Boston Celtics: Dreadful shooting night costs team antoher winnable matchup

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - JANUARY 30: Kemba Walker #8 of the Boston Celtics looks on during the first half against the Los Angeles Lakers at TD Garden on January 30, 2021 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - JANUARY 30: Kemba Walker #8 of the Boston Celtics looks on during the first half against the Los Angeles Lakers at TD Garden on January 30, 2021 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images) /

On Super Bowl Sunday, an early tip-off in Phoenix was anything but super for the Boston Celtics. The Celtics fell short in another game that was completely winnable as far as they’ll be concerned. The Suns are far from an easy matchup, and it was going to be an even tougher fixture with Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart remaining sidelined, but there was no bite for the Celtics in a game where they struggled against Phoenix’s physicality.

The Celtics surprisingly ended the night 38.6 percent as a team from 3-point range. This was pretty much where all their offense came from, as they trembled in the presence of Phoenix’s size on the interior. Going up against a team that has a figure like Deandre Ayton at the center spot is always going to be hard when you don’t have an offensively dominant big of your own. Ayton made it difficult for the Celtics to get anything going in the lane, as Boston managed a mere 26 paint points and shot 32.6 percent inside the arc.

Shooting costs the Boston Celtics dearly against the Phoenix Suns

It was always going to be a tougher night than the Celtics would’ve liked on the defensive end. The Suns’ backcourt pairing of future Hall of Famer Chris Paul and the phenom that is Devin Booker didn’t have major statistical nights. But, Devin did a bit of everything on that end with 18 points and 11 assists, whilst CP3 got to his mid-range shot with ease when he wanted to. Without Brown and Smart, you’re not going to have fun going against a team that has as much wing depth as Phoenix does. Mikal Bridges saw himself drop 19 points on 8-of-13 shooting, whilst Cameron Johnson added 17 points, which included four 3-point makes off of the Suns’ bench.

Although the Boston Celtics defense gave up many easy looks, especially early on in the game, they did do a pretty good job when you consider all these factors. The Suns’ offense isn’t one of the best in the league, but it can be a dangerous one. The Celtics holding them to 100 points on the night should’ve been enough to come away with the win in this one.

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It was Kemba Walker’s torrid shooting night that made a big difference to the outcome. If Kemba had just a bit more of an efficient night then the Celtics could’ve been in this one until the final seconds at least. The Celtics as a whole struggled with Ayton and Phoenix’s size, but none more than Kemba. He had a 4-of-20 shooting night, making none of his nine 2-point attempts. He’s used to using the pick-and-roll to his advantage and getting looks both outside and from mid-range, but these didn’t come easy in Phoenix. With Brown and Tatum on the floor, he won’t need to take as many shots, but his efficiency needs to get back to what it was last season to help this Celtics offense push on.

Jayson Tatum had far from his best shooting night too. He got his 22 shots off, managing just the eight makes. The positives on this end of the floor come from Daniel Theis, Payton Pritchard, and Jeff Teague who all combined for 34 off of the Celtics bench. Theis had a solid night, Pritchard is finding his groove after coming back from an injury, whilst also playing good defense, and Teague had the shooting night he needed after going 0-of-4 against the Clippers.

The Celtics now hold a record of 12-10. There are 10 teams in the Eastern Conference who possess a record that is below .500, so it’s not like the Celtics are completely dropping off. They’ve had some tough runs, but to be fourth in the standings right now is a bit of a blessing. Everyone’s had their troubles this season, even Brooklyn’s super team is 14-11.

We’re not even a third of the way through the season, which gives the Boston Celtics plenty of time to correct themselves on both ends of the floor. They need to build on the intensity until Brown and Smart get themselves back onto the court so that they’re ready to go when they’re at 100 percent and carry it on consistently, not just for stretches.

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