After a lifeless loss to the Chicago Bulls, the post-game reaction highlighted the disconnected Celtics. Brad Stevens put the onus on himself, Marcus Smart questioned the fight of his team, and Kyrie Irving gave the impression that he was previously overreacting to the ups and downs of the regular season.
Games like the lowly Bulls last night usually boil down to effort and it was no different for the Celtics. They’ve punished this same team at this same arena by 56 points. Right or wrong, there’s a human element to relax in those situations and as we’ve seen from the Celtics all year, when they don’t feel challenged the discipline can go out the window.
The biggest issue all night was defensively. Boston never provided the necessary resistance all night to the Bulls as they scored 28 or more points in every quarter. This included allowing the Bulls to go 28-of-43 from the restricted area (65.1%) and 40% from three on 30 attempts. The Bulls got threes and layups all night, the two things every NBA defense tries to stop.
Offensively, the team on paper seemed okay, but they were never able to recover from an anemic 18-point second quarter that was highlighted by some really questionable play by Terry Rozier.
The young guard has had trouble adjusting to the role as a reserve, but rather than trying to fit in, Rozier has opted to press harder in his limited role which has usually led to forcing shot attempts. Last night felt like one his worst performances of the year where he managed to jack up 9 shots in only 15 minutes of action and provided a team-low -15.
To put that in perspective, despite playing the fewest minutes of any Celtic, he managed to have the fifth highest shot attempts and his presence on the court coincided with the teams worst moments. In a game in which the Celtics were getting blown out by the Bulls by as much as 25 points, Rozier’s selfishness still managed to stand out above the rest. To take it a step further, in his last five games Rozier has shot 28.9% from the field on 9.5 attempts, and has the worst plus-minus (-9) and third-lowest net rating (-18) on the team.
This isn’t an overreaction to a single game. Rozier is actively providing negative value for the Celtics and has spent the entire season unable to figure out that providing value can be done in more ways than shot attempts. At this stage, serious consideration needs to be given to replacing his minutes with a veteran presence like Brad Wanamaker.
Ultimately, it’s one out of eighty-two and when the playoffs start none of this will matter. However, with a tighter than expected playoff race, home court advanctage is not a promise with the Celtics and with the team’s road woes it would be ideal for them to secure home court for at least the first round. Stevens has already made some key adjustments such as abandoning the delayed timeouts when the team is giving up big runs and extending Irving’s minutes substantially. With a big game in Toronto Tuesday night, we’ll see what else he has in mind to better prepare the Celtics to play a full 48.