After making it to the Eastern Conference Finals and nearly breaking the King’s longest consecutive streak of Finals appearances by pushing the series to a surprising 7-game series, especially playing without their two perennial all-stars in Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward, the Celtics were destined for greatness, arguably a crowd-favorite in upsetting the Warriors in the NBA Finals.
However, the Celtics are currently in 7th place in a lackluster Eastern Conference, and are at a startling 0.500 record, splitting evenly in their 20 regular season games played. Many NBA analysts and reporters have already deemed that the Celtics are in troubled waters, without much success in keeping a consistent rhythm and win streak going. Recently, the Celtics have dropped 4 of the last 5 games to teams either with a 0.500 record or below.
As many NBA analysts have pointed out and warned to the Celtics, there are many reasons for the sudden, drastic decline in the Celtics’ prominence.
Too much change
The Celtics were operating smoothly in the Eastern Conference playoffs, relying on the rookie Jayson Tatum to flourish and shine, averaging 14 points and 5 rebounds, giving him many looks and chances to dictate the tempo and plays of the game. Players would look to him to pass the ball on offense, and Tatum would take it from there. One of the highlight reels from the playoffs come from Tatum standing toe-to-toe against the King, when he decided to take the ball to the rim and slammed it on LeBron’s face. Ensuring the play, Tatum bodyslammed to LeBron, acknowledging his dominance and competitiveness to the challenge.
However, this season, there is a lot of changes in the system. Kyrie Irving is back and Gordon Hayward returns from a devastating ACL injury. Kyrie Irving is usually a ball-dominant point guard, who enjoys crossing his opponent’s ankles with his amazing ball-dribbling skills, and Gordon Hayward is used to being the number one option in scoring. Therefore, while the Celtics have a lot of talent on the roster, this can also pose as a problem as well: too much talent. Stars on the roster are trying to figure out the role and are conflicted whether passing the ball or scoring too much. Therefore, the chemistry and the cohesion from the team is not there, and is still developing throughout the season. Kyrie Irving mentions in the game against Dallas that he almost blew up furiously at the team’s slow progress in changing game habits and skills to improve. Inserting two all-stars with a known track record of scoring in a lineup dominated by a young player who is trying to figure out his role in the league is going to take a long time.
Coach Brad Stevens addressed the team’s lack of attention and urgency to the current situation, saying that losing has not completely woken up the team. If the Celtics are dropping their recent past 5 games against teams that have slim chances of making it to the playoffs, the Celtics are definitely in grave danger. The Celtics need to wake up their senses, polish their act, and needs to be more focused in a cumulative team effort, rather than relying on team’s starpower to carry the burden of the team. If the Celtics do not have a team meeting to discuss about their recent struggles as a team, then we could be looking at one of the few times where a team who made it to the conference finals the previous season fail to make it to the playoffs in the next postseason.
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