Celtics Playoff Push Is Up In The Balance

By: James Macey

The Boston Celtics season has been all over the place this season. The talent on this roster runs deep, but they’ve run into some problems along the way. Luckily for the C’s they find themselves tied for 4th in a rather weak Eastern Conference. The real question we should all focus on is: How deep will their playoff push be?

Kyrie Irving is a problem:

Boston will only go as far as Kyrie Irving takes them. One thing that is of concern heading into the postseason is  Irving’s isolation play. Nearly 85% of the time the ball is glued to his hands, creating an easy target for defenses to fall back on. He may average 7.1 apg, but the ball can be moved around a lot more than it has been recently. Those 18 shots a game that Irving creates come off at least five dribbles, running through screens, and dribbling through defenders. Besides his poor 39% three-point percentage, Irving gets most of his buckets from the paint where he continuously overworks himself every possession down the court. Most plays he doesn’t even give a man a look because once he’s on the break nine times out of 10, he’s taking it to the basket.

In the beginning of the season it seemed like everything was running smoothly with Irving confirming his allegiance to the organization. He’s been very real with the media more so this season than ever. When you announce nationally that you don’t think your teammates “don’t know how to win” or say “ask me July 1st” when asked about free agency that only hinders the team’s success from a far. I honestly believe that this playoff push will dictate Irving’s future, but he doesn’t spread the wealth and be a leader then this team could be eliminated by an Indiana Pacers team without Victor Oladipo.

Given Boston’s reputation of withholding that blue-collar mentality, the ongoing Irving issue concerns me. Flashback to the Paul Pierce and KG days where the term ‘unbuntu’ was often used in the locker room. Unbuntu displays human virtues, compassion, and humanity. Every man 1-12 was valued back in 2008 and no one man was greater than the team. Given this season I don’t see that at all. Irving has been creating tension with rumors of his loyalty to the organization, and a video that went viral of him talking to Kevin Durant in what seems to be a pretty obvious notion for him departing to New York. Irving is a problem and I only see it getting worse heading into the playoffs. Bottom of the line is, bringing a guy like Irving in meant that a huge risk would be taken. It is ruining tradition, and the culture of Celtics basketball.

The X-Factor Jayson Tatum:

When it comes to Boston fans we are hard on our players and one player that has been criticized over and over again is Jayson Tatum. From last to this season he’s been stagnant with his play.  He gets to his spots, but is either too high off of the screen, or he waits for the defender to collapse on him, but one thing to note is that he is capable of taking over a game where we saw glimpses of that early in the season. Tatum is a blue-collar kid who respects authority and plays within Brad Steven’s system, which isn’t a bad thing, but at times he still gives up shots. If Tatum becomes more aggressive on the offensive end we might see a different Celtics team than we are used to.

On the contrary, Tatum’s great rookie season is the biggest reason of his criticism. He played with a chip on his shoulder and thus presented him with no expectations. Being compared to Larry Bird and Paul Pierce two games into his first season is a lot to take in. To hold a player up on a pedestal that early, comes with a lot of built up pressure. It is obvious that Danny Ainge wants to build off of him for the future, but with Irving at the helm it’s pushing Tatum back from branching out.

Terry Rozier needs more play time: 

I see a lot of potential in Rozier and he provides sufficient energy off the bench for this team. The only problem he faces is seeing the court. Whenever he’s on the court good things happen; whether it comes from a bucket, good defensive play, or a pocket pass; Rozier always produces for this ball club. He can make a 10 point lead turn into a 20 point lead in two minutes. Playing both sides of the ball efficiently, he has established himself as a threat. I don’t know what Stevens is doing, but Rozier has seen a drop in minutes and point production since being restricted of minutes. Maybe they don’t believe in him, or they rely so much on Irving that Rozier is being kicked to the curb.

2017-18: 11.3 ppg, 2.9 apg, 4.7 rpg

2018-19: 9.0 ppg, 3.0 apg, 3.9 rpg

-2.3 points, +.1 assist, -.8 rebounds

I’m a huge advocate for ‘numbers don’t lie’ and although these numbers don’t scream at you, they should speak to you.

Overall, I think the Celtics have a lot of talent that they don’t know what with. We’ve seen Hayward take on a bench role, Irving consumes headlines, and let teams run all over them. Playoff basketball consists of a team, not the individual. I’ve seen a bunch of individuals suiting up lately. 2-5 in their last seven games, losing to playoff teams like the Sixers, Nets, Spurs, and Nuggets is disappointing. This is the time to be playing the best basketball, but they’ve been in a rut these past two months shifting two spots in the standings. The common denominator is causing all the problems is Irving. It’s all adding up and only time will tell what the future has in store this playoff season

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