In many ways this game was a microcosm of the Celtics season to date. Almost all of the issues Boston has been having cropped up in one game. Since it’s a holiday, these takeaways are coming quick-hitter style without any video.
1. Brad Stevens again went with Aron Baynes in the starting lineup in place of Gordon Hayward. Facing a burly, old-school opposing center in Enes Kanter made this a logical choice. But, just like the last time out against Charlotte, Baynes barely played. He logged just 11 minutes, with only three of them coming after halftime. It doesn’t make a lot of sense to change the lineup, but then to change it in name only.
2. As stated in takeaway one, it made sense to start Baynes on Kanter. For all of his flaws, Kanter is one of the NBA’s better offensive centers and an absolute monster on the offensive glass. Having Baynes in there to bang with him makes sense, which makes his lack of playing time even more baffling. Kanter really hurt the Celtics throughout the game as he had six offensive rebounds and got his hands on an additional four other balls to save possession for the Knicks. In a game that came down to the very end, those 10 extra possessions made a huge difference. Baynes playing more may have made a difference.
3. At the under three-minute timeout, Brian Scalabrine reported that Stevens told his team “If you’re not going to guard, I’m not going to play you.” The Celtics proceeded to respond with a few minutes of good defense to close the first quarter. Then in the second quarter they gave up 39 points with some of the worst defense we’ve seen all season. Call them threats or promises or whatever, if you don’t hold the players accountable by actually following through, the message rings hollow. Stevens said if players didn’t guard, they wouldn’t play. They didn’t guard, yet the rotation barely changed. It’s similar to the toughness comments earlier this week. At some point, they are just empty words.
4. Speaking of just words…everyone with the Celtics continues to say all the right things after games. It’s a lot of “We don’t play with enough effort all game” and “We have to be tougher” and “We have to keep moving the ball and trust each other”. It all sounds good, but it’s starting to feel like Groundhog Day. Every game comes with the same comments, yet none of the things the players seemingly recognize actually changes.
5. Back to the game: for the sixth time in a loss this season (and 11th time overall) the Celtics let an opposing ballhandler carve them up. We’ve seen Kawhi Leonard, Jamal Murray, Joe Ingles, Donovan Mitchell, Devin Booker, Kemba Walker and now Trey Burke, single-handedly wreck the Boston defense. Burke made a couple of tough shots, but for the most part he got great looks whenever he wanted them. And, in what has become a glaring late-game issue, nothing was done to get the ball out of his hands. With the Knicks hanging on to the lead and the Celtics needing one stop, Burke was isolated one-on-one with Jayson Tatum. This was similar to Walker only one game previous. And, once again, nothing was done to get the ball out of his hands. Burke wasn’t giving that ball up to prime Larry Bird or Michael Jordan or LeBron James for the last shot, unless he was made to. And Boston did nothing to make him give it up.
6. After the game, several players and coaches commented that the Celtics are better when they play desperate and are in comeback mode. The defense and the intensity pick up. Everyone goes to the glass for rebounds. And on offense, guys just play. They just find what works. Coming with that sort of attitude right from the tip would get Boston back to the team they’ve been the last few years.
7. Al Horford said postgame “Our effort level—we should never talk about effort. And I think that that’s the one thing that I feel like it’s not there all the time.” There were also comments made about not bringing the intensity from the start of the game. There is an old saying that coaches often repeat “Shooting comes and goes. Defense and effort never should.” Right now the effort just isn’t always there from the Celtics.
8. Postgame Kyrie Irving has some choice words about Thanksgiving and apologized for it this morning:
I spoke w/ frustration after last nights game and spoke words that shouldn’t be in a professional setting no matter what.— Kyrie Irving (@KyrieIrving) November 22, 2018
Meant no disrespect to the Holiday and those who celebrate it respectfully. I’m grateful for the time We all can share with our families. We are always ONE.— Kyrie Irving (@KyrieIrving) November 22, 2018
That last takeaway is what we should all leave with. Everyone is frustrated with the Celtics right now. The coaches, players, front office and fans are angry, and rightfully so. They are 9-9 and no one expected that. But today is a day for family, friends, food and football. If you are celebrating Thanksgiving, enjoy the day. If not, have a great Thursday and enjoy the day off from basketball. We all need it.