On February 27th I wrote an article explaining why I believe in this team as a contender. Since that time they’ve gone 1-4. (Note: this was written yesterday) I joked in that article that I wasn’t big on jinxes but now I’m wondering. I’m not superstitious, but I am a little ‘stitious (my family has sailors and fishermen in it, so I’ve been trained). My Knicks fan friend even suggested mentioning him again in my next article to break the jinx. Shoot, I’ll try anything.
So just in case I’ve angered any hoop deities out there, here’s my mea culpa and attempt at counterbalance. A list of reasons why I’m concerned about this team.
Any team could have key players get injured at any time. That’s a given. The Celtics have Robert Williams III who seems to be injured a larger percentage of the time than your average player. I see him as a ceiling raiser on this team. If he’s out or not at full speed, this team just isn’t as good. It isn’t just him either. Marcus Smart is always one dive away from another injury. Brogdon has been known to miss his share of time. Up and down the lineup players have missed time with one thing or another this season. And I’m contractually obligated to mention Al Horford’s age in an article like this.
Basketball is a game of runs, we know this. It is very hard for any team to remain locked in and hyper focused for a full 48 minutes, in particular on a random game in the middle of the season. Other teams blow leads and take their foot off the gas at inopportune times. It happens.
However, it does seem to happen to this team more than the average team. (Sorry, I do not have any stats to back this up. This is just a feeling that could be influenced by my hyper focus on one team)
The Celtics haven’t just blown leads that led to losses. They also blew a lot of leads that led to closer-than-they-should-have-been wins. It is maddening because you have evidence that they CAN beat a team right there in the first quarter. Then at some point they start getting away from what got them the lead and all of a sudden its a game again.
I also don’t understand why they go into clock-killing (prevent defense style) mode with several minutes left instead of continuing to attack.
Speaking of focus, I’m officially worried about Grant Williams. Between the slump and the DNP and the missed free throws, I have to wonder what’s going on there. I’m no armchair psychiatrist but it wouldn’t surprise me if he’s pressing a bit knowing that his contract situation is still up in the air.
Grant is a very good role player who has expanded his game beyond just 3-and-D. I think that he’s going to end up being very important to this team in the playoffs. I just hope he can stay focused on “being a superstar in your role.”
I’m one who thinks we fans fixate too much on timeouts and rotations because they are easy to point to. I think Joe Mazzulla has a style and a method he feels comfortable with and I respect that.
With that said, he’s also a rookie head coach. Even the best head coaches look back and admit that they were struggling to keep their head above water in their first year on the job. No matter how natural you are to a role, you simply get better the more experience you have in it.
He’s made mistakes this season and he’ll make some more in the playoffs (against coaches that have been around the block a few times). We just have to hope that the team is talented enough and that he’ll learn at a fast enough pace to minimize those mistakes (or their impact).
Peaked Too Early?
Last year the team struggled out of the gate, fixed a few things, and finished the year on an absolute tear. They continued that momentum right on through the playoffs until they met a human walking supernova named Steph.
This season we started off on a tear. Perhaps fueled by the memory of coming up just short of the title. That was a lot of fun when it was happening and it gave this team a heck of a cushion in the standings. They’ve needed it though.
It isn’t like they’ve gone back to early last season levels of struggling. This team still only has 21 losses. They’ve just come in bunches (which speaks to the focus issue). The NBA’s 82 game season is a marathon and it seems like they were sprinting at the start.
There was also an element of shooting luck at the beginning of the year. A lot of players were punching above their weight. On average the team is still shooting pretty well, but on any given night (or several nights) the reliance on the deep ball can bite them when those shots aren’t falling.
I know I’m rambling at this point. That fits with my current nervous state of mind. I’ll finish with this. I’m still a big believer in this team because of Tatum and Brown and the deep bench and all that stuff I wrote about in the last article. But I do have to admit that I’m a little concerned. A lot has to go right for a team to win the title. Let’s hope it all comes together in the playoffs.