BOSTON – The Celtics’ offense has shown flashes of greatness this season. The only problem is that their scoring spurts typically tend to occur when a game is nearly out of reach.
Boston just completed a five-game road trip that included plenty of examples of this trend, particularly on the back end of the journey. The last three games of the trip all featured Celtics deficits of 20 points or more, each of which was followed by an inspiring comeback effort. However, only one of those rallies – a 22-point comeback in Phoenix – resulted in victory.
“Offensively, when we’re desperate and urgent, we’re damn good,” coach Brad Stevens said Tuesday afternoon ahead of his team’s first home practice in 15 days. “And when we’re not, we’re… whew… we’re bad. So, we need to do a better job of making sure we play all the way through.”
Through its first 13 games, Boston has yet to produce a solid, 48-minute effort from start to finish. Most commonly, the team struggles during the first halves of games, but the reasoning behind that trend remains a mystery.
“I don’t know what it is,” stated a puzzled Gordon Hayward. “At least for me, individually, I don’t come out of the gates thinking we’re going to walk through this game. But for whatever reason it just happens. Maybe we’re just not as sharp. I don’t know what it is, but we’ve gotta be able to play like we do when our backs are against the wall.”
When their backs are against the wall, the Celtics play brilliantly, just like they did last year on so many occasions.
Thursday night, they trailed the Suns 48-26 midway through the second quarter, only to come back, tie the game at the end of regulation, and then pull out a 116-109 win in overtime.
The following night in Utah seemed like déjà vu. Boston trailed the Jazz by as many as 20 points in the second quarter, but came back and pulled within four points on five different occasions during the fourth quarter, only to come up short with a 123-115 loss in the end.
Sunday night in Portland was more of the same. A 21-point second-quarter deficit for the Celtics miraculously turned into a tie ball game midway through the final frame, only for them to run out of gas before falling 100-94 to the Trail Blazers.
The offensive inconsistency has been frustrating, but by no means has it caused the Celtics to become distraught. There is no worry in the locker room because they know that once they iron out their issues, their offense will start rolling like it should.
“We’re hopeful,” Jaylen Brown said of the team’s outlook on the current situation. “There’s no panic. I’ve got unwavering faith. I just feel like we have to keep working, keep getting better and see where things go from there.”
The first order of business for Boston is to reset after its long, troublesome road trip. The best way to do that, according to Coach Stevens, is to keep things as simple as possible.
“One of the things that I think is really important is – when you get into multiple games and less practice time and things like that – is having a back-to-the-basics day,” Stevens said before heading into a film session. “So, we’ll do the appropriate amount of preparation (for Wednesday’s game against Chicago), but also the appropriate amount of basics.
“That’s always a good thing to do,” the coach continued, “We’ve got three games in four nights starting tomorrow, so I think that we’ll get the cobwebs of the long trip out, we’ll get some work in, and we’ll get ready to go.”