How worried are you on a panic scale of 1 to 10 and what is the Celtics biggest issue?
Bill Sy: I’m at a 5. Watching everybody’s body language and listening to the postgame pressers, it seems largely mental at this point — missed shots leads to frustration leads to lapses and low effort on defense. If head coach Joe Mazzulla is unfazed by Boston’s shot selection, I’ll try to be, too.
Gregory Maneikis: I’m at a 3. It’s hard to sustain elite success over an entire 82-game season, and there aren’t quite as many cupcakes on the schedule as previous years. I know some might differ, but the Magic, when healthy are a real NBA team with some dogs. Losing back-to-back is inexcusable, but it shows the importance of execution, boxing out, etc. if you want to win the average NBA basketball game.
To me, their biggest issue is just that. Things were so easy early in the season, they didn’t need to worry about all of the little things. Now the book is out on how to slow down the offense, so the C’s will need to recommit to playing mistake-free basketball because when the offense isn’t there, the real game begins.
William Weir: It’s a 3 for me. Gotta tighten things up for sure but a lot of it comes down to a poor shooting stretch. They are 29th & 30th respectively shooting the 3 and from the field the last 5 games, but 4th and 6th in the NBA on the season for those categories. A lot of the role players are going through shooting funks at the same time, but water will find its level. They are still getting good looks, just not good results. Rob is back. Defense is improving They’ll be fine.
Mike Dynon: Level 5. I’d like to believe the offensive slump is just the flip side of the way-above-average first 20-25 games. That would be normal. But the problem is, when the shots stop falling, the Celtics tend to revert to bad habits. The ball movement disappears, hero ball creeps in, and as we saw in Sunday’s game, they still have difficulty executing winning plays in the final minute of a close contest.
Joe Mazzulla is facing adversity for the first time as a head coach. How will he respond? What will it take to get back on track? They need to restore some confidence before the Christmas showdown with Milwaukee, or the panic level will rise for sure.
Ben Vallis: I’m at a 2. This team knows what they’re capable of. They’ve demonstrated what they’re capable of. Better to get that wakeup call now (as opposed to the playoffs), that reminder that, despite their talent and depth, their wins won’t just come easy.
There’s also a few things in flux that I’m happy to give them a few more games to get in control of. Rob is a major piece who is still in the early stages of being reintegrated, White and Hauser are experiencing their first ever true NBA shooting slumps, and Tatum is perhaps experiencing some fatigue after starting the season in “Finals revenge/MVP overdrive” mode.
It’s more about how they respond, and at this point there’s not been much reason to doubt they can respond appropriately. Maybe a lame analogy, but whenever I get myself into half decent shape, I’m always like “okay, that’s done” and then start eating like crap again. The Celtics are in this phase of their basketball diet currently.
Jake Issenberg: 2 for me as well. The core of Tatum/Brown/Smart have proven that they can win at the highest level for years now. But if we know anything about that core, it’s they can fall into bad habits from time to time. They likely heard the outside noise, “Best offense in league history”, “Best scoring duo since Shaq and Kobe”. It’s human nature to fall into bad habits once in a while. The question will be how fast can they pull out of it. They will see on film the stark difference between what made them the best team in the league and where playing like they did against the Magic will get them. It’s a good test for Mazulla and the core to pull the team out of the tailspin, because there will be more adversity down the line. There’s no better time to go through some adversity than when you are (were) the 1 seed.
Trevor Hass: I’d say I’m at a 2. Hiccups are inevitable, even in a championship season. A six-game road trip against largely good teams is inherently tough, and a couple duds against the Magic don’t mean the parade is off. At the same time, it’s fair to be a little concerned short term. If this continues, and they drop, say, 8 of 10, then it’s fair to be worried big picture (I’d probably go to a 4 at that point). I expect them to get out of this slump and return to their winning ways in the near future.
Tim Sheils: I would say I’m at a 3. With a historic offensive start, there was bound to be a drop-off at some point. Regression is an inevitability when it comes to that. I’d be more concerned if the Celtics were struggling on both sides of the ball during this stretch, but they’ve been doing better on defense, ranking 9th in rating over this rough patch. That actually is a bit surprising to me, considering how negative their offense has been, and it’s a step in the right direction on defense.
Now, we’ve got to see how the team answers after a tough stretch, and I mainly am looking for some energy when threes aren’t falling. Shake things up, attack the paint, keep the ball moving, set some more screens, play with pace. I don’t know if this lack of energy is due to a tough road trip, but after facing a streaking Orlando team, Boston has some work to do. Ask me in another 10 games how I’m feeling, but as of now, I’m not mad. I’m just disappointed.