'Nip That in the Bud': Celtics Address End-of-Season Struggles

Apr 7, 2024; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Boston Celtics guard Jaylen Brown (7) shoots the ball vs. the Portland Trail Blazers.
Apr 7, 2024; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Boston Celtics guard Jaylen Brown (7) shoots the ball vs. the Portland Trail Blazers. / Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports

The Boston Celtics put together a dominant regular season, registering 62 wins, tied for the sixth most in franchise history. And while they're still playing out the string, they've accomplished everything they came for before the postseason, securing the NBA's best record and home-court advantage for the duration of their playoff run.

That's made it evident that beyond pacing players, experimenting, and not wanting to reveal too much to a potential postseason opponent, the Celtics aren't fully engaged at the moment.

Their last two tilts have come against the Milwaukee Bucks and New York Knicks, two teams fighting for playoff positioning, who have taken the court with a desperation Boston doesn't have.

That's translated to a double-digit loss in Milwaukee on Tuesday, in which the C's trailed by 20 at halftime. On Thursday night on their home parquet, the starters got pulled before the third quarter ended. The hosts entered the final frame trailing 100-71.

Apr 11, 2024; Boston, Massachusetts, USA;  New York Knicks guard Josh Hart (3) shoots the ball while defended by Kristaps Porzingis of the Boston Celtics.
Apr 11, 2024; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; New York Knicks guard Josh Hart (3) shoots the ball while defended by Kristaps Porzingis of the Boston Celtics. / Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

"I did not like the effort level in the first half," voiced Joe Mazzulla after Boston's second straight defeat. "But I think it's just a tough spot to be in. I think our guys have handled that as best as they could. We ran into our last two games against two teams that are highly, highly desperate. And as much as we want to be able to simulate that, that's just not the position that we're in."

The Celtics' bench put forth a commendable effort after tagging in for the first unit, keeping the crowd engaged as they whittled the deficit down to nine. However, while the 118-109 final score is a testament to Payton Pritchard, Sam Hauser, and Co. outplaying their competition, generating 38 points to the visitors' 18, the final tally is purely cosmetic.

"I actually don't mind the result of the last two games because I think it's important," said Mazzulla after losing to the Knicks. "Going in with a bunch of wins and feeling good about yourself isn't any better than having a little bit of a bloody lip because of a game. They've done the best they could over the course of this stretch."

The C's second-year head coach, who consistently preaches the importance of not overreacting to wins or losses, added, "I know the character of our guys. I know how our guys are. I'm not concerned about it by any means."

Kristaps Porzingis conveyed, "Maybe we'll get our (expletive) kicked again to start a series, and that will be a wake-up call for us. But I bet that we will show up."

After again struggling to combat the physicality of a foe jockeying for favorable playoff seeding, Jaylen Brown, also confident in Boston meeting the moment when the postseason arrives, expressed, "We just got out-toughed the last two games. We haven't played to our standard, returned the physicality, the game has shifted a little bit, and it's gonna shift even more in the playoffs, and we ain't meet the whistle for whatever reason. It could be 'cause of anticipation for the playoffs or whatever, but we gonna nip that in the bud."

Further Reading

Jrue Holiday on Celtics Extension: 'Try to Get More Banners, Get More Rings'

Aiming to Maximize Championship Window, Celtics Extend Jrue Holiday

Neemias Queta Inks New Deal with Celtics

Seldom-Used Celtics Reserve Showcasing Playoff Value

Jaylen Brown Shares What Latest Milestone Means to Him

Celtics Embracing Challenge to Go Beyond Most Talented

Jayson Tatum Opens Up About Sacrificing in Celtics' Title Pursuit: 'It's a Process'

Marcus Smart Shares How Boston Shaped Him, His Message to Celtics Fans

Celtics Maturation Molded by Experience: 'It Builds, Like, an Armor'

Joe Mazzulla Discusses Identity, Evolution of Celtics' Offense: 'Balance of Pace and Execution'


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Bobby Krivitsky

BOBBY KRIVITSKY

Bobby Krivitsky's experiences include covering the NBA as a credentialed reporter for Basketball Insiders. He's also a national sports talk host for SportsMap Radio, a network airing on 96 radio stations throughout the country. Additionally, he was a major-market host, update anchor, and producer for IMG Audio, and he worked for Bleacher Report as an NFL and NBA columnist.