By Matthew Geagan, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — It’s just not worth getting frustrated by the Boston Celtics on a nightly basis. This season has been a true roller coaster of emotions, and that will likely continue the rest of the way.READ MORE: 800 Nurses At Saint Vincent Hospital In Worcester Go On Strike
As most have come to realize throughout the ups and downs and dips and loops of the first 28 games, the Celtics are just not a very good team. They’re pretty solid on some nights, they’ve shown some fleeting flashes of greatness on others, but they’ve been downright dreadful far too many times. In Wednesday night’s loss to the Atlanta Hawks, they were somewhere in between — not quite dreadful, but nowhere near good enough to beat an 11-win team.
Most of that good juju from Tuesday night’s win over the Nuggets is now forgotten, as the Celtics dipped back to .500 on the season with a 122-111 loss to the Hawks. Where the Celtics let Nikola Jokic go off for 43 points in their win over the Nuggets, they had absolutely no answer for Trae Young on the defensive end Wednesday night. The explosive guard hit just about every shot he put up, even a few from way the heck out there, and the Celtics couldn’t do anything about it. It didn’t matter who Brad Stevens put on Young, the sharpshooter was draining shots. He score 40 points on just 20 shots.
Had it just been Young going off, maybe the Celtics could have escaped with a win. But Boston couldn’t do anything in the paint, either, as Atlanta scored nearly half of its points (60 to be exact) under the basket. Clint Capela bodied his way to a 24-point, 13-rebound smackdown, and John Collins added another 20 points. There were times when a blade of grass would have provided more resistance than Tristan Thompson. The Hawks shot a season-best 57 percent on the night.READ MORE: Harry And Meghan Detail Royal Struggles, From Discussions Of Baby's Skin Tone To Suicidal Thoughts
Mix in some more abhorrent transition defense, and the Celtics had no real shot. They kept it relatively close and were able to get within four points late in the game, but untimely (and unforced) turnovers ended any shot at a comeback.
“We’re not as connected as we have been in past years,” Jaylen Brown said after the game. “We’re not as physical as we were in past years. But this is a unique year and we have a unique team; a new team, a young team. We’re trying to fit the pieces together. We’ve won a lot of games and played tremendous against some good teams, and against other teams we haven’t. We just have to find some consistency. I know it’s probably tough to watch; [heck] it’s tough to play. I think there is a lot to learn and improve on moving forward.”
Brown was an absolute beast against the Nuggets, but he was off against the Hawks. He started cold and finished just 6-for-20, ending the night with a respectable 22 points thanks to a second-half outburst. Jayson Tatum looked much better than he did Tuesday and dropped a team-high 35 points on 11-for-21 shooting, but the Celtics once again showed that if their top two players aren’t feeling it, the team has little chance at pulling out a win.
It was a bad loss no doubt, but the Celtics at least showed some fight, unlike their recent disheartening losses to the Pistons and Wizards. And if you want a few excuses that will make you feel better about Boston dropping another game to a bad team, there are a few to fall back on. It was the second leg of a back-to-back, and the Celtics were down three starters in Kemba Walker (maintenance), Daniel Theis (finger) and Marcus Smart (still out with his calf injury). There’s zero doubt in anyone’s mind that Young would have had a much tougher time dropping his 40 points on Boston if Smart was out there bullying him, and Theis would have provided a little more resistance in the paint.MORE NEWS: Coronavirus In Massachusetts: Today's Developments
But the Celtics used to be a team that thrived in the face of adversity. Now they just sorta shrug at it. Until they bring that determination to win every night, no matter the odds against or for them, they’ll remain a middling team that takes us all for a ride — and not a very fun one at that.