After two poor losses to Detroit and Washington, there are major concerns that are starting to brew for the Celtics. Losses, of course, polarize any issues, but there just seems to be a different feel to the recent struggles. Everyone out there looks mentally and physically exhausted and that’s impacting their play.
One of the bigger issues for this team is the lack of ball movement on offense. In Sunday’s loss to the Wizards, the Celtics had only 14 assists, a season low. On Friday, the team only totaled 15 assists. The Celtics cannot win with that type of mentality.
Ball movement is always an issue that stands out prominently when watching games in real time. Basketball looks like art when the ball swings around finding an open shooter, but when teams play isolation ball, it raises eyebrows, especially in defeat.
It was possessions like this that are tough to watch when this team has high level capabilities. A top-of-the-key screen giving Jaylen Brown an angle to drive is not necessarily a bad possession. However, it leaves three players just standing around the arc watching while Brown takes a difficult ISO shot at the rim. This is not a good offensive formula, and Brad Stevens will be hard pressed to change this up a bit for more cohesion. This does not validate all the “Fire Brad!” comments, but it does need to be considered by Stevens and the coaching staff about how to adjust going forward.
Here is another example, but this time with Jayson Tatum. He starts to work on what he sizes up as a mismatch. However, after driving to the hoop with no hope, Tatum still throws up a prayer while Jaylen is standing alone in the corner three spot. Brown’s defender has already committed to defending Tatum and is dropping his corner three responsibilities. Kick the ball out there and set up Brown for an open shot.
Following Sunday’s game, Jaylen Brown was asked about the ball movement. After a long pause, all he could say was, “I have no comment.” This could be taken in a multitude of ways, but it does seem like the players have it on their minds. Boston ranks 28th in assists per game and 29th in potential assists for the season.
All things considered, it is important to remember that the Celtics have the talent and abilities to get their act together passing the ball. The goal is to find a rhythm like they had Thursday night against the Toronto Raptors when they had 30 assists for the game. The ball was flying around and everyone was getting good looks around the floor.
This is the ultimate goal. Have almost everyone touch the ball each possession leading to quality shots. The faith in Jayson and Jaylen is still there to create on their own if needed, but it cannot be the only offense. That is the potential the team has. Get some rest and everyone back healthy, and then everyone can judge the team on the quality of play. It is not quite time to panic.