Defensive fortitude has been a staple for the Boston Celtics under head coach Brad Stevens. Since 2017, the Cs have ranked sixth, fourth and second in defensive rating across the NBA, respectively. However, this season their defensive rating rank has plummeted to 18th. On Wednesday — albeit shorthanded (a regularity this season) — the Celtics once again struggled on the defensive end, getting blown out by the hapless Cleveland Cavaliers and their league’s worst-ranked offense over the final 12 minutes of play.
The Celtics’ defensive shortcomings had 32-year-old Kevin Love looking like prime Minnesota Timberwolves Kevin Love on the night. The five-time All-Star more than doubled his points per game average, dropping 30 points on 6-of-9 from beyond the arc, helping the Cavs snap an 11-game skid while hand-delivering the Celtics an appearance in the play-in tournament.
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Brad Stevens Sounds Off on Celtics’ Lackluster Defense
Following the loss to Cleveland, Stevens shared a no-holds-barred take on his disappointment with this year’s Celtics team — namely their efforts on the defensive end.
“That’s probably the most disappointing thing to me about our season,” Stevens told reporters. “It hasn’t been anything more than just we could be better defensively. We could be more physical defensively. We could be more connected defensively. And if we lose guys for any given amount of time, we should be able to still defend, and this team hasn’t been.”
As touched on above, the Celtics were down four starters on the night (Kemba Walker, Robert Williams, Marcus Smart and Jaylen Brown). The limited arsenal certainly played a hand in Stevens opting to dig deep into his bench. Yet, as the head coach noted, the youngsters on the roster need more reps as they will be leaned on down the stretch with an ever-growing ailing lineup.
“You’re looking for guys that will separate themselves just by doing their jobs hard and well and reliably on that end of the court, because that’s what we’re gonna need,” Stevens said. “We have not been consistent in that regard, and it’s one of the reasons we’re where we are.”
Is Stevens Done in Boston?
It’s a common question amongst Celtics faithful throughout this dreadful campaign. While Hall of Famer Charles Barkley may have not called for Stevens’ job, he does believe it’s time to start placing blame on the coach’s shoulders.
“Brad Stevens got to get some blame for it too because when they were winning we were patting him on the back, now we got to kick him in the ass,” Barkley said on ESPN Radio’s Keyshawn, JWill & Zubin, while also putting blame on GM Danny Ainge. “That’s not personal, that’s just how this business works now.”
Interestingly enough, while some may believe Stevens could be headed out the door, ESPN’s Jackie MacMullan expects a polar opposite outcome. The longtime NBA writer believes that Stevens will not only remain in Beantown, but that he’ll also be given even more power and say in roster construction.
“I really do,” MacMullan told NBC Sports Boston. “Because I don’t know if everybody remembers, they signed Brad Stevens to an extension in August of last summer.”
“I think he’s going to get a chance to come back because, again, I mentioned the COVID issues, the injury issues,” she added.
Jackie MacMullan explains why she expects Brad Stevens will not only return to the Celtics next season, but will have a larger role in building the roster as well 🍀 pic.twitter.com/xwmfH2bTo3
— Celtics on NBC Sports Boston (@NBCSCeltics) May 11, 2021