The team wasn't going to go 82-0, but last night's loss to the Raptors was a little demoralizing because Boston just didn't resemble the team that a lot of us have fallen in love with over the last four weeks. The ball movement stunk, guys were making really simple mistakes, the Raptors bullied them everywhere on the court, and the Celtics didn't respond. What's more disconcerting is that the Pistons look good and the Magic are going to be better than many predicted. Some quick thoughts and depressing GIF's as we head into a weekend tilt against the Spurs:
Sticking to no rotation
It took only two games, but fans are already in arms with Brad Stevens' lack of a definitive rotation. With Kelly Olynyk back from a one-game suspension, Stevens ran 11 deep with only Jae Crowder playing 30+ minutes. Is Stevens playing too many players? Are David Lee and Tyler Zeller the right bigs to start? Why did Evan Turner play 27:30 and shoot 2-for-11 with four turnovers? Why did Amir Johnson only play 19 minutes when he's arguably Boston's best help defender and most efficient scorer in the paint? These questions will continue to linger unless the team rattles off a winning streak against some playoff teams, but personally, I like what Stevens is doing. The other four bench guys--five if you want to include a rookie like R.J. Hunter or Terry Rozier--are, like Thomas, of the spark plug variety.
You insert Kelly Olynyk as a match-up problem for the other team. Evan Turner can get his own shot and be a playmaker. Jared Sullinger has proven over the last two games that in short spurts, he can make a difference in the paint. Jonas Jerebko may not be the Swedish Larry Bird, but I'm comfortable calling him the Scandinavian Dennis Rodman. He's great for a few hustle plays here and there. Circumstance may ultimately dictate their usage or just a gut feeling from Stevens rather than some analytics approach.
Let's put the discussion about Lee and Zeller on the back burner for another day; it's early and that pairing had been working all of October, but hasn't seemed to click yet (particularly Lee). Let's address this idea about an inconsistent rotation. For one, we do know that Amir Johnson and Isaiah Thomas will play most of their minutes together. They make sense on defense and surely on offense. With all this in mind, should there really be a definitive rotation? Outside of that Johnson-Thomas pairing, is anything really set in stone (yet)?
The Celtics were a respectable 17-of-31 at the rim, but man, it could have been so much better. In a game mired in questionable officiating and a combined 76 total free throws from both teams, it could have helped Boston to hit some of those easy buckets around the rim.
Lost on defense
Sure, it's a make-or-miss league, but you try and control what you can control. No doubt it was an ugly game where Toronto "outshot" Boston 43.9% to 37.6%, but there were so many times where Raptors were wide open. That aforementioned in-your-face defense is great, but you also have to recover on the swing.
On Wednesday night, the Celtics held the 76ers to 28 uncontested FGA's. Friday, Toronto shot 41 and against a team with experienced shooters and scorers, you just can't leave guys wide open like that. Thankfully, they only shot 39% on UFGA's or this game would have been a blowout at home.
We have to remember than even though this team is returning a lot of players from last season, there are still going to be some growing pains. Stevens preaches controlled chaos in the read-and-react system and against the Raptors, it was more chaos than controlled.
Boston committed 17 turnovers, the same as Wednesday night against Philly, that turned into 22 Toronto points and while that number doesn't seem too bad in comparison, against better teams like the Raptors, you have to limit your mistakes. So many of Boston's hiccups were of the bonehead kind, too. They were long touchdown throws trying to thread a needle, simple entry passes that never found their target, and home run swings on 3-0 counts.
Isaiah Thomas said it after the game:
"I haven't seen it this year. That was the first time," Thomas said of a team that had endured little adversity during a 6-1 preseason and then raced away from the Philadelphia 76ers on opening night on Wednesday. "Coach said it a few times in the huddle, too. And we can't have that. That's signs of an immature team, a young team. We've got to be bigger than that. At all times we've just got to be even-keeled. Whether it's good or bad we can't get too high or too low."
But Stevens had the right response, "it's game #2." They'll get better. It won't get easier on Sunday against the incoming San Antonio Spurs, but hopefully a gut punch like this will serve as a wake up call for a team that's been relatively coasting since Media Day.