The Celtics lost six games in December. Were they just a product of their accelerated schedule leading up to this mini-break or did you see clear weaknesses in Chicago, New York, or at home against the Wiz on Christmas Day?
Jeff Clark: I have to think that the schedule played a part in it. But that isn’t to say that they don’t have some weaknesses that were exploited during that stretch as well. Weaknesses that are hidden during a winning streak. Forgive me for re-preaching the Brad Stevens message of “don’t get too high on wins and don’t get too low on losses,” but there’s a lot of truth there. This team has strengths and weaknesses regardless of the result and we’ll see where they finish at the end. So far, they’re very, very good with a chance at being great if things fall a certain way.
Matt Chin: Maybe Bobby Portis is Brad Stevens’ kryptonite, or maybe the bad losses can be chalked up to the regular ebbs and flows of an 82-game season. I lean toward the latter. Every elite team has had a few head scratching performances, and Boston’s crazy schedule has played a contributory part. The Celtics stole a bunch of wins from under their opponent’s noses, and a few flat performances in December is a natural adjustment to the median. Boston has clear weaknesses. Bench scoring, rim protection, and overall inexperience are areas of concern, but Danny Ainge’s demeanor entering trade/buyout season will reveal a lot about the severity of the roster holes.
Keith Smith: The schedule was certainly part of it. Playing that many games in a compressed window is going to challenge any team and create some schedule losses. That said, a few things were exposed. The rebounding has regressed back to what it was expected to be. Traditional rim protection is still lacking at times.
But the biggest thing that the team struggles with is consistent scoring from the second unit. Maybe Marcus Morris being back fully can help with that, but all too often the team has long droughts. That causes them to have to come back from big deficits, which can sap their energy. With the compressed schedule, this has definitely been a factor. And it will be in the playoffs, when you play basically every other night, unless Brad Stevens or Danny Ainge find a way to shore up this weakness.
Andrew Doxy: The schedule was a pretty large part of that dip. When you consider that a large chunk of the team’s roster is comprised of inexperienced players, it makes sense that over a brutal stretch, there would be lapses in focus. My biggest concern during that stretch was the regression of our previously stellar defense, but as it happens, rest and practice have restored the best defense back to form. It’s amazing how much better the team looks after a couple of days of rest and practice on that end. Additionally, now that the team is mostly healthy, the rotations are crisper, the 50-50 balls are going the team’s way, and they’re back to rebounding well. It’s not *all* schedule, but that was likely the biggest contributor to a quick regression. Boston’s off to a much better start in January, so I’m excited to see if my observations hold.