If depth is Boston's hallmark, Celtics need more from Kyrie's supporting cast

If depth is Boston's hallmark, Celtics need more from Kyrie's supporting cast

BOSTON — As the final seconds ticked off the clock during the Boston Celtics’ latest head-shaking loss on Wednesday night, this time to a Phoenix Suns team that entered with the worst record in the NBA, a smattering of boos could be heard inside TD Garden.

This wasn’t the sort of jeers that rained down early and often during a loss to the New York Knicks here in late November. That game’s title of “lowest point on the 2018-19 teeter-totter” remains firmly intact. But the hissing Wednesday night was more out of annoyance from fans who yearn so deeply to embrace a team that keeps finding ways to make it so damn hard to love.

Make no mistake, the Suns have intriguing young talent and entered playing some excellent basketball. Yes, the Celtics, already chomped on by the injury bug, watched Aron Baynes break his hand in the opening minutes of Wednesday’s game. And yet it’s still hard to excuse the loss, particularly considering Boston’s three off days leading up to Wednesday’s game.

Even as the Celtics were ripping off eight consecutive wins, it was fair to wonder if it was the product of an easier schedule or improved play. A loss Saturday in Detroit could be explained away for a heavy-legged team that had taken a flight before 13 consecutive games.

But it’s hard to offer a pardon for Wednesday night. The Celtics got smashed on the glass (56-37), giving up a whopping 21 offensive rebounds (which the Suns turned into 20 second-chance points despite 8-of-22 shooting after those initial misses). And Boston committed 16 turnovers while fumbling away as much as a 12-point first-half lead.

The Celtics’ second-half box score was an eyesore. The team shot 30.6 percent and had almost as many turnovers (9) as field goals (11). Boston generated a measly four makes inside the arc.

"Really sloppy,” said Celtics coach Brad Stevens. "Really sloppy.”

Inside the Celtics’ locker room, Jayson Tatum tried to explain how Boston could look so good for large stretches of its eight-game winning streak and then stumble in consecutive games.

"Human nature. Nobody's perfect,” said Tatum. "We try our best to be as perfect as possible. But we've got to do better.”

Kyrie Irving, who scored a game-high 29 points on 10-of-19 shooting with 10 assists, remains unfailingly patient with his young team but admitted there needs to be more cohesion and consistency regardless of who’s available.

“We just have to have consistency amongst all our units, whoever is in. Just a cohesion where the ball is moving, and guys actually see other players be in the position to score the basketball, so that means delivering on time, actually caring …  actually trying,” said Irving.

"Certain possessions where, down the stretch, it’s like for some games that we’ve played, when we try, we’re in the game all the time. And when we don’t, we’re clearly not."

The fact of the matter is that Irving needs more help more often. Jaylen Brown elevated back to a starting role but finished with just six points on 3-of-9 shooting over 23:34. Ultra-aggressive in the infancy of his return from a back bruise, Brown didn’t attempt a single free throw and grabbed only one rebound during his floor time.

Tatum put up 18 points but needed 17 shots. He added eight rebounds and four blocks and yet his second-half line was somewhat unremarkable. Both Tatum and backup point guard Terry Rozier were 2-of-7 shooting after halftime. 

If the Celtics are going to suggest depth is the hallmark of this year’s team then they need to show it. Injuries created opportunities for players like Brown, Tatum, and Rozier to thrive last season but those players have rarely asserted themselves on nights the Celtics need someone other than Irving to save them.

Heaving a healthy Horford or Marcus Morris Sr., who sat out Wednesday with his own lingering knee soreness, will certainly help. But we’re more than a third of a way through the season and the Celtics are still waiting for the younger core to show they can consistently impact winning.

That’s some lofty expectations, particularly for a trio under 25, but Irving can’t always come to the rescue when things go awry.

And it’s not just the young trio that the Celtics need more from. Gordon Hayward had a tough second half, making just 1 of 3 shots and finishing minus-15 in less than 14 minutes of floor time.

During Boston’s eight-game win streak, we saw glimpses of how good all the individual pieces on this team can be. There’s too much talent here to lose games to teams like the Suns.

This team is too good to keep taking a step back after it takes two steps forward.

"I was just thinking about it while I was at my locker: this is the NBA season,” said Irving. "You just want to have great pockets of games, you have good consistent run, and then now you have a lapse. Now it’s build it back up, continue to work every single day to be a very great team, it’s a work in progress every day.”

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Celtics vs. Pacers odds: Best NBA picks as C's eye fifth straight win

Celtics vs. Pacers odds: Best NBA picks as C's eye fifth straight win

The Boston Celtics are back to their winning ways ... and so are we.

The Celtics' current hot streak -- four consecutive wins -- coincides with our good luck on the betting front, where we're 4-0 picking the moneyline and point spread in Boston's last two games.

The C's face a tough test Wednesday night when they roll into Bankers Life Fieldhouse to play the Indiana Pacers, who are in the Eastern Conference hunt at 15-9.

How will Wednesday's game shake out? Here are our betting predictions for Celtics-Pacers, as well as two NBA locks against the spread.

(All odds provided by WestGate Superbook.)

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Pacers, which tips off Wednesday at 6 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live, and then Mike & Scal have the call at 7 p.m. You can also stream the game on the MyTeams App.

Boston Celtics at Indiana Pacers, 7 p.m. ET

Moneyline: Gordon Hayward showed virtually no rust in his return Monday night as the Celtics rolled to their sixth win in seven games. The Pacers have been inconsistent over the last two weeks, so I think Boston's talent wins out here. Take the Celtics (-120).

Point Spread: Indiana is a pedestrian 5-5-2 against the spread at home this season. The Celtics have won seven of their last games in Indiana and are well-rested after whupping the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Pacers will put up a fight, but Celtics (-1) is the smart bet here.

Point Total: The Celtics boast the NBA's second-best defense. The Pacers are sixth. The total has gone under in nine of Boston's last 12 games and four of Indiana's last five games. Sign me up for the UNDER on the 209.5 point total.

Darren's record picking the Celtics' moneyline, point spread and point total: 32-21-1

NBA Locks of the Night

Los Angeles Clippers at Toronto Raptors (+2.5): If I'm on the Raptors, I really want to beat Kawhi Leonard in his return to Toronto. The Clippers are 5-6 on the road this season, and it should be quite the hostile environment Wednesday. I'm backing the home team.

Atlanta Hawks at Chicago Bulls (-5): The Hawks are coming off a brutal overtime loss to the Miami Heat on Tuesday (Trae Young called game ... for the wrong team) and haven't won the second leg of a back-to-back yet this season. Chalk this up as a scheduled loss.

Darren's record picking NBA locks against the spread: 20-15-1

Boston Celtics vs. Indiana Pacers live stream: Watch NBA game online

Boston Celtics vs. Indiana Pacers live stream: Watch NBA game online

The last time the Celtics faced the Pacers, Boston swept Indiana out of the playoffs with a four-game sweep, with each win coming by 10 points or fewer.

But this year's Pacers club is much different than last year's. Three of Indiana's top four scorers this season — Malcolm Brogdon, T.J. Warren, and Jeremy Lamb — are in their first seasons with the Pacers.

Luckily for the C's, they won't have to contend with Victor Oladipo, who is currently on a rehab assignment in the G-League.

The Celtics are currently riding a four-game win streak and just got Gordon Hayward back in the lineup, while the Pacers are coming off an 11-point loss in Paul George's first game back to Indianapolis since joining the Clippers.

Be sure to tune into NBC Sports Boston for Celtics Pregame Live at 6 p.m. ET, followed by the game at 7 p.m. ET or stream it via the MyTeams app


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BEFORE THE GAME: At 6 p.m., Celtics Pregame Live presented by TD Bank gets you ready for the game with reports from Kyle Draper, Chris MannixMike Gorman, Brian Scalabrine, Chris Forsberg, Tom Haberstroh, and Abby Chin. Watch on NBC Sports Boston or click here for the live stream.

AT HALFTIME: Tune in to watch a breakdown of the first two quarters on Halftime Live presented by Ace Ticket. Watch on NBC Sports Boston or click here for the live stream.

AFTER THE GAME: As soon as the game ends, tune to Celtics Postgame Live presented by New England Ford for analysis, commentary and player reaction. Watch on NBC Sports Boston or click here for the live stream

Questions on our livestream? Get all your questions answered here on our Streaming FAQ.



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