The Boston Celtics gave up at least 111 points in every game of their five-game west coast trip. They went 1-4 in those games, but there was a drastic difference between the first two games and the final three. After Boston went toe-to-toe against the Utah Jazz and then took down the Portland Trail Blazers, spirits were high. However, things took a turn for the worst in the very next game.
Boston lost to the Los Angeles Lakers and looked like a completely different team. Their defense was lackluster, their offense struggled, and most notably, their energy was low. After losing their third game in a row last night to the Phoenix Suns, head coach Ime Udoka spoke about the team’s effort and intensity:
“Literally, three games ago we were playing [with a] totally different style with the effort and the heart and intensity. It’s been inconsistent for sure.”
Neither Devin Booker nor Deandre Ayton played against the Celtics, yet the Suns still won by a whopping 21 points. Chris Paul notched 12 assists and puppeteered Phoenix’s offense perfectly. Jayson Tatum got off to a hot start in the first quarter, but he was the only player who could get anything going all night.
The game was defined by another ugly second quarter that saw the C’s tally just 15 points. They shot 6-23 from the field and 0-9 from three-point range in the quarter. That marks their lowest scoring quarter of the season so far. Udoka noted these offensive struggles as one of the main reasons for Boston’s rough performance:
“We let our offense affect our play overall. Obviously a 15-point quarter after a decent first. Once the shots didn’t fall, kind of, [the] roof caved in overall, and I think guys started letting it affect them on the defensive end. Gave up a ton of mistakes there.”
The Celtics’ second-quarter woes were met with a 32-point onslaught by the Suns. Boston was making defensive mistakes all over the place, and as Udoka said, it was clear that their offensive slump was affecting their defensive effort.
Over the last three games, the biggest lead the Celtics have had is eight. Meanwhile, they have been down by at least 20 in each of them at one point. Their once unstoppable defense has regressed to one of the worst in the NBA in the past week. As seen so far this season, they simply cannot afford to play poorly on defense with how bad their offense has been.
In turn, both Udoka and Robert Williams talked about the concept of pride:
Udoka: “Just the overall effort and pride to end the trip wasn’t a good feeling, obviously… Tonight obviously wasn’t ideal.”
Williams: “If you’ve gotta make it about your pride, make it about your pride. Anything you’ve gotta do to get fired up.”
The one glimpse of pride was in the third and fourth quarter of the LA Clippers game, but by then it was too late. Boston’s road trip is finally over, and they return home to face off against the Milwaukee Bucks on Monday. Maybe playing in front of the Boston faithful will get them fired up because right now, they desperately need something to do just that.