After combining for 275 points in Utah and Portland, it seemed as though the Celtics had figured out both sides of the ball. After their 2-5 start, Boston went on an eleven-game stretch from November 3rd to the 22nd where they notched the league’s stingiest defense with a 100.1 defensive rating. However, they were still an average offensive team with a 107.9 offensive rating. From November 23rd to December 6th, they improved to 113.9 points per 100 possessions in those six games but unfortunately, their defense has slipped to 113.3.
On Tuesday night, their lost defensive identity combined with a poor shooting night resulted in a 117-102 loss to the Lakers. “I think this is the second time all season that we didn’t necessarily play harder than the other team,” Jayson Tatum said. “It was kind of an ugly game on our part on both ends. We just didn’t have that same pop. I think that’s the tough part about it.”
The Celtics gave up a whopping 66 points in the paint after limiting the Lakers to just 36 back in Boston on November 19th. Los Angeles coverted 13 offensive rebounds into 18 second chance points and flipped the rebounding edge from 33-51 to 51-34.
“It’s completely on us. Me, my teammates. Like I said, just messing up simple coverages,” Robert Williams said after the game.
It should be simple pick-and-roll coverage on this Russell Westbrook-Anthony Davis pick-and-roll, but a slight misstep leads to an emphatic flush. With Timelord in drop coverage, he’s waiting for Westbrook to drive. However, that leaves a rolling Davis a straight line to the rim. It’s Grant Williams’ responsibility to at least chip that rim run and force Westbrook to hit the cross court kick out to Carmelo Anthony. Grant doesn’t close out the lane, Rob hesitates briefly, and Westbrook energizes the Staples Center crowd.
Williams, who had several early highlight plays above the rim over Davis, spoke candidly about his team’s inability to play through adversity when things don’t go their way. “I felt like our energy was great, especially starting off the game. We just weren’t ready for the punch in the second half, so gotta clean that up.”
“We wanted to invite them to shoot jump shots and keep them out of the paint. Obviously, that didn’t work,” head coach Ime Udoka said. Udoka talked about wanting to crowd the Lakers’ best isolation players, but all of LA’s best players had great games. LeBron James scored an efficient 30 points on just 19 shots, Davis chipped in with 17 and 16 with two blocks, and Westbrook had 24 and 11 after settling early for a few jump shots. Despite another strong scoring effort from Tatum with his third consecutive 30-plus point game that included 14 in the first four minutes, it just wasn’t enough with all of the Lakers’ stars shining bright, too.
“We tend to lay back and get comfortable when the game is going our way,” Williams said. “It’s something that we’ve been trying to break that habit all year. Gotta keep working on it.”