When Jae Crowder went down with a high ankle sprain last week, the Celtics, Danny Ainge specifically, said that Crowder would be out a minimum of two weeks, and everyone knew that was going to be a problem. I don't think anyone expected it to be as big a problem as it has turned out to be. Boston has lost four straight since Crowder went down, and they've not only lost, they're getting destroyed in every facet of the game.
Boston was facing a tough stretch with Houston, Indiana, Oklahoma City, and Toronto, but there is no doubt that Brad Stevens and Co. expected to win at least one game and be competitive in all four. Instead, they were close with Houston, got dominated by Oklahoma City and Toronto, and the score of the Indiana game makes the game appear closer than it was. The Celtics not only felt the pain of not having their spiritual leader and second-best defensive rebounder, they were also facing teams that had wing scorers that got hot and put their teams on their backs.
The best game, which was the four point loss to Houston, was the James Harden show, and that did the Celtics in. They did a great job in the rebounding battle, losing 61-58, and they only had 14 turnovers to the Rocket 17, so the amount of possessions were equal. The difference- Houston shot 45% from the field and the Celtics shot 37%; that shooting percentage is not going to cut it when you're facing teams that have dynamic players that can take over at any given moment. Boston must shoot better than 37%.
In the Thunder and Raptors losses, it was just ugly all over. The Celtics simply had no answer for the Thunder as Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook carved through and shot over the defense with ease. The Thunder outrebounded Boston, 61-47, and the difference was all in defensive rebounding. The Celtics shot 43%, and the Thunder shot a scorching 49%, so lack of defensive energy and ability did in the Celtics against a very talented and big Thunder team.
Defense was the problem again in Toronto as Luis Scola tore up Boston in the first quarter while Kyle Lowry did damage for remainder of the game, specifically in the first five minutes of the fourth quarter. The Pacers once again proved that Boston cannot deal with teams that possess a scoring wing "closer" like Paul George. Danny Ainge knows this is an area of need, and they at least HAD Crowder to cover those guys, but with him out and no scoring wing on the roster. it's doubly worse for the Celtics right now.
Brad Stevens and Co. get a slight breather on the schedule today when they travel to Philadelphia to take on the 9-60 Sixers, but nothing is a guarantee right now for a team that is hurting from a physical and mental standpoint. What would cure their ails today is a blowout; the flipside is something I don't even want to discuss.
At 6PM tonight, we'll find out what this team is really made of.
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