Last night's fall to the Brooklyn Nets was the most devastating loss of the season. The Celtics were up by 21 in the second half, and fans watched that lead get chomped away by Caris LeVert and the like. So what happened? In the words of coach Stevens, "We blew it." Not only is this loss devastating, but it is very out of character for this team. It could be blamed on injuries and the absence of Jayson Tatum, but in reality, defense was nonexistent, energy waned and coaching decisions were questionable. For the first time this season resounding boos were heard at the Garden.
How does a team come back from a 21 point deficit? The answer is simple. The opposing defense allows it. Leaving the arc and lane open is a cardinal no-no in defense, yet the Celtics did over and over. In many instances, Brooklyn's offense kept Boston's defense scrambled and looking every direction. Marcus Smart, a player that we've all come to rely on had an extraordinary bad night. If there's one guy that should have been able to put out the hot hands of LaVert it is him, but for some reason he couldn't. Smart made a rookie mistake in fouling Caris in the last few seconds of regulation, which resulted in 3 made free throws, which then resulted in OT. While it was embarrassing to watch, fans shouldn't get too down on them. In his post game interview Brad Stevens said, "I think that this is an anomaly but, nonetheless, it was a very humbling one. But that was ridiculous." Hopefully it's humbling enough that the players traveling to Cleveland will play with resolve and get the win tonight.
Energy Left the Building
"You have to treat it like a learning experience and that, when you take your foot off the gas pedal, they can come back on you." Gordon Hayward said in his post game interview. The lack of effort once an enormous lead was established was evident. No game is ever secure no matter how big the gap on the scoreboard is. It's encouraging to hear Stevens not make excuses and excessively praise the other team after this defeat. Instead, he looked at his team's performance and is holding them accountable. "We made a lot of plays today that were just not winning plays." Both teams were neck in neck in field goal %, assists, blocks and bench scoring. Where could have the Celtics made more effort and retained their lead? Rebounds. Brooklyn grabbed 21 more defensive rebounds, and nine more offensive boards than Boston. If the team doesn't have the energy to go after the second chance opportunities, their opponents will, and the result? Well, the 129-120 final score tells the tale.
Brad Stevens is undoubtedly one of the best coaches in the NBA today, however, last night was not his shining moment. He admitted he made questionable decisions in leaving some rotations in too long as the lead waned. It's always easy to second guess and be the arm chair coach, so giving Brad some benefit of the doubt, he could have been opening the eyes of his younger players and showing them was is fully expected from them. "Teams of runs lose. Teams that can stay in the moment and play the next possession the right way and not be influence by the score, not be influenced by the situation of the game, the circumstances of the game, or have a different level of toughness and special toughness..." It was a learning curve for all. Brad is most likely going to play the guys who are alert and hungry to play against Cleveland, as he said, "I have no idea who's going to Cleveland, I think most of the coaches are going. I just want eight guys, win guys, whoever's going to play hard, let's go. Like, that was ridiculous."
Stevens will have his challenges tonight in that he may only have Theis available to play from his regular starting five. Kemba is most likely out, resting his knee, we're all waiting to hear about the availability of Gordon Hayward and Jaylen Brown. It's questionable if Marcus Smart will get a suspension after charging NBA official John Goble, and there's no word on how Tatum is feeling.
The encouraging thing about it all is that this team is not like last year's team in that they have found ways to overcome disappointment and move forward. Whether our rookies get their chance to start or if the vets play through some pain, we can expect this loss is the anomaly Stevens says it is. For now, we will don our jerseys, hope for the best and as always, #bleedgreen.