The Celtics improved their record to 4-6 tonight with a 101-90 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers. A victory fueled by a 23 point performance by Brandon Bass coming off of the bench. Jared Sullinger also had a big night dropping 22 points including a dagger of a 3 point shot late in the game. Rondo had 13 assists and 9 points.
Granted, the 76ers are the worst team in the league with an 0-11 record after tonights loss, this was an important win for the black and green after dropping three straight.
With that being said, I felt that the Celtics played awful tonight particularly in the first half of the game. They played sloppy basketball giving up 15 turnovers resulting in 24 points, played lazy defensively, and an average shooting night all around. Celts were lucky they played better in the second half and were able to grind out a win, but frankly a performance like tonights is not going to cut it against most teams. They have to be better.
On a positive note I think that this team is much better than their record indicates. With such a young team it is going to take time to learn to play the full 48 minutes of games which they have failed to do thus far. Had this team played the full 48 minutes against the Cavaliers and Phoenix they would likely have a 6-4 record going in to Friday’s contest against Memphis. Losing to a Durant and Westbrook-less OKC was also a low point in the season thus far. Need to win the easier games on your schedule to be a contender.
This is what I have taken away from the season so far:
What the Celtics have done well:
Offensively the Celtics have done more than anybody could have expected being limited to less than three figures just twice this season. Going into tonights contest the Celtics were ranked 6th in the NBA offensively with an offensive rating of 107.5.
Led by Rondo the Celtics passing has been quick and sharp getting the ball to open targets to get quick and open baskets. Rondo alone has blown my mind night after night with some of the masterful passes he has made. I credit Brad Stevens system a great deal for the Celtics passing schemes and overall offensive explosiveness.
Rajon Rondo. Personally I think Rondo has not looked as good as he has been this season since 2008 or maybe 2012 when he nearly carried a broken Celtics team to the finals. It is clear that he is healthy again and he is playing that way being a triple-double threat nearly every night. Rondo has adjusted nicely to being “the man” and his attitude towards the team has been positive even with all the adversity of the big decision coming up. I don’t see Rondo getting traded (nor do I want him to) but if he keeps playing the way he has through the first ten he will certainly be a valuable bargaining chip.
Jeff Green’s dunks. Okay, they have not been that important but oh my that dunk against Phoenix was incredible. Marcus Morris get posterized son!
What the Celtics need to work on:
Defense. Plain and simple the defense has not been good. The loss of Marcus Smart to a brutal sprained ankle has not helped, but as a team they really need to step up. They are scoring upwards of 100 points almost every game which is fantastic, but when you don’t get it done in the back court what does it matter? They generally score quick buckets which should give them plenty of time to hustle back and play good defense. Part of the problem is this team is still learning to play together and with Stevens defensive schemes, and part of the problem is that they are getting lazy with assignments and giving shooters an open look. Defense needs to be tightened up to be successful. Defense wins championships. Marcus Smart’s return in a few weeks should help out the Celtic’s D.
I would like to see the black and gold hit more open looks. The offense has been good, but it would not hurt to hit a few more of the open field goal and 3-point looks they are getting. The passing has opened up a lot of good looks inside and beyond the arc and we need to capitalize on as many open looks as we can get.
Celtics, specifically Rondo, needs to hit there free throws. Too many games come down to who hits there free throws to not take advantage of free points.
The Celtics undoubtedly have their work cut out for them in the road ahead, but all and all I have seen some things I really like in this team. Tied second in the Eastern Atlantic division so far I still think this team has a shot to grind out a low seed in the playoffs. Don’t sleep on the Celts just yet!