The Boston Celtics must pick themselves up ahead of one of their toughest stretches of the season.
NBA.com and ESPN.com both downgraded the Celtics on Monday in their latest NBA power rankings.
Boston’s drop follows a week in which it lost to the Los Angeles Lakers and San Antonio Spurs after beating the lowly Chicago Bulls. The Celtics might fall further if they don’t win a few games on their upcoming five-game road trip, during which they’ll face the Golden State Warriors, Sacramento Kings, Los Angeles Clippers, Phoenix Suns and Utah Jazz.
Boston was No. 4 in NBA.com’s rankings two weeks ago but slid to No. 7 last week. NBA.com’s John Schuhmann ranks the Celtics No. 9 this week and reckons they might struggle without injured guard Marcus Smart.
“The Celtics got less than two games with their four best perimeter players (and just 28 minutes with all four on the floor) before losing Marcus Smart for 2-3 weeks with a calf injury,” Schumann wrote.
” … Boston needs more from Kemba Walker, who shot 7-for-27 over the two games and had a couple of rough moments down the stretch: getting picked clean by Dejounte Murray and missing the step-back game-winner. The Celtics have lost their last four games that were within five points in the last five minutes and, without Smart down the stretch on Saturday, they closed with Semi Ojeleye alongside Walker, Brown, Tatum and Daniel Theis. Ojeleye could continue to get the call with the Celtics facing some big wings on a five-game trip that begins Tuesday. The Celtics have allowed just 111 points on 121 defensive possessions (91.7 per 100) with Ojeleye, Brown and Tatum on the floor together.”
ESPN.com ranks the Celtics No. 8, down from sixth, and Tim Bontemps also questions how Boston might fare without Smart.
“The final 10 minutes of Boston’s dramatic loss to the Lakers on Saturday night were overshadowed by fears over Marcus Smart’s leg injury being a serious one,” Bontemps wrote. “And while the Celtics will undoubtedly miss him on their five-game West Coast swing that starts Tuesday in San Francisco against the Warriors, the fact that the heart and soul of the team is going to be out only two to three weeks with a calf strain is the best outcome that could’ve been realistically hoped for.”
Smart’s absence obviously will hinder the Celtics. However, if Walker and role players rise to the occasion, and the Celtics thrive out West, they might quiet doubts over their quality of depth.
If that doesn’t happen, the Celtics might find themselves outside of the top 10 for the first time in a while.