The Boston Celtics have been cold as of late, having lost three of their last four games. And with the playoffs right around the corner, it’s not exactly the ideal time for them to be struggling. To make matters worse, their top rivals, the Milwaukee Bucks, are loading up with quality players.
“They’re one of the teams pissed that the [Chicago] Bulls let Goran Dragic go because now, with Jae Crowder, the Bucks just have all this depth at every spot,” an Eastern Conference executive told Sean Devensy of Heavy Sports. “If you go back to the Christmas game, the Celtics have always felt good about what they can do against Milwaukee. But now, Milwaukee has this extra layer of flexibility they can throw at the Celtics, a guy who can surprise you and play 20 or 25 minutes and help you win a game.”
And while the Celtics have an extremely deep roster, some of the end-of-the-bench players in Boston aren’t going to play the same number of minutes that guys like Dragic and Crowder are capable of playing.
“Boston is a lot more predictable,” the exec said. “They’re not going to play Luke Kornet for 20 minutes in a playoff game. But Dragic, he could be a game-changer at some point in the playoffs.”
All that being said, the Celtics are looking internally ahead of the playoffs. They need to fix the issues that have been plaguing their team as of late, as they are the same issues that have cursed Boston for the past few seasons.
“Mostly, the Celtics are worried about themselves,” said the executive. “They are their own worst enemy so many times—you saw it in the Finals last year. They’ve been playing that way a lot more lately, just not moving the ball, getting stuck in hero ball – all of that. That is their big problem, and they’re still not out of it.”
Marcus Smart Sends Strong Message to Celtics
During their recent three-game losing streak, Marcus Smart sent a strong message to his team, urging them to pick up the intensity levels.
“Just play harder. You know, we got to play harder,” Smart said via Abby Chin of NBC Sports Boston. “Teams are coming in here and out toughing us, you know, and that’s one thing we try to pride ourselves on. Especially early on in the season was, you know, being the tougher team, and right now we’re not and teams are coming in and out-toughing us. So, I feel fixing that will fix a lot of things. Having that tough mentality coming back in and, you know, throwing the first punch, and if you do get hit, hit back and get up and everything else will start kind of slowly coming back together.”
Jaylen Brown Puts Celtics on Notice
On top of that, Jaylen Brown sent a similar message, emphasizing that there are no moral victories anymore.
“In the midst of the storm, I think that was a valiant effort. But there’s no moral victories in this s***. Like, we gotta win games, period,” Brown said via NBC Sports Boston. “And I gotta be better at spots in overtime and through the game, I feel like I rushed some shots that I wish I could have back. But, overall, we just have to have a fighter’s mentality, and we gotta play to win.”