Celtics

Three Pointers: Celtics' season of destiny looking more like death march following another blowout loss

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Three Pointers: Celtics' season of destiny looking more like death march following another blowout loss

BOSTON -- This was supposed to be the Boston Celtics’ season of destiny. 

Instead it's looking more like a death march with the team’s stretch of futility continuing on following Sunday’s 115-96 loss to the San Antonio Spurs. 

Boston (43-31) has now lost four straight which stands as the Celtics’ longest losing streak of the season. 

Now the argument that Boston was missing players with injuries (Al Horford, Jayson Tatum and Robert Williams III) will be a common justification to help explain how thoroughly throttled they were by the Spurs. 

But missing open shots, not boxing out for rebounds and playing shoddy defense for the bulk of the game against a team like the Spurs, will get your butt kicked every time regardless of who is available. 

This was an embarrassing loss not because the margin of defeat, but the margin of compete level that was even more lopsided than the final score. 

Here are three pointers to take away from yet another disappointing performance by the Celtics.

Hayward start over Brown

With Jayson Tatum (back) out, Brad Stevens decided to start Gordon Hayward ahead of Jaylen Brown. 

It was a surprising call considering how well Brown has been playing, and  it being Hayward’s first game back after missing the previous three due to being in the league’s concussion protocol program.

But the move worked out well for Hayward who gave Boston’s starting five a much-needed offensive punch before finishing with a double-double of 13 points and 10 rebounds along with three assists.

However, the move didn’t exactly work out in Brown’s favor. 

He would tally just seven points, which was only the fourth time in the last 14 games he has failed to reach double figures off the bench. 

DEFENSIVE DISAPPEARING ACT

It can’t be said enough how disappointing Boston was defensively against the Spurs. Yes, LaMarcus Aldridge had it going all game with a blistering 48 points for San Antonio on 20-for-31 shooting in addition to grabbing 13 rebounds while dishing out six assists. But it wasn’t the stats that Aldridge tallied hurt the most; it was how easily he got them all game long. 

Having no Al Horford hurt, obviously. Horford does the best job of any of the Celtics when it comes to defending Aldridge.

But Aron Baynes who usually plays at an elite level defensively, had arguably his worst game defensively as a Celtic. 

He was about as insignificant defensively as we’ve seen him since coming to Boston.

And while he’s not the most fleet-footed player, he looked a step or two slow even by his usual standards which isn’t that big a stretch considering it was his first game back following a foot injury that many - including head coach Brad Stevens - was going to keep him out for a significantly longer period of time. 

But at no point did Baynes do anything of significance to make Aldridge the least bit uncomfortable on the floor. Aldridge is just too talented a player to have so many open to lightly contested mid-range jumpers and shot attempts at the rim. 

However, Baynes’ troubles were more symbolic of the Celtics’ entire defense which seems to be going from bad to worst as we inch closer towards the playoffs. 

KYRIE IRVING

He has said on more than one occasion that so much of what this team does starts with him. 

He’s right. 

And when he’s not making shots, gambling on defense - and losing badly - it reflects poorly and unfortunately for Boston, becomes contagious. 

He had a double-double of 11 points and 12 assists, shooting just 5-for-17 from the field. 

It was his 21st double-double of the season, and maybe the weakest of the bunch. 

Because his numbers on this night rang about as hollow as the cavernous hole we see as the Celtics defense. 

There are eight games left to play and while that’s not enough time for them to change the identity of who they are as a team, they can at least start trending in the direction of being more competitive. 

Because the crap show we’re witnessing now … this team won’t get out of the first round of the playoffs if they don’t find a greater compete level AND FAST!!!

UP NEXT

Boston will hit the road for a Tuesday night matchup at Cleveland, at 7 p.m.

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Nicolas Batum on Celtics center Vincent Poirier: "It's a good pick-up for Boston for sure"

Nicolas Batum on Celtics center Vincent Poirier: "It's a good pick-up for Boston for sure"

Team USA didn't finish the FIBA World Cup as expected, but there were plenty of positives to take away from the tournament if you're a Celtics fan. 

Not only did Kemba Walker, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart contribute to Team USA and certainly took some lessons from playing under Gregg Popovich, but Daniel Theis (Germany) and newly signed Vincent Poirier (France) got invaluable experience they can carry into the 2019-20 NBA season. 

Poirier signed with the Celtics during free agency on a two-year contract and should have plenty of opportunities to earn playing time in a Celtics' frontcourt that hopes to replace Al Horford and Aron Baynes. 

Poirier's French teammate Nicolas Batum, who played with Walker in Charlotte over the last four years, dealt out some praise of the rookie center after France beat Australia for the FIBA bronze medal. 

"This guy, I think, just started basketball 5 years ago, so he's had a special career," Batum told John Schumann. "His energy was great. We can't count on Rudy (Gobert) every game... He was huge. He wasn't scared by Bogut & Baynes... He was amazing tonight."

France knocked the U.S. out of the knockout round by besting them in the quarterfinals. Poirier didn't play in that game, but has played a big role for France behind All-Star big man Rudy Gobert. 

"It's clear that he's a center that can block shots and control the paint," Batum said. "He's a terrific roller, can really catch a lob, and obviously has a lot of energy. It's a good pick-up for Boston, for sure."

The Celtics responded to Horford's departure and trading Baynes to Phoneix by signing Poirier and Enes Kanter to join Theis and Robert Williams at the center spot. Boston will probably have to solve their hole at that position by committee, but if Poirier can play consistent defense, rebound and protect the paint as Batum describes, he could earn himself backup minutes behind Kanter. 

Either way, it should be an interesting training camp to say the least for this new-look Celtics team. 

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One lesson each Celtics player can take away from World Cup

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One lesson each Celtics player can take away from World Cup

Team Shamrock’s FIBA adventures ended with a whimper Saturday as — under the cloak of East Coast darkness — three of the four Celtics on Team USA logged DNPs (eight points for Jaylen Brown) while the Americans claimed seventh place with an 87-74 win over Poland. Combine that with the fact that Daniel Theis got limited reps with Germany’s early exit and Daniel Poirier hasn’t played big minutes while backing up Rudy Gobert for France and the World Cup experience wasn’t quite as robust as it could have been for the six Celtics players involved.

Still, there were positives to pluck and experiences gained by everyone involved, not the least of which is that a third of Boston’s roster will show up to camp on Oct. 1 in game-ready shape. Still, regardless of Team USA’s medal-less finish and the limited reps for Theis and Poirier, there’s at least one item or lesson that every player can bring with them into the new season.