The Celtics played what may be considered one of their worst games of the season on Thursday against the #1 team in the East, the Milwaukee Bucks. To say it was another slow start would the the understatement of the year. The ball wasn’t moving, shots not falling, and allowing 28 fast break points were the main factors leading to second loss of a back to back. Before getting into more of the contributing factors of this loss, it’s important to realize the couple of highlights, one of which was Daniel Theis’ beautiful block of Giannis dunk attempt and Kemba Walker’s 40pts and 11 rebounds. However, the absence of Jaylen Brown, Gordon Hayward’s off night and the Bucks energy is what hindered the Celtics from coming out on top.
It’s hard when anyone on the roster is out, but it’s especially difficult when the missing man contributes the way Jaylen Brown does. His 20 points, 7 rebounds and strong presence are not easily made up, even with guys like Tatum and Smart on the court. Not only were Jaylen’s numbers missed, but adjusting to new rotations can be difficult to manage. Brad Stevens needs to figure out how to help whatever five guys are on the court to play consistency. Fortunately Jaylen’s injury isn’t going to keep him out for long. Having him on the court is a must for the Celtics.
Any time Gordon has a bad game, an outcry from Celtics Nation can be heard throughout the world. In Hayward’s defense, his good games far outnumber his bad. Unfortunately, this particular poor performance was magnified by a difficult loss. A comeback win by the Celtics would have gone a long way to mask his mere 7 pts, but it did't happen that way. Overall, Gordon has had a great season so far, minus the weeks he was out with a broken hand. And although he’s not the Utah Gordon, but his is averaging 16 pints a game. The Celtics don’t always need buckets from him, his play-making abilities and basketball IQ continue to make him a valuable asset in Boston.
It was very clear from the beginning that Milwaukee planned on controlling the game from the start, and that’s exactly what they did. Their defense never stopped. It was like watching hungry lions waiting to pounce, and their offense was on fire. Even Brook Lopez dropped 16 points, mostly uncontested at that. The lack of beef from the Cs was magnified by the 27 point Bucks lead during the game. And no matter what the Celtics did, they couldn't climb out of that hole for most of the 48 minutes. If Boston wants any chance of defeating Milwaukee in the playoffs they’ve got to figure out a way of exuding force and energy for a full 48 minutes, because it doesn’t appear Giannis and Co plan on slowing down any time soon.
While it’s not time to panic quite yet, it is time for the Celtics to bring their game up to the next level. With the All-Star caliber players on the roster, I don’t know if Danny will make any changes by the trade deadline. An even bigger question is if any changes would make a difference.
Boston has the talent to be a contending team, it’s just more imperative now they show it heading into the second half of the season. Beating teams like Phoenix this Saturday is a must as they prepare to face Lebron and the LA Lakers next week.
With the All Star break fast approaching it’ll be a nice rest for Stevens and the team. Once they’re back hopefully they’ll be rested and ready to play their way to the title.
Featured photo by Brew Hoop