Through 16 games, the Boston Celtics’ offense hasn’t lived up to its enormous potential.
Boston ranks 27th in the NBA in offensive rating, 24th in points per game and 29th in free throws attempted per game so far this season. The Celtics have been hoisting up 3-pointers at an alarming rate as well, averaging 36.4 triples per game, which is good for third in the NBA. But the C’s only connect on 34.9 percent of their 3-point attempts, which ranks 18th in the NBA.
The C’s starting five has struggled to jell early on, with Gordon Hayward continuing to shake the rust off, and young stars Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown taking a step back from their impressive 2017-18 seasons.
Tatum and Brown are essential to Boston’s championship hopes this season, and Kyrie Irving knows it.
Following Boston’s loss to the Utah Jazz on Saturday, Irving sent a message to his young teammates.
“I think guys have gotten better,” Irving said of Tatum and Brown struggling with their lofty expectations, per ESPN’s Tim Bontemps. “I think that guys want to take advantage of their talent.
“I think last year, the young guys that are in the locker room now, some of the guys that are playing, they were a little bit younger. They weren’t expected to do as much, and I think that the amount of pressure that we put on them to perform every single night is something that they have to get used to, being part of a great team like this.
“If you’re not playing to the standard then, as a team, we just don’t all click. I think once we get that, and we find that consistency, we’ll be good.”
Tatum has fallen into a sophomore slump to begin his second season, averaging 15.9 points per game on 42.4 percent shooting. Brown is struggling to finish at the rim and to cash in from distance, as the third-year forward is shooting a ghastly 27.3 percent from beyond the arc.
Boston was expected by many to be the best team in the Eastern Conference, with Tatum and Brown providing the athleticism, versatility and scoring ability to help Irving, Hayward and Al Horford lead the team to the NBA Finals.
Irving isn’t sure if his young teammates are pressing, but he knows the team as a whole must find a way to respond when things aren’t going as planned.
“Whatever word you want to use,” Irving said. “I just think that, for the amount of work that, like I said before, that guys put in, I think they have expectations for themselves, and I think that’s completely normal. Getting beaten down on (missing) shots or not being in the right spots … I think that we just have to find the happy balance between those two.
“Going on this early part of the regular season, teams are coming at us, so they’re expecting to make shots, they have a great rhythm; then we get hit in the mouth a few times, and we just gotta be able to respond.”
The Celtics have lost five of their last eight games and currently sit in fifth place in the East. While it’s still early, Boston needs Tatum and Brown to break out of their early-season funk if the team is to discover its championship form.