Are the Celtics overrated? Is this team the juggernaut we thought they were coming into this season? Can we win close games down the stretch anymore? These are all questions Celtics fans are asking themselves after a 115-107 road loss last night to the Denver Nuggets last night. It was a game in which we saw a team that is supposed to be touted as one of the league’s best defensive units get roasted down the stretch by a third year player in Jamal Murray. Murray while looking much improved this season, has only averaged a career 13.8 PPG. A performance like we saw last night certainly doesn’t leave a good taste in your mouth but we may need to step back and remember that this is only the first week of November. If Boston’s local football team can teach us anything, it’s that the first month of the season means nothing, even more so when it comes to the NBA. But with teams like Toronto and Milwaukee out to hot starts it certainly doesn’t feel great.
Despite Kyrie’s criticized comments about Jamal Murray’s last second 3pt shot, (more on that later) he was great again last night and if there is any bright spot in this current 2 game skid for the Celtics it’s that he certainly looks back to All-Star form. I think it’s easy to say that we all hope the fro is gone for good if this is how fresh-fade Kyrie can perform on a consistent basis. He went for 31 pts last night on 13-17 shooting including 4-6 from three. There is just something about him when he gets that feeling that he can’t miss that is magical and has likely silenced the haters that said we didn’t need him after last year’s playoff run without him. Does he still have his troubles on defense? Of course. But in case you forgot if you don’t have stars in this league, you don’t win. And he is certainly one of the brightest stars in the game.
On the other end of that, our other shining young star in Jayson Tatum is averaging a pedestrian 12.6 pts per game over the last 5 games. He has seem to hit a second year wall here early on and while it has been a little disappointing, I’d rather see him hit it now rather than in May/June. Tatum is too talented for this to keep up, look for him to turn it around. Hayward on the other hand, ummm… I’m getting a little impatient.
On the defensive side of the ball last night after a tough fought 1st quarter that saw the C’s limit the Nuggets to just 19 points they went on to get outscored every quarter that followed allowing 35, 34, and 27 pts. Of course Jamal Murray was having a career night, but it wasn’t without the help of some shotty Celtics defense. Kyrie had his struggles which was to be suspected but the inability for Smart/Rozier to contain him either was difficult to watch. The performance on the glass was pitiful, The C’s got out rebounded 47-40 and allowed 15 OREB! That second number goes a long way into understanding just how poorly this team performed last night and needs to be addressed.
Now to the whole Jamal Murray/Kyrie story, yes it was wrong of Murray to take that shot with the game in hand and the sole purpose of trying to hit 50 pts and pad his stats, but if you’re the Celtics maybe play some goddamn defense and he isn’t in that position in the first place. Kyrie had a right to be pissed, but instead of throwing the ball and mouthing off about it put it in the mental piggy bank and remember it for next time you play the Nuggets. I would have to believe that the 2 Marcus’s, Smart and Morris along with Aron Baynes (this teams infacto enforcers) will most definitely remember that shot when Murray and his squad come to the Garden in March. Expect Murray to get a little extra contact on his way to the basket in that game.
Celtics have a couple of days off before traveling to Phoenix for what hopes to be a much-needed rebound game against the lowly Suns. This team is starting to have even their most die-hard supporters getting a little antsy with their play over the past couple games and we all hope to see them start gelling into the Eastern Conference favorite we expected from them pre-season. We’re all hoping the wiz-kid Brad Stevens can turn this squad around quickly.