This version of the Takeaways is going to be a little different. No video clips, because there aren’t any worth sharing. In many ways, Boston’s loss to New York is one you move on from as quickly as possible. It’s probably the only time this year that the Celtics wish they didn’t have two scheduled off days in a row. You’d like to get right back out there and get the taste of a loss out of your mouth.
So, instead of a numerical list of Takeaways, we’re doing this one The Good, The Bad and The Ugly style!
· The Good: Kemba Walker returned! Even better, he looked like Kemba Walker. Well, the good Kemba Walker from the start of last season. Not the injured Kemba Walker from mid-season on and the bubble.
For his part, Walker said it was the first time he’s been pain-free during a game in a “very, very long time”. While Walker’s timing was off, both with his jumper and his playmaking, he looked quick and bouncy. And, most importantly, that big, wide smile was back.
Walker did get nicked in the second half, when he collided with Nerlens Noel. Walker grabbed at his ribs and left the game. Brad Stevens indicated that Walker could have returned. Stevens went as far as to say “He (Walker) said he was fine. He even said ‘I’m not lying’, because he always tells me he is fine.” Postgame, Walker said he just got the wind knocked out of him.
· The Bad Part I: For a second straight game, Boston got beat up on the offensive glass. On Friday, against the Orlando Magic, the Celtics allowed 15 offensive rebounds. Orlando couldn’t make a shot, and it was a blowout win for Boston, so it went a little overlooked.
Against the Knicks, it was bad again. The Celtics allowed 10 offensive rebounds, nine of them during the competitive (at least semi-competitive) portion of the game in the first three quarters.
On the season, the Celtics are tied for 14th in defensive rebound percentage. And that’s after the two tough games in a row. That means it’s not quite as bad as it looked in these outings. Last year, Boston finished 16th. It’s just something to keep an eye on right now, to make sure it doesn’t become a trend. As all coaches say “defense doesn’t end until you have the ball”.
· The Bad Part II: The Celtics had 18 turnovers, which continued a season-long problem. Boston is 23rd in the league in turnovers per game. They’re turning it over on nearly 14% of their possessions. Turnovers are up around the NBA, as teams are sloppy in this weird start to the year, but Boston is among the worst in the league.
For reference: Under Brad Stevens, after his first year when Boston was rebuilding, the worst finish for the Celtics was 15th in turnovers per game. Most years, they’ve been a top-10 team, often pushing being a top-five lowest turnover group.
Maybe it’s putting the ball in Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown’s hands more, as they are still developing playmakers. Maybe it’s the lack of a pure point guard. Whatever it is, the turnovers are keeping the Celtics from being an elite offensive team. Knock off a few giveaways per game, turn those into shots and baskets, and Boston has one of the best offensive ratings in the NBA.
· The Ugly Part I: The Normal process for the Takeaways is to re-watch the game a second time before writing. It allows for picking up thing that were missed in the live viewing, to correct things that were wrong and to re-affirm things that were noted the first time around.
There is no re-watch happening for this game. It’s simply not worth it. The primary reason? Boston’s effort was poor from the jump. Brad Stevens took a timeout only a couple of minutes into the first quarter. Then, he did it again less than a minute into the third quarter. Both times were because the Celtics effort just wasn’t there.
Stevens and Daniel Theis both called it out postgame. Stevens was a bit more diplomatic, but was pointed in saying “You have to be good for 48 minutes to be good.” Theis was blunt, saying “It was a reminder that we have to play hard and play our way every night. They just played way harder than us. We can’t come out and get outplayed like that.”
The Celtics simply aren’t good enough to just show up and expect to roll over bad teams. They don’t have the depth for that, nor will the starters blow away a bad team just because of a talent imbalance. They have to bring it night to night.
· The Ugly Part II: The other reason no re-watch is coming is that self-torture is never recommended. Watching a team shoot 7-of-46 from behind the arc for a second time would be self-torture. It was one of the worst shooting performances in Celtics history. It’s unlikely to repeat itself, but that’s no reason to watch it again. The worst part? Boston shot 4-of-28 on shots classified as open to wide-open.
Low effort, combined with a bunch of turnovers, combined with a bunch of missed shots is a recipe for disaster, and that’s exactly what this was. It’s best to turn the page, and move on to focus on two straight games in Philadelphia against another Eastern Conference contender.