The Boston Celtics succumbed to a 109-98 defeat at Philadelphia 76ers last night. The loss was the third time they have been beaten by the 76ers this season. The 76ers are indeed becoming the Celtics’ bogey team this season. The defeat also means they have now gone three consecutive games without a victory, the first time they have gone on such a barren run this season. Two of their recent losses have all come on the road.
For a team that once went on a 10-game winning streak at a point this season, the recent run of results will undoubtedly be worrying for both the team and the fans. However, they will find some bit of respite in the fact that they are still top of the Atlantic Division in the Eastern Conference and are still in contention to secure a playoff spot in their hunt for a first NBA championship since 2008, which will be an overall 18th NBA title for the sport’s most successful team. However, this opportunity looks to be fading out as they are gradually slipping in the Eastern Conference. From being on top of the Eastern Conference in the middle of the season, they have now dropped to third on the log.
We analyze their season so far and some of the factors behind their recent slump in the NBA.
Their Season So Far Under Review
After some impressive pre-season showings and big-name summer acquisitions, the Celtics headed into the season with a lot of optimism and confidence. Reality eventually set in as they were beaten 107-93 at Philadelphia 76ers in their first game of the season. It certainly proved to be a wake-up call as they bounced back from their opening day disappointment to secure a vital 112-106 victory over the reigning and defending Champions, Toronto Raptors. They would then go on to add nine additional wins. The tally of 10 victories in their first 11 games was a significant improvement of their seven wins at the same stage in the previous season.
The nature of those wins was the most impressive part of their early-season as they comfortably made light work of their opponents. These performances certainly made them one of the in-form teams in the NBA and propelled them to the top of the Eastern Conference. However, the impressive run came to a crashing end at the Sacramento Kings. The defeat came along with inconsistencies that have rapidly plagued their season since then. They only went on to win only one of their next three games after the game at Sacramento Kings. They have now lost four times in their last 10 NBA games. That is a downward trajectory in comparison to their start to the season.
Poor Performances from Key Players in Recent Games
From the beginning of the season, it was evident that the cohesion between key players in the Celtics team was the main factor behind the multiple wins the team had at the early stage of the season. The likes of summer Point Guard Kemba Walker who was a big-money summer acquisition from Charlotte Hornets and Small Forwards Gordon Hayward and Jayson Tatum have struggled a bit recently as compared to their explosive performances at the beginning of the season. For instance, Point Guard Kemba Walker has failed to 30 or more points in his last six games. He has also scored the highest points in a game for his team just once in their previous six games. He has also averaged 2.4 rebounds per game and 4.0 assists per game in Celtics’ last ten games. He has also averaged 0.4 blocks and 0.9 steals in those number of games which is entirely below his usual standards. He has also been below-par in all the games against Philadelphia 76ers this season. In all three games against the 76ers, he averaged just 1.7 rebounds, 4.3 assists, 0.3 blocks, and 0.3 steals. Walker has also averaged a mere 22.3 points per game in all three meetings versus the 76ers so far this season. He, along with his teammates must start replicating their early season performances and rescue the Celtics from slumping further down the tables of both the Atlantic Division and Eastern Conference.
Disappointing Away Defeats
Another issue that has affected the Celtics thus far has been their inability to win some of their essential games on the road. Eight of their 11 defeats this season have all come away from home. Those losses came twice at the 76ers. Other notable away losses have also come against Sacramento Kings, Los Angeles Clippers, Denver Nuggets, Brooklyn Nets, Indiana Pacers and Washington Wizards. These were games they, along with their fans, would have fancied to win. They cannot afford significant defeats on the road anymore, even though there are a lot of games remaining. Most of those remaining games will be away encounters, which could determine where they end up at the end of the regular season. Their next opponent will be the high-flying Milwaukee Bucks, and it will be intriguing to see how they fare in that game.
What is next for the Celtics?
The Celtics have three consecutive home games against the Pelicans, Bulls, and Pistons to prepare for. Victories in these three games could point them back in the right direction and end their current poor run.