The problems the Boston Celtics are struggling to overcome are glaring even to those who don’t cover the team closely.
NBA TV’s Brendan Haywood and Sam Mitchell detailed the issues the Celtics struggle to overcome as the end of the 2020-21 NBA season nears. Boston’s loss to the lowly Oklahoma City Thunder on Tuesday night extended its losing streak to three games and plunged the Celtics deeper into danger of missing out on a top-six seed in the Eastern Conference and thus having to compete in the NBA’s inaugural Play-In Tournament. Haywood and Mitchell used the occasion to highlight Boston’s problems, and it makes for painful watching or reading.
“Inconsistency. As you’ve watched the Boston Celtics this year, the only thing that has been consistent is the fact that they’re inconsistent,” Haywood said. “Some nights they look great offensively. Then they’ll go on a four-, five-, six-game run where you’re thinking … this is the Celtics team that can compete for the Eastern Conference crown. Then they’ll come out there and they’ll do something like this (losing to OKC).
“I can’t put my finger on why this team doesn’t play defense the same way they played last year. I’m not sure if it’s role definition, I’m not sure if the coaching staff isn’t reaching the players anymore. All I know is that this Boston Celtics team has been inconsistent from the jump of the season all the way until now, and it definitely reared its ugly head tonight in an ugly loss. I agree with (NBC Sports Boston analyst Brian Scalabrine: ‘This is the worst loss of the year for the Boston Celtics.'”
Mitchell suggests the Celtics, as currently constructed, will continue to struggle, especially against good teams.
“For the Boston Celtics it’s past (time) to have a ‘come to Jesus’ meeting,” Mitchell said. “They need to figure out what kind of team they want to be. When you look at this team, they don’t have the interior depth, they don’t have the size, and everything about this team is hard work to score. On the nights where they’re making threes and stuff, that looks easy. But on the nights where they have to struggle and grind out games it’s tough because where do you go for your easy baskets? They’re not getting them in transition, they’re not getting them in second-chance opportunities, and so when they’re not making jump shots — and with Tatum and Kemba Walker out — it makes it doubly tough to win.
Haywood and Mitchell aren’t alone in criticizing the Celtics in the aftermath of their loss to the Thunder. Former Boston center Kendrick Perkins ripped them for a lackluster effort, and Celtics guard Jaylen Brown urged his teammates to find their “inner flame.”
The Celtics have 10 games remaining on their regular season schedule, so there still is time for them to tighten their grip on sixth place or even climb the Eastern Conference standings.
However, given the insights NBA experts near and far offer about the C’s, it’s hard to argue convincingly they’re more likely to surge rather than fade away during the stretch run and postseason.