Five ways to cure what ails the slumping Celtics after loss to Pacers
Forsberg: Five ways to cure what ails the slumping Celtics originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston
The Boston Celtics are in a big ol’ funk.
The Green have dropped five of their last six games. An offense once on a historic pace ranks dead last for the month of December. Jayson Tatum suggested after Wednesday’s loss to the Pacers that the Celtics, a team tied for the most wins in the NBA, have to “learn how to win again.”
Well, lucky for the Celtics, we have *FIVE* foolproof ways for them to start winning again. And, no, it’s not “make more 3-pointers” listed five times — though that would certainly help.
1. Be tougher
For all their obvious talents, the Celtics have had multiple instances the last two regular seasons where they haven’t responded great to adversity. You were probably hoping some of that had been remedied after watching this team grind its way through last year’s playoffs. Alas, from being unable to harness their emotions against Golden State, to being unable to stop a deficit from snowballing to 30 points on Wednesday night against Indiana, the Celtics need to handle turbulence better.
Too often over the last handful of games, it has simply come down to teams playing harder than Boston and the Celtics seem to wilt when things don’t go their way, particularly on the offensive end. No team wants to earn a reputation as frontrunners and Boston needs to show it can thrive even when things are not going ideally. After Wednesday’s loss, Tatum noted, “We’re not going to make every shot, we’re going to turn the ball over, it’s all about how we respond. And, as a group, we can’t let it snowball.”
2. Make more layups
Yes, more 3s would be great for a team shooting a ghastly 31.8 percent beyond the 3-point arc in December. But Wednesday night’s issue was far closer to the basket. The Celtics were improbably 16-of-36 shooting at the rim (inside of 4 feet). Boston is shooting 67 percent at the rim this season. League average is 66.2 percent. Oklahoma City is last in the NBA at 62 percent.
And yet the Celtics were 18 percent worse than the Thunder’s league-worst average on Wednesday night. Boston’s comeback attempt was routinely hindered by smoking bunnies (sorry to single you out, Payton Pritchard) and the team simply has to better that close to the basket.
3. Bust Derrick White’s slump
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Again, it’s unfair to single anybody out. But White was so good at the start of the season and his impact on Boston’s hot start flew way under the radar. Now, as the Celtics slump, his individual struggles are under the microscope (even if he’s not the only one going through a rough patch this month).
White hasn’t made more than a single field goal in any of Boston’s last five losses. He’s a combined 4-for-29 in those games. White missed all seven shots he took against the Pacers and, by the second half, looked tentative to take open 3-point shots.
White can’t be bashful. Yes, he’s slumping and maybe the team needs to do more to help him bust out. But he’s too good to let his shooting woes impact his all-around play.
4. Make more 3-pointers
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OK, we lied. It’s on the list (even if just once). It says something that the Celtics can be so atrociously bad from distance in December and yet they still rank second overall in the NBA this season in 3-point shooting (42.5 percent) trailing only the Mavericks (45.2). The bigger lesson here is that the Celtics can’t simply live or die by the 3-pointer.
5. Get healthy, turn Rob loose
It’s improbable that the Celtics are 0-3 since Robert Williams III returned. Time Lord has been even better than we could have expected in the infancy of his return. Yes, he’s still got to get his conditioning up and he’ll likely move even better as he slowly shakes the rust from missing the first 29 games. But his impact is so obvious.
The Celtics nearly rallied back into Wednesday’s game based on Williams III’s grit alone (and Jayson Tatum’s shotmaking, too). The Celtics have still operated shorthanded recently. With the potential to be as close to full health as they’re going to get, maybe it’s time to shuffle Williams III back to the starting group and figure out how the rotation flows from there. Maybe that would be enough to jumpstart a slumping bench and help the starters get their swagger back.
Source: Yahoo Sports