The Celtics simply misplaced their 4th straight sport, there was extra in-fighting throughout a timeout, and immediately, 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-about. Because the basketball world waits for the Celtics to “determine it out” – and the way might they not, with a High three coach and the perfect roster within the East? – there’s a definite chance that they gained’t.
I do consider Brad Stevens is a High 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 sport, they usually practically beat Duke.
The subsequent yr, after Gordon Hayward left for the NBA, regression was anticipated at Butler … and Stevens astonishingly received the Bulldogs again to the title sport.
In Boston, Stevens was dealt a foul hand, and gained 25 video games in yr one, however snuck into the playoffs in yr two with a 40-42 document. LeBron swept them.
In Yr three, Stevens gained 48 video games, led by a diminutive level guard who was as soon as the final choose within the draft, Isaiah Thomas. They have been bounced within the first spherical once more. No one 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 one anticipated them to really get to the Finals, and LeBron and the Cavs stomped them, Four-1 within the ECF. All 4 Cavs wins have 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 have been heaped on Boston. Between including two All-Stars and deciding on 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 harm within the first quarter of the primary sport of the season. And in March, Irving was sidelined attributable to a knee harm 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 Jap Convention Finals.
To hammer residence the expectations level: Boston was imagined to win 60+ video games this yr. I assumed 65 was doable. However juggling three All-Stars, a 2nd yr participant on a path to stardom, and function gamers who helped them get to sport 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 a number of 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 occasions watching Boston, regardless that the Celtics are sixth in assists per sport. That’s the pessimistic model.
The optimistic one? They’re High 10 in offensive effectivity (ninth) and defensive effectivity (fifth). The one different groups that may declare which can be 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 will probably be low. Proper the place Brad Stevens needs them.