Things have changed in a hurry for the Boston Celtics.
One month ago today, Jan. 15, the Celtics were sitting pretty at 8-3. They recorded four straight wins including two against good Eastern Conference competition in the Toronto Raptors and Miami Heat. Oh yeah, and that even was before All-Star point guard Kemba Walker returned.
It undoubtedly prompted confidence for Celtics fans. But from that moment on, there’s hasn’t much to smile about. The group took it to a new level over the weekend and has now lost 10 of its last 15 games, including four of the last five.
Simply, it’s been a terrible stretch, and there’s plenty of blame to go around. So, let’s dissect that “blame pie.” Note: Because we’re not good with fractions like a typical pie chart, these eight components will add up to 100 percent.
Take a look:
The Intangibles — 25%
Intensity, effort, resiliency, desire — all the qualities we’ve seen from the Boston Bruins during the first quarter of the hockey season — have been nonexistent in the city’s basketball team. It was crystal clear during Sunday’s loss to the lowly Washington Wizards, but it has played a major impact Boston’s able to defend, too. The Celtics have allowed 108.9 points per game during the 15-game stretch and have dropped to the league’s 15th best defensive rating. Marcus Smart’s injury seemingly has coincided with the lack of effort and intensity, so maybe it changes upon his return?
Injuries — 20%
Boston’s Core Four — Walker, Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, Marcus Smart — have played 28 minutes together. That’s essentially one half of basketball in a season when the Celtics have played 52 halves. It’s probably the most notable glimmer of hope over the last few weeks, as many hope the core group can get back to health and fix things quickly.
Celtics bench — 20%
Boston has had to grossly rely on Brown and Tatum because of how little the C’s have received from others. Tristan Thompson, who’s seen some time in the starting rotation in the double-big lineup, has averaged 6.6 points and 8.2 rebounds in 22 minutes; Grant Williams has averaged 5.4 points in 19 minutes; Jeff Teague has averaged 5.5 points and 2.0 assists in 17 minutes; and Semi Ojeleye averaged 5.6 points on 4.5 field goal attempts in 19 minutes. The most impressive piece off the bench has been rookie first-rounder Payton Pritchard, all while Javonte Green, Robert Williams and Aaron Nesmith have been underwhelming.
Kemba Walker — 13%
Walker played his best game of the campaign Sunday, scoring a season-high 25 points. Other than that, though, his ability to work back from offseason knee surgery has been a major issue. Walker also isn’t playing on the second night of back-to-backs, which hamstrings the team on the offensive end practically every other night.
Danny Ainge — 10%
Ainge isn’t at fault when it comes to players lacking the intangibles or the impact that injuries have had, obviously. But he is at fault for the roster. And his two biggest free-agent signings — Teague and Thompson — haven’t done anything to help out. The Celtics don’t have the talent to compete at the highest level, and we’ll see if they get with the help of the $28.5 million trade exception from the Gordon Hayward trade.
Brad Stevens — 6%
At least for now, we’re not willing to put Stevens atop the list here. But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t deserve any blame for the team’s seemingly consistent third-quarter struggles. It also seems recently the Celtics haven’t been ready to go against lesser opponents (Wizards, Pistons) and while it’s a player-first league, the coach needs to have the group ready.
Jayson Tatum — 5%
Recency bias will tell you that Tatum is Enemy No. 1. And it’s well-deserved after an embarrassing, lackluster effort Sunday. He’s now had three underwhelming performances in the last five games. But in the bigger picture, Tatum is among the reasons Boston is even .500. He’s also scored 23 or more points in nine of the 11 games with seven or more assists in four of them.
Jaylen Brown — 1%
We’re going to bat for Brown here. In addition to his offensive numbers — career-high 26 points, 51% from the field, 3.4 assists — he’s arguably the only player who has put forth a respectable effort each time he steps on the floor. He contributed 21 or more points in 11 of the 13 games he played during the 15-game stretch. Brown believes the Celtics can turn it around, but we’ll have to see.