1. After leading by six at the half, the Celtics defense fell apart in the third quarter. San Antonio scored 46 points in the period on 19-of-25 shooting, including hitting all five of their three-point attempts. The shooting from deep is something that happens on occasion, but the 14-of-20 shooting inside the arc was disheartening.
Normally, Boston is one of the best teams defending opposing drivers. The Celtics have a host of guards and wings who are great on the ball. For whatever reason, that disappeared for a 12 minute stretch. Derrick White repeatedly broke down the defense for layups or to find open teammates. LaMarcus Aldridge was one of the primary beneficiary, as he made 5-of-6 shots in the quarter for 12 points.
Overall, the third quarter was as bad as the Celtics have defended this season. Sometimes opposing teams, or individual players, go on runs that you can’t stop and you shrug and move on. This was just opening up a layup line to the rim over and over.
2. In that third quarter, as the defense collapsed, the offense also had some of the same old struggles. Shot selection became an issue and the ball wasn’t moving as it had in the first half. Boston shot 12-of-21 in the quarter, but that came in fits and starts. San Antonio ripped off a 24-4 run after the break and was never really threatened again.
3. Going back to takeaway one…boy do the Celtics miss Aron Baynes. Baynes isn’t one of the best shot blockers in the NBA, but his rim protection is very good. He’s willing to stand in there and challenge shots without fear of being dunked on, which happens with some regularity. And Baynes is the only Celtics big who isn’t afraid to give a hard foul on a driver to set a tone. He can’t get back soon enough for Boston.
4. There were a couple of nice signs for the Celtics. Jayson Tatum grabbed 11 rebounds. He’s been better on the glass in recent games, which is helpful, as Boston all too often struggles on the boards. Tatum also hit a couple of nice shots after a very quiet game shooting the ball against Memphis.
5. Jaylen Brown showed up in a big way. He scored 30 points off the bench and looked collectedly aggressive all game. Every move had a purpose from Brown throughout the game. He looked as confident as he has all season long, which is a welcomed development for the Celtics.
6. Marcus Morris continues to make big shots. When Kyrie Irving briefly left the game due to a scratched eye in the fourth quarter, Boston looked to Morris to make some plays. He’s been consistently great for the Celtics, in what has been a career-year.
7. Gordon Hayward’s box score looks kind of ugly, as he missed all six of his shots, including 0-for-5 from behind the arc. But it was simply an off shooting night. He missed shots he usually makes. And he still put up five assists, showing he can help when the shot isn’t going down.
8. It wasn’t the end to 2018 that Boston wanted, but the Celtics have tended to be at their best under Brad Stevens when the calendar flips to the New Year. All the signs are there, but the team has been prone to bouts of inconsistency that leave everyone frustrated.
Here’s to hoping for a better 2019 than 2018 for the Celtics and all of our readers at CelticsBlog. Happy New Year to you and yours!