Monday night’s Celtics game left a lot to be desired. The team didn’t succumb to pointing fingers or losing faith in each other, but puzzling turnovers and a lack of poise and crisp execution from vets and young players continue to plague Boston. Three times in the second half, the Celtics turned the ball over immediately out of a timeout. The Morris launch out of bounds at the end of the third allowed DEN to regain possession and advance the ball where they scored on an uncontested layup after Brown fell asleep watching where he thought the primary action was coming from.
In his post game presser, Brad Stevens admitted, “I probably shouldn’t have called a timeout. I’m going to lose it going into the fourth and you think maybe get a match up down the court then that’s a good thing. Otherwise, be safe. I shouldn’t have done that.”
“And then, we just didn’t respond to that. We didn’t respond well. Getting back cut for that dunk and then the start of the fourth, we needed to respond better than that and we didn’t. We’ll be in that position again where something bad happens and the air gets taken out of your team a little bit and you have to respond and tonight we didn’t do that against a good team who took advantage of it.”
Later in the 4th, Al Horford and Kyrie Irving mixed up a give-and-go where it seemed that Irving, sensing an overplay, tried to reject the ball, but Horford already had the ball out for Irving to come off the DHO. It lead to a direct hand off to Harris for an Denver score.
Beyond the costly turnovers were the slow defensive rotations. Stevens has pleaded with the team about its transition defense and it goes beyond the obvious fast break possessions and running back. The C’s don’t do a very good job communicating during these possessions and the Nuggets capitalized on a lot of opportunities simply by pushing the basketball off misses and getting wide open looks in transition.
Other times, the Celtics weak side defenders sunk too deep in the paint trying to help mismatches and the Nuggets punished them.
Marcus Smart leaves Will Barton, a 35.5% three-point shooter, to presumably double team Mason Plumlee and Barton buries the short corner three. When asked about Boston’s defensive lapses, Stevens responded, “depends on what your coverage is, depends on who’s low, who’s high, who you’re guarding, what they shoot. All that stuff. So, we’d have to go through them probably specifically, film by film. They got open in the corner some in the late third and fourth and that really hurt us.”
The Nuggets are a very good basketball team. Their offense is unique because it’s run through a seven-footer who may arguably be a top 10 passer in the league regardless of position. Regardless, the team had a chance to win without Gordon Hayward and some rough shooting from guys like Tatum and Brown, but ultimately, they beat themselves with a lack of execution on the defensive end.