The Celtics simply misplaced their 4th straight recreation, there was extra in-fighting throughout a timeout, and instantly, they’re 2.5 video games again of the 76ers for the 4th spot within the East. That’s not insurmountable with 20 video games left, particularly with two left towards the Pacers and one towards the 76ers.
However an issue is rising that I had not beforehand thought of. Because the basketball world waits for the Celtics to “determine it out” – and the way might they not, with a Prime three coach and the very best roster within the East? – there’s a definite chance that they received’t.
I do consider Brad Stevens is a Prime three coach within the NBA, however all through his profession at Butler, and even in Boston, he’s at all times thrived as an underdog. For the primary time in his profession, there are legit expectations, and a Stevens-led group is struggling.
In school, Butler was by no means anticipated to make the NCAA title recreation, and so they practically beat Duke.
The subsequent yr, after Gordon Hayward left for the NBA, regression was anticipated at Butler … and Stevens astonishingly acquired the Bulldogs again to the title recreation.
In Boston, Stevens was dealt a foul hand, and received 25 video games in yr one, however snuck into the playoffs in yr two with a 40-42 document. LeBron swept them.
In 12 months three, Stevens received 48 video games, led by a diminutive level guard who was as soon as the final decide within the draft, Isaiah Thomas. They had been bounced within the first spherical once more. No person criticized Stevens, understandably, as a result of he didn’t have any elite gamers.
The subsequent yr, Stevens overachieved as soon as once more, profitable 53 video games and snagging the #1 seed within the East behind a rag-tag group led by Al Horford. No person anticipated them to truly get to the Finals, and LeBron and the Cavs stomped them, Four-1 within the ECF. All 4 Cavs wins had been by double figures, together with beatdowns by 46 and 33 in Boston.
Then the Celtics signed for Hayward, then traded for Kyrie Irving, and naturally, expectations had been heaped on Boston. Between including two All-Stars and choosing Jayson Tatum third in draft, Stevens had by no means had extra expertise on a roster earlier than.
Then Hayward was misplaced to a grotesque damage within the first quarter of the primary recreation of the season. And in March, Irving was sidelined because of a knee damage that required surgical procedure. As soon as once more – there have been no playoff expectations for the Celtics.
Stevens, who thrives within the function of an underdog, misplaced to LeBron in Recreation 7 of the Japanese Convention Finals.
To hammer residence the expectations level: Boston was purported to win 60+ video games this yr. I assumed 65 was attainable. However juggling three All-Stars, a 2nd yr participant on a path to stardom, and function gamers who helped them get to recreation seven final yr – Marcus Morris, Terry Rozier, Marcus Good – and Boston has struggled.
Two methods to take a look at this: First, the struggles of dealing with all of the egos – mainly Irving, who’s a free agent in just a few months – and the burden of expectations is just too a lot for Stevens, who can’t get a grip on his group. There’s a egocentric feeling at instances watching Boston, although the Celtics are sixth in assists per recreation. That’s the pessimistic model.
The optimistic one? They’re Prime 10 in offensive effectivity (ninth) and defensive effectivity (fifth). The one different groups that may declare which are Philadelphia, Toronto, and Milwaukee. And perhaps, now that Boston has misplaced 4 in a row and all people is unloading their inventory and shopping for the Raptors, the Bucks, the loaded 76ers … expectations for Boston within the playoffs shall be low. Proper the place Brad Stevens needs them.