After being close to reaching the NBA Finals last season, the Boston Celtics were expected to take over the Eastern Conference this season. In addition to high expectations, all-star Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward are healthy, making the Celtics more of a threat. Fast forward to the NBA All-Star Break, the Celtics are 37-21, which places them as the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference. While being 6.5 games out of first place, they are solid on both sides of the ball. However, the Celtics are below the bar that has been set. What are the reasons behind this? Can they be solved? Let’s explore what has been ailing the Boston Celtics.
Unlucky Start: What is Wrong with the Boston Celtics?
Every great team has one or two players who are the undisputed leaders of the team. The leaders are able to rally the team together through the rough times over a long season. The Celtics do not have strong leadership. Irving is supposed to be the leader. He emphasized leadership as the reason he decided to leave the Cleveland Cavaliers. Irving is still learning how to be a leader but the point guard’s frustrations have leaked into the locker room.
In order for the Celtics to climb higher, Irving has be stronger mentally. He must learn how to deal with external pressures. Fortunately, the Celtics have righted the ship in the calendar year and Irving’s play is the reason. Unfortunately, the injury bug has followed Irving again. Someone has to step up in his absence.
Chemistry & Expectations
Losing Hayward after five minutes of last season’s opener and Irving before the playoffs accelerated the chemistry of the young players. They played well throughout their playoff stint. With Irving and Hayward back full time, the Celtics had to recreate their chemistry. It makes sense that they needed time to figure out a solid rotation and redefine roles. Also, the Celtics have not fared well in the white-hot spotlight.
They had a difficult time meeting the world’s expectations Hayward has been affected the most. He has yet to return to the player he was a couple of years ago. Currently, Hayward averages only 11.2 points per game and shoots 43.8% from the field. If Hayward can increase those two areas, the Celtics will be a dangerous team and possibly become the new champions.
Record Against Tough Competition
Great teams excel past competitive teams. The Celtics, so far, have been a bit inconsistent against playoff-caliber teams. At the All-Star Break, the Celtics are 15-14 against teams currently holding playoff seeds. That record must improve. After the break, 13 out of their next 20 games are against teams with a winning record; including 12 games against teams in the currently in the playoff picture. The Celtics must rise to the occasion.
As mentioned before, the Celtics have the fourth seed in the East. If they are not careful, the Celtics could fall to the fifth seed. Meaning they will not have the coveted home-court advantage in the first round. Things are trending upward for the Celtics as they have played much better recently; winning seven out of their last 10 games. They have the talent to beat any team in the NBA. The Celtics should finish in at least third place at season’s end.