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Bad defense and “no spark”: 5 Takeaways from Celtics-Lakers

Boston fell apart on both ends in the second half, as LA cruised to a blowout win

Boston Celtics v Los Angeles Lakers Photo by Adam Pantozzi/NBAE via Getty Images

No clips today due to some technical issues. Instead, we’ll focus on five key areas where the Boston Celtics faltered as they got blown out by the Los Angeles Lakers.

1. Postgame Ime Udoka was asked about waving the white flag with approximately five minutes to go and the Celtics trailing by 15 points. Udoka said that decision was partially motivated by Boston having a back-to-back game on Wednesday night.

But the Celtics coach said there was more to the decision.

Udoka said the Celtics starting group of Jayson Tatum, Dennis Schroder, Al Horford, Robert Williams and Marcus Smart had “no spark”. And that was certainly true throughout the second half.

That group started out great. Tatum had 14 points in the first 3:50 of the game. Williams spent most of the first half skywalking on Anthony Davis’ head. Horford, Smart and Schroder were all making plays on both ends too.

After halftime, outside of Tatum hitting some shots, it looked like that crew was stuck in the mud. Williams didn’t have the same explosion. Horford looked a step slow. Schroder and Smart reverted to some forced drives in an attempt to create offense.

No matter the reasoning behind his decision, Udoka made the right call to get starters out. Live to fight another day.

2. Jayson Tatum said he felt this was the second time Boston was outhustled by their opponent this season. The first was presumably the embarrassing home-opener loss to the Toronto Raptors. And Tatum’s analysis seems to be spot-on, at least after the halftime break.

One place effort can show up is in rebounding. And that told a pretty big story in this game.

The Lakers shot 51.6% for the game, which is pretty bad in and of itself. Compounding things, Los Angeles rebounded 28.8% of their own misses. That allowed the home team to put up 18 second-chance points.

3. The Lakers turn the ball over a lot. LA coughed the ball up 10 times in the first half. That helped the Celtics get off and running and to steal some easy offense.

In the second half, as Boston’s defensive effort waned, the Lakers threw it away just six times. Once the turnovers stopped coming, the Celtics couldn’t find that easy offense and the game turned into a blowout.

4. Before heading out west, Boston had established themselves as a top-10 defense, with upside to get inside the top-five. The Utah game isn’t helping those numbers, even if that was more a product of amazing shooting than it was bad defense. The Portland game looks better than it was, because Boston won in a blowout.

This game was a mess from the jump. In the first half, the defensive issues didn’t seem quite as bad, because the Celtics were forcing turnovers and they were scoring the ball themselves.

We called out above that the rebounding was poor and that Boston stopped forcing turnovers in the second half. To go a little deeper, the Celtics played with no force on defense. Multiple times Lakers players drove to the basket with ease. Those layups, combined with the second chances, led to LA scoring a whopping 66 points in the paint.

The Utah game can be excused away fairly easily. The Portland game gets a shrug because Boston rolled. This game was one of the worst defensive performances of the season. It harkened back to the early-season messiness that led to the team’s poor record out of the gate.

5. While, the defense was the primary reason the Celtics lost; the offense wasn’t exactly a pretty picture. Jayson Tatum was great. He started hot and never really cooled off. He took 22 shots, while no other Boston player had double-digit attempts. However, you can easily argue that Tatum should have shot it even more often.

Marcus Smart couldn’t find his shot. In the third quarter, Smart reverted to flopping and searching for calls on both ends. Offensively, that led to lost possessions, which were impossible to overcome with the Lakers scoring at will.

Dennis Schroder got to the line 10 times, which was great, but he hit just 1-of-6 from the field. There were also a handful of the possessions where Schroder dribbled for 20 seconds before barfing up some clock-beating mess. That’s not what you want, especially when Tatum has it going.

After the Lakers stopped going over on screens and were content to let Smart and Schroder shoot, Robert Williams impact as a roller was nil. LA started going under on the screens, and the guard would get in Williams’ way, while daring the Boston ballhandlers to shoot. All those lobs to Rob on Davis’ head from the first half were non-existent in the second half.

Looking for silver linings? Tatum is playing great now. He’s had 30 or more points in each game of the road trip. Also, the kids are coming around. Aaron Nesmith seems to be finding a little rhythm. Payton Pritchard did a nice job running the team late. And Romeo Langford looked ok on offense again.

Those last few are stretching a little, but that’s the kind of night it was. Not much you can do but get some rest and get back at it on Wednesday night against the LA Clippers.