Celtics need to wake up from latest lull

Nick Friar
March 05, 2020 - 6:15 am

The Celtics have a very tough stretch of games ahead of them. The Jazz are in town on Friday, followed by the Thunder on Sunday, then Boston has a pair of tough road games in the Midwest.

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The way the C’s have played recently isn’t going to cut it if they want to be successful over these next four games.

Now, Boston won on Wednesday. And a win is a win. The Celtics need every one they can get if they want to be the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference. Plus, this one was much needed after Tuesday’s disappointing loss.

But a 112-106 finish over the Cavs? That outcome is too close for one of the best teams in the NBA, especially with what happened the night before. (For a complete recap of the Celtics' win, click here.)

“That was one of the more rewarding wins that I’ve been a part of, coming off last night,” Brad Stevens told reporters in Cleveland. “Short-handed, everybody was gassed. You could see at the end of the third quarter, I thought both teams were dead.”

Playing on the road on the second night of a back-to-back without a large chunk of the roster is a challenge. That’s fair.

But, even though Kemba Walker, Jaylen Brown and Gordon Hayward weren’t available for the Celtics, the Cavs didn’t have some of their best players: Tristan Thompson, Andre Drummond and Darius Garland. Jayson Tatum, Marcus Smart and Daniel Theis should be able to handle Kevin Love and Collin Sexton.

But they almost weren’t enough, even though Tatum scored 32. Boston also needed a career-night from Semi Ojelye to win.

“He was great,” Smart said about Ojeleye. “We know Semi could do that on a daily basis for us. In practice, every day, he’s getting his shots up. In practice, he’s knocking down those shots. Warm-ups, everything. It’s just all about his opportunity. Tonight, he got his opportunity and he took advantage of it.”

As much as Ojeleye has shot above league average from 3-point territory this season (35.8% entering Wednesday’s game), an outburst against the Cavs doesn’t mean he’s going to provide the Celtics with offense nightly. Boston’s scoring off the bench was not resolved on Wednesday.

And while that’s a weakness for the team, the Celtics’ major issue right now is on the other end of the floor.

The Celtics allowed Sexton to score 41 points one night after Caris LeVert dropped 51 in Boston, which came on the heels of Russell Westbrook's 41-point performance at the Garden.

The Celtics’ defense is faltering. If they have any hope of surpassing the Raptors and keeping hold of the second spot in the East, they need to identify the exact issue and work toward a resolution right away. Because this upcoming stretch of games could have a serious impact on Boston’s standing in the conference.

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