The Boston Celtics lost a messy game to the Sacramento Kings on Wednesday, dropping 116-111 after an almost costly shot clock failure, a deliberately missed free throw that nearly succeeded, and another late lead.
Five takeaways when the Celtics came short-handed … short.
The Celtics’ fourth quarter problems are somewhat similar to the pattern.
In theory, the Celtics should be a very good fourth-quarter team. Jason Tatum is a killer. Jaylen Brown was blown by defenders. Not only has Kimba Walker completely shed his rust (and he didn’t play on Wednesday), but he also has a history of excelling in late.
So why would the Celtics team continue to make progress in the fourth quarter? On Wednesday, Dyaron Fox scored again and again, Hassan whiteside Boston was punished by his size, and it looked like the Celtics’ attack was exploding in a frame. On the second night of a straight match without Kimba Walker or Marcus Smart (or Payton Pritchard), perhaps Brad Stevens’ lack of interest after the match made sense.
“I thought our guys put in a really good effort,” said Stevens. “We fought for stopping points late, but in the last two quarters they have played a lot of tough games.”
Finding Tristan Thompson introduced him is a powerful sign.
Thompson’s appearance over the past few matches has been an encouraging sign for the Celtics. On Wednesday, Thompson finished with 17 points in a 7-to-9 shot.
Thompson won’t be required to do a lot of offensive attacks – just finish push-ups and scoring paint when defenders focus on Boston’s pick-and-roll stars. The Celtics also have other big players if Thompson didn’t contribute – despite his success, he didn’t play in the fourth quarter (Stevens said he liked what Rob Williams brought to the table).
But judging Thompson in the first quarter of his season – into a new team for the first time, and adapting to new teammates – may not have been reasonable. Offensively, Thompson offers some value if he forces defenses to think twice.
Harrison Barnes has sparked much speculation.
During the NBC Sports Boston broadcast, Kings striker Harrison Barnes is fight on a large scale as a potential commercial target for the Celtics. A large winger who can defend multiple locations, Barnes has championship lineage and will provide a steady and veteran two-way presence
Barnes was a popular name among fans. The Celtics will need to attach some paycheck to any compensation as a draft since they face strict restrictions, but excluding the rolling player will help a little.
Could it happen? Can. It will? Who do you know. Fake trades are hard to predict since real trades are incredibly difficult to execute in the NBA, and almost any amount of speculation ends up returning to the same 4-5 players. Barnes makes sense to the Celtics, but betting on the field is always a good call when evaluating specific goals.
The Celtics struggled without Jason Tatum.
As expected, the Celtics fought without Jason Tatum in the match. Jaylen Brown has been a superstar this season, but his minutes were even better when he merged with Marcus Smart (apparently Outside for some time). When Tatum was knocked out on Wednesday, the Celtics’ attack appeared rough. When he was inside, crime was more tenable.
Interestingly, the Celtics did poorly without Tatum even though Tatum shot poorly most of the match (27 points, 11 versus 26 shots). Part of the Celtics’ struggles was the bad point guard position (more on that in a minute), which forced Tatum to use him for most of the match as a secondary coach of the ball – in addition to being the primary scorer. But the Celtics team really needs a lot of other contributors.
Who plays the spare point guard when Payton Pritchard returns?
Jeff Teague finished seven points on a 1-6 shot from the field. Just plugging it into a beginner didn’t do much for Boston on both ends – in theory, Teague should provide spacing but the defenses don’t respect its 36 percent release in paint and restricted area, so it doesn’t effectively collapse.
Tremont Waters, meanwhile, were terrifyingly performing – three points, 1 vs 8 from the floor. His choice to pay has been in question at times this year, as if he’s struggling to adapt from being a G-League nominee Rookie of the Year / MVP to a potential NBA contributor.
Payton Pritchard may soon be back from twisting his knee. When he does, he is supposed to be limited in minutes, but an argument can be made for him to take on the role of secondary guard behind Kemba Walker. Tige’s constant attacking fights are less than encouraging, and Pritchard is a troublesome defender.
In any case, the Celtics team will welcome every health they can get. Short-handed play on the second night of a game in a row seemed like a struggle.
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