It was a different tone Wednesday night as the Celtics took down the Charlotte Hornets. The team got back together after a disastrous performance from the night before against the Thunder. They had the offense completely clicking which was a pleasant sight again. Even though it was a banged up Hornets’ team at home, every win is crucial to avoid a play-in game especially with a solid offensive showing.
Once again, the Celtics rode their two All-Stars, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. Tatum finished the game with 35 points, 8 rebounds, 8 assists and Brown finished with 38 points, 7 rebounds, and 4 assists. These two are, of course, front and center of the team’s offense. However, as of late, it has been the determining factor of whether the Celtics win or lose. This then begs the question: can this be sustainable for a playoff run?
Panning out a bit, the league has seen many successful duos over the years. Every winning team has their combination of two players who have led their team to greatness. This strategy can be leaned on to an extent, but there were always a few other options that helped the team continue to succeed if that duo was slacking. Without this option or options, it makes it difficult to sustain winning consistency, especially in the postseason.
Specifically with the Celtics, the problem comes with maintaining that consistency. The other scoring options are not there on a night-to-night basis. Brown and Tatum will put up their 20-30 point games, but then the team around them does not contribute for the team to win. Kemba Walker was supposed to be that guy, however, everyone knows how the injuries have plagued him his whole time in Boston. When he is able to get back to prime Kemba some nights, the offense is flowing all around which gives the Celtics the best chance to win. Unfortunately, we have not seen that this season nearly enough.
This, in turn, makes it difficult on Brown and Tatum. They are required to put up 35 and 38 points per night for the Celtics to win on nights like Wednesday night. Yes, Kemba was sitting, but they need any one else to step up for them, so they do not need to have perfect nights. Evan Fournier, Marcus Smart, and the other rotation guys need to take the load off these two making smart decisions to lead to easy baskets. The team is not asking for Smart to launch 20 ill-advised shots, but the goal is to play with the intensity leading to added contribution at all levels.
Stevens and the Celtics staff will have to figure out a scheme for this team heading down the stretch. The rotations will be shortened which will increase the minutes for some players that will have to step up. The best offense for the Celtics is when the offense is running through Brown and Tatum, but it does not necessarily mean they need to control everything. The team has shown bad habits in the losing stretches that involved isolation basketball between the two with everyone else just watching. Even if that could get them a high scoring night, this will not be successful in a playoff run.
The balance will have to be found between staggering these Tatum and Brown minutes when it comes to getting their rest, but, more importantly, having others step up and contribute if one of the duo has an off-night. Kemba Walker can be this third option taking over games in the clutch, but in a playoff run, it will have to be a consistent contribution. Without that, it is a major gamble riding on the ll-Star duo to carry the team by themselves throughout the playoffs.
There is nothing that is really groundbreaking about any of this. Everyone knows that the success of the Celtics runs through Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum. However, it is important to watch down the stretch of the season and hopefully into a playoff series. These two need help. If they can not get it, it will be a quick series loss for this team. It can only be sustainable if the other offensive options around them step up and bear some of the load. It has been a roller coaster of a season, but a bit of consistency in the lineup could be a perfect solution to keep the Jaylen and Jayson rolling into the playoffs.