The Celtics are back in action tonight after a horrendous home performance Saturday night against the Utah Jazz. We had plenty to gripe about in that game, but the main issue keeps coming back to the offensive production by this team. Kyrie Irving for all his magic that he can bring to the table, simply cannot carry this team alone on the offensive side of ball. He needs help and cannot be counted on for a 40-pt performance each night like we saw against the Raptors last Friday. Let’s dive into what we need to see to get this offense back on track and who needs to pick it up.
First off, in terms of just fundamental basketball it’s simple, when you drive to the basket time and time again it will lead to more open shots and a better offensive flow overall. We saw some of this in the Raptors and Bulls games last week and it looked like this offense had turned a new leaf. Unfortunately, that’s not what we saw Saturday night from this team and while disappointing was hopefully just a hangover from the thrilling overtime game the night before. But even still we need plenty more production.
The Big 3… *Cough Cough* in terms of who we need production from are Tatum, Hayward and Horford. All three of them have been completely disappointing in terms of their scoring outputs thus far this season and it must change if this team is looking to go anywhere in the long-term.
Let’s start with Jayson Tatum, He has all the talent in the world but looks like a lost puppy out there at times that doesn’t know which butt to sniff next. I give that analogy because he has all the tools to use but is never quite sure of when or how to use them. He seems very hesitant on whether to drive the ball to the hole, or cross up and get space for his shot. He has reverted to shooting the three ball instead of Kobe esque fade away jumpers that we were seeing early on this season, but I still want him to be more confident in his abilities. Last year during the playoffs he almost didn’t have the time to think about how he should attack because we relied on him so heavily for his offensive output. He just played his game and looked amazing while doing it. I would love to see him stop worrying about trying to get the right shot or make the right play and just relax and know that his offensive game is devastating when he is just out there letting it come to him naturally.
Next up with Gordon Hayward, I mean listen I know it takes time to feel right back out there on the floor and I understand that. Paul George who had a similar injury returned to the Pacers in the 2014-15 season and only average about 8.8 pts and 3.7 rebounds over the final six games of the year, obviously on limited minutes. George eventually returned to near the same level of production he once had but any true NBA fan will tell you he’s never looked like the future top 5 NBA player that he was destined to become pre-injury. He’s more like a top 20 guy now maybe. How this ties back to Hayward is as great as he was in Utah, he was at his best maybe a top 20 player in this league and I think that’s being a little generous. So theoretically if you follow the same guideline as with PG, he may just be a guy in this league and never return to the star we saw in Utah. Obviously as a Celtic fan I don’t want that to be the case but we I think we may need to alter our expectations of him returning to the talent we signed on to pay 31 million per year.
Finally, with Horford, anyone who has watched this team over the past few seasons can tell you that when Big Al is playing well, and the offense is cycling through him that this team is at their best. It’s something we haven’t seen much if this season and I have been disappointed with his production overall on both sides of the ball. I mean I can live with the 11.5 ppg he is putting up right now, even if he can do that in his sleep. But the 6.4 rebounds per game and lack of defensive intensity hasn’t been great. I talked the other night how I want to see him A. Get the ball at the top of the key more and play the screen and roll off him like we’ve seen in the past and B. get the ball down low and get much-needed baskets when the offense gets stale like we have seen lately. If we can no longer count on him to go down low and grind out a basket then we have more issues than I thought.
Listen I know this sounds like an overreaction to one bad game but it’s a few points of emphasis this team really needs to think on. I know the NBA is the league of 3-point shooters nowadays and if you can’t shoot it than you simply cannot compete. But we aren’t the Warriors. We don’t have the deadly shooters they do. These Celtics damn sure can shoot the three when they are locked in don’t get me wrong, but they need to mix that style with some of the grind it out physical play we have grown accustomed to with these Celtic teams. That is when they are at their best, not when we are shooting 40 threes per game hoping that’s the key to winning. Look at the Rockets this year, sure they shot like 40-50 threes a game last season and it worked out for a season, but it’s unsustainable unless you have possibly the 3 greatest shooters of all time on your team like the Warriors do.
Also, one last thing I would like to touch on, Marcus Morris needs to be getting more of the minutes that Brad is giving to Hayward right now. He’s been too vital for us on offense thus far this year to not have him on the floor more. Look out for that over the next week or two.
These Celtics got a lot of work to do still and I won’t hit any sort of panic button yet, but when you come into the season with these types of expectations and don’t perform, criticism will follow. Let’s hope they have a nice bounce back performance tonight against the Hornets and start building towards putting these early season troubles in the rearview.