And later in the first half, the Pelicans did convert on some of those offensive boards. On one possession, the team, once again, combined to grab three or four consecutive offensive boards and got up multiple shots before Josh Hart made a 3-pointer. It was a demoralizing possession for the Celtics and afforded the Pelicans a chance to continue to extend their already-growing lead.
For the game, the Pelicans had 54 boards while the Celtics just had 37. So on the surface, this would appear to be an issue.
However, there's one big counterpoint. Enes Kanter didn't play in the game. And neither did Jayson Tatum. The duo makes up the Celtics' best rebounding tandem and they combine for 15.1 boards per game. Without them, the Celtics have to play smaller, so that could explain why they struggled against a lanky Pelicans squad.
It's fair to want the Celtics to perform better on the glass. But they're less than a week away from outrebounding the Los Angeles Lakers by 12 when their team was almost fully healthy. They should overcome this issue when Kanter and Tatum are back.
2. Celtics need another scorer off the bench
Verdict: Not an overreaction
Obviously, there's a case to be made that the bench is stronger than they showcased on Sunday night. After all, when Tatum plays, Smart comes off the bench. And Kanter is one of the team's best scorers off the bench.
But still, the Celtics seem to be one contributor short when they have their full rotation available. And when they're not fully healthy, things can get ugly.
The Celtics bench scored just eight total points against the Pelicans. They shot 4-of-10 from the field and made zero of the four 3-point shots they attempted.
While guys like Javonte Green, Grant Williams, and Semi Ojeleye have upside, they haven't yet shown an ability to be consistent and willing scorers night in and night out.
It will be interesting to see if the Celtics try to make any trades before the Feb. 6 trade deadline. They are rumored to have an interest in Washington Wizards stretch-four Davis Bertans, but can they open up a roster spot to make a deal? And at what cost? We'll soon find out.
3. Vincent Poirier should see more playing time as long as Kanter is out
Verdict: Not an overreaction
As mentioned, one of the Celtics' biggest weaknesses in this contest was their inability to rebound. Part of that was their lacking size against a long Pelicans team.
That said, when the team put in Vincent Poirier to try out some new things in the third quarter against the Pelicans, the move paid dividends. Poirier played hard and his size bothered the Pelicans at the rim.
Poirier totaled two points, three boards, and a block in nine minutes of action. And that was huge for the team as they made their comeback push.
Poirier may be an NBA rookie, but he has Euroleague experience and was the league's leading rebounder before coming over to the Celtics. He may not always play perfectly, but in small spurts, he could help the Celtics offset their lacking length as long as Kanter is out.
If Poirier plays 10 minutes or so off the bench, that may help the Celtics have a better presence on the glass and on defense. Brad Stevens should at least consider getting Poirier into the game a bit earlier against the Miami Heat if the C's have issues again under the basket again.
And given that Stevens said Poirier was "excellent" after the contest, it seems likely that he will see more playing time.
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