Sunday was yet another infuriating loss for the Celtics. It was the same thing we have seen so many times this season with the team stalling out of the gates early on. After that, the deficit grew and, even after an attempted comeback, they could not fully fight all the way back and ended up losing an important game in the standings.
It is truly remarkable how many times this has happened this season.
Brad Stevens started off by saying “there is no excuse” for the team getting outplayed in the first half. “When we are not completely engaged for whatever reason, we are just not good. When we are, we are a good basketball team,” Stevens said.
Stevens went on to be very spokesman-like when he took blame for the slow starts. He said “it falls on me” while adding they have not been good on several occasions. It is appreciated that Stevens is playing the coach role and falling on his sword. However, these performances are not solely on him. It is a collective effort of poor preparation and game play throughout the entire team. It is not enough to blame one person for the fault of multiple people collectively.
At some point, the players themselves need to get a spark lit underneath them to start games with more intensity. Every person in that locker room is a professional basketball player that will not get fired up by a Brad Stevens pep talk or tirade. It is not on the coaching staff solely to get this team to where they should be to start the game. Everyone should know the standings and know that the team does not want to have a play-in game to worry about. Playoff mode and mentality should have started a week ago.
When asked about the same issues, newcome Evan Fournier mentioned the physicality component. “When you just fix things by being more aggressive and turning it up, it just shows a lack of physicality in my opinion,” he said. Everyone has to keep everyone else accountability for the lack of focus. Fournier also added any kind of change “has to come from within from each and every one of us... We have to be better individually, period.”
It is just so disheartening seeing this team with so much talent squander it away with mental errors and intensity issues. It is understandable that this season has been a whirlwind coming off of the previous season in the bubble. The mindset is very hard to adjust to getting back to normal. Even with all that said, this team will miss out of something great because of the fact they cannot bring the ferocity each and every night.
Versus the Spurs, Hornets, Thunder, Bulls, and now Sunday with the Heat — these were all recent games that the Celtics were completely flat in the first half. Yes, the team shows a fight in the third/fourth quarter that looks like the team has found itself, but more times than not, it still ends up a loss for the Celtics and further back in the standings. It is frustrating to think where this team could be without these upsetting losses.
At the end of the day, the fan base may have to come to terms with the outlook of the season. The best case scenario may be a win in the play-in and then a loss in the first round. Is that what everyone wanted starting the year? No, absolutely not, but this is the way the season is heading.