The Celtics, as expected, do not have a set replacement for Gordon Hayward, and Wednesday’s 108-100 home-opening loss to the visiting Bucks confirmed that.
But what the Celtics do have is a roster-wide commitment to shouldering the minutes and production vacated by Hayward, who despite his inclusion in the C’s introductions and video message displayed on the Garden jumbotron is out for a timeframe the Celtics do not yet want to put an exact number on, from any and everyone.
At the same time, scoring-by-committee only works when you have consistent scorers or key makes from your team’s best.
And by the time the Bucks opened a seven-point lead with less than three minutes to go in the fourth, no Celtic had more points than Brown’s 18.
Brown finished as their top scorer, too, with those 18 points in over 39 minutes, which seemed to be a frustrating end result given their start.
The Celtics had five different players with at least four points in the first quarter alone, and with four of those players attempting at least three field goals. Their most productive talent in that quarter, surprisingly, was Terry Rozier, with five points, an assist, rebound, and makes on both of his shots attempted in 3:30 off the bench. And Abdel Nader, a player whose feet did not touch the floor in Cleveland on Tuesday, was the first one brought into the game, checking in as a replacement for Marcus Smart. (Yeah, it was that kind of night.)
“It’s gonna be that way,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens, whose team is now 0-2 on the year, admitted after the game. “Got a lot of young guys. I’m hopeful that we can find the right combinations. Obviously didn’t anticipate going this far into the bench this early, but I thought some of those guys did a good job.”
By halftime, with the Celtics down by five, Rozier and Kyrie Irving were tied for the team lead in points, with 10. And by the end of the third, the C’s held an 80-76 lead on the back of Jaylen Brown, who went a perfect 3-for-3 for nine points in the quarter.
A big three from Smart and a layup from Tatum brought the Celtics back within two, but these points were the definition of hard work. It took the Celtics nearly 21 seconds to get off a must-make attempt late in the fourth, and when they finally found an open look, it was a Smart three that missed. For every step closer, a step back followed.
It was similar to the fourth quarter of their Tuesday night loss in Cleveland, too, which saw them blow a fourth-quarter lead and then miss the game-tying shot at the buzzer.
“Sometimes you have to take a step back from it: I thought last night we actually did a pretty good job, except for the turnover late, that we just missed opportunities,” Stevens said. “Tonight, I did not think that. But both nights I thought that we got outplayed. So whatever that’s attributed to, we’ve got to fix it, we’ve got to be better at it, regardless of when it is. I thought that they outplayed us, clearly, in the fourth quarter.”
On a roster with so much turnover from what they were a year ago, and with your leading scorer (Isaiah Thomas) and top three-point shooter (Jae Crowder) from that team now with the Cavaliers as a result of the Irving trade, efficiency was always going to be the greatest challenge for this club, and that was with Hayward in frame. Now the Celtics have been tasked with getting to know one another as basketball players, but also consistently find a way to replace a talent that was a lock to average somewhere between 20 and 25 points a game this season in the sharpshooting Hayward.
And if that replacement production is not there, which was the case at TD Garden on Wednesday, the Celtics are going to be in trouble, and Stevens know it.
“I thought tonight could’ve been a lot worse,” Stevens admitted. “I thought [the Bucks] missed some open shots. We have a lot of work to do.”
The Celtics are back in action Friday night in Philadelphia.
Full article @ Bucks 108, Celtics 100: Replacing an All-Star is as hard as it sounds
Source: GreenStreet Blog