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Brad Stevens encouraged by loss to Blazers

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After their fourth straight loss since the All Star break, the Celtics find themselves “desperate for a win.”

NBA: Toronto Raptors at Boston Celtics David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Call it post-All Star blues. Call it a trade deadline hangover. Call it the yips. Call it whatever you want. The Celtics just aren’t right after losing their fourth game in a row to the Blazers.

Defensively, they’ve been fine. They held the Bucks and the Blazers, two of the top-5 offensive teams in the NBA, to 98 and 97 points respectively. What’s been their Achilles heel over their last two games has been their offense. Against Portland, they got good shots. When asked if he was happy with the offense and the looks they were generating, Brad Stevens said, “At times. At times. If you’re not making threes and outside shots, they’re going to be really hard to score on.”

The Celtics made just 5 of their 28 shots from behind the arc. Combined with last night’s abysmal performance in Toronto, they’re a combined 11-of-58 on threes over their last two games. Heading into the All Star break, they were top-5 in three point percentage at 37.2% and second in makes per game at 13.1. As a team that doesn’t get to the line that much (tied for last in the league at 19.1 free throw attempts per game), threes are such an important part of their offense. They only went to the line against Portland ten times.

It hasn’t just been the shooting. Over the last two games, they’ve had thirty turnovers after being third in the league with the fewest. You can see them pressing so much in half court sets with everybody looking to make a play for their teammate. Often times, that’s lead to end-of-the-shot-clock isolations. Stevens noticed his team’s tightness.

“It sucks. We didn’t shoot the ball well, but that’s part of it. I actually just told the guys, you walk out of here a little bit more encouraged because the reason we lost, if anything, we didn’t make shots,” Stevens said. “I think it was because we were pressing. I thought we were disappointed in ourselves and we looked like a team that wanted tonight to really go well and it didn’t.”

We’ve seen slumps like this from this team in the past that have been busted up in one game. After a three-game losing streak that included a home loss to the Suns, the Celtics tore apart a Hornets team and lead the game by as many as 33 points; they subsequently won 6 of 8. After a disastrous 0-3 road trip through Florida and Brooklyn, Boston won ten of the next eleven games, ignited by a resounding win against the Raptors.

We’ve heard different versions of the same mantra. Gordon Hayward has talked about “shooting through” slumps. Brad Stevens loves saying that “water finds its level.” This mini-slump won’t last forever. The Celtics seem confident that things will get better.

In his post-game availability, Marcus Smart said, “things are going to turn around. Winning fixes everything.” Before the Celtics head out west next week, they’ll wrap up their homestand against the Wizards on Friday and the Rockets on Sunday. Getting two W’s could go a long way before facing the Warriors, Kings, Lakers, and Clippers.