On February 27th I wrote an explanatory article why I believe in this team as an opponent. Since then they have gone 1-4. (Note: this was written yesterday) I joked in that article that I’m not big on jinxes but now I wonder. I’m not superstitious, but I’m a little ‘stitious (my family has sailors and fishermen, so I’m used to it). My Knicks A fan friend even suggested mentioning him again in my next article to break the jinx. Shoot, I’ll try anything.
So in case I offended any hoop deities out there, here’s my mea culpa and try to counterbalance. A list of reasons why I am concerned about this group.
Any team can have key players injured at any time. That is a given. The Celtics there is Robert Williams III who seems to be injured a greater percentage of the time than your average player. I see him as a ceiling raiser on this team. Whether or not he’s out there at full speed, this team isn’t as good. He’s not the only one 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 wasted no time in one thing or another this season. And I’m obligated to mention Al Horford’s age in an article like this.
Basketball is a game of running, we know this. It’s very difficult for any team to stay locked in and super focused for a full 48 minutes, especially in 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, this seems to happen on this team more than the average team. (Sorry, I don’t have any stats to back this up. It’s just a feeling that my hyper focus on one team can influence)
The Celtics didn’t just blow leads that led to losses. They also blew multiple leads that led to closer-than-should-have-been wins. It’s crazy because you have evidence that they CAN beat a team there in the first quarter. Then at some point they start to get away from what’s leading them and suddenly it’s game again.
I also don’t understand why they go into clock-killing (prevent defense style) mode with 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 not an armchair psychiatrist but I wouldn’t be surprised if he insisted a bit knowing his contract situation was still up in the air.
Grant is a very good role player who has expanded his game beyond 3-and-D. I think he will be very important to this team in the playoffs. I just hope he stays focused on “being a superstar in your role.”
I am one who thinks that we fans fixate too much on timeouts and rotations because they are easy to point out. I think Joe Mazzulla has a style and a way that he’s comfortable with and I respect that.
With that said, he is also a rookie head coach. Even the best head coaches look back and admit they are struggling to keep their head above water in their first year on the job. No matter how natural you are at a role, you 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 who’ve been around a few times). We just have to hope that the team has enough talent and that he can learn fast enough to minimize those mistakes (or their impact).
Last year the team struggled out of the gate, fixed a few things, and ended the year on an absolute tear. They continued that momentum through the playoffs until they met a human walking supernova named Steph.
This season we started on a tear. Perhaps boosted by the memory of arriving at the short title. That was a lot of fun when it was happening and it gave the team a heck of a cushion in the standings. They need it though.
It’s not like they’re back to early last season levels of struggling. This team has only 21 losses. They just come in bunches (which speaks to the focus issue). The NBA’s 82 game season is a marathon and they seem to sprint from the start.
There was also an element of shooting luck at the beginning of the year. Many players punch above their weight. On average, the team still shoots 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 being dramatic at this point. That fits my current nervous state of mind. I will finish this. I still have a lot of faith in this team because of Tatum and Brown and the deep bench and everything I wrote about in the last article. But I have to admit that I’m a little worried. A lot has to be done for a team to win the title. Hope it all comes together in the playoffs.