If Celtics fans were like me, after Sunday’s tough loss to the Lakers a two-mile walk was needed. The C’s were so close to beating the rival Lakers for the second time this season. Alas, they didn’t which means we’re left wondering what happened. Jayson Tatum tied his career high with 41 points against the King’s team. And the Celtics held AD and Lebron to a combined 61 points, which isn’t terrible compared to other team’s success.
Many are pointing to the absence of Kemba Walker in the C’s appearance in La-La land. Would he have helped? Definitely. However, there is another big reason the team fell short against the Lakers; the production from the bench. The Celtics were -32 in bench points and a +/- of -23 with their second unit, which didn’t have Marcus Smart due to him getting the spot start in Kemba’s absence. This isn’t a one off situation for the Celtics, who are getting set for a proverbial fight for the coveted 2-seed in the East. Since the start of the month the Celtics bench has been outscored by a combined tally of 313-243 and against playoff teams.
When it comes to overall bench scoring Boston is 28th, averaging 28 ppg. That ranks behind teams like New York, Golden State, Chicago, Cleveland and more. The starting five can score, that’s obvious. With players like Kemba, Tatum, Brown and Hayward in your starting lineup they can score 80-85% of the points in a game. As we prepare for the playoffs, the bench is important. Look no further than the defending NBA Champion Toronto Raptors, as Fred VanVleet didn’t start a game in the postseason but averaged 8 ppg and 18 steals. Andre Iguodala won the finals MVP in 2015 off the bench averaging 16 ppg with 6 reb.
There are some potential ways to improve the bench for the rest of the regular season and the postseason. With the lights out play of Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, who combined are averaging 21.6 ppg, and Kemba Walker who is averaging 22 ppg, Gordon Hayward could boost a bench that is led by Marcus Smart who is a defensive minded point guard. So far the 2nd scoring option off the bench is Grant Williams or Brad Wanamaker, who are only averaging 5.1 ppg. They could use a boost in the playoffs from a player that can play starter minutes and produce. It would be interesting to see what Tremont Waters or Vincent Poirier could do for the C’s bench in the remaining games and beyond with an increase in minutes. So far in the 2019-20 Brad Stevens has gone between 9-12 players on the floor, which includes rookies Jevonte Green, Romeo Langford and Grant Williams. Other teams built depth during the trade deadline while the Celtics stood pat. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as it shows there is confidence in this team to hold their own. The playoffs are a little more than a month away, and as the field takes shape it’s time for the bench to round itself out.