It was just a few weeks ago, everything was going as planned for the Celtics.
Not only was Brad Stevens’ team rolling atop the Eastern Conference, but for an added bonus the Lakers — who would have to give their first-round pick to the C’s if they fell between No. 2-5 in the Draft Lottery — were riding a nine-game losing streak while living near the league’s basement.
How things have changed.
With their 108-107 loss to Los Angeles Tuesday night, the Celtics have now lost four straight while the Lakers own a three-game win streak, claiming seven of their last 10. (For a complete recap, click here.)
While the Lakers’ resurgence — which came without Lonzo Ball (knee) in the win over the C’s — shouldn’t be a major concern for the Celtics, what Stevens’ crew is putting out on the floor of late should raise eyebrows. In a nutshell, it’s been Kyrie Irving and then the unknown.
In the latest loss, the Celtics did get 22 points off the bench from Marcus Smart, and 13 out of reserve Marcus Morris. But that’s not going to do it. The perceived secondary scoring options after Irving — Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Al Horford — are disappearing into mediocrity.
Tatum hasn’t scored more than 11 points in the four games since London, ending up with four on 1-for-6 shooting from the floor this time around.
Brown scored just nine points on 4-for-11 shooting, while Horford finished with 13. Not helping matters was a scoreless night from the other starter, Aron Baynes.
When it was all said and done, the Celtics played only nine minutes, 36 seconds without Kyrie Irving Tuesday night, getting outscored by 17 points during that span. That won’t work.
There were other problems.
The C’s were killed on the glass, 51-42. Lakers’ rookie Kyle Kuzma also didn’t show any signs of hitting a wall, torching the visitors for 17 fourth-quarter points on the way to 28 points off the bench.
But it is the need to find some help for Irving that would seem to be the priority. Smart should never be expected to finish as the team’s second-leading scorer. And Tatum and Brown have to rediscover some consistency.
The Celtics do have that $8.4 million Disabled Player Exception, which could help solve some of these problems. Danny Ainge could, for instance, wait until around the Feb. 8 trade deadline and swoop in on players who might become available.
And then there is the hope that Gordon Hayward might find a healthy ankle in time to impact the Celtics’ playoff run.
There is still plenty of time, and the pain should be eased by realizing the Celtics still sit atop the Eastern Conference standings, 1 1/2 games ahead of Toronto and six in front of Cleveland.
This, however, is a pretty good wake-up call.
Despite a last second effort by Marcus Smart the Celtics falls 108-107 against the Lakers. pic.twitter.com/LA34NgC5dm
— Boston Celtics (@celtics) January 24, 2018
JBL Audio Stat of the Game: Hayward was on the sideline for the Celtics, having come out to Los Angeles a few days before for a change of scenery during his rehab from ankle surgery. Stevens said the forward could be traveling with the team full-time when March rolls around.
Full article @ Lakers 108, Celtics 107: This is not going as planned
Source: GreenStreet Blog