Boston Celtics: Takeaways from Loss to Spurs

The Boston Celtics found themselves trailing early (again) and could not rally against the San Antonio Spurs, falling 95-87 Sunday at the TD Garden. The Celtics (1-2) were down by as many as 15, but climbed to within four points after Avery Bradley hit a pair of free throws with 3:28 left. That, however, was as close as the Celtics could get to completing their comeback. Here are three takeaways from the Celtics’ second straight loss:

Defensive Savants

The Celtics shot the ball poorly for the second straight game, but remained within striking distance because of their defense. The team forced the Spurs to commit 18 turnovers. In addition, Jae Crowder and Marcus Smart accounted for 7 of 10 of Boston’s steals. Amir Johnson and Jared Sullinger defended San Antonio’s premiere big men as well as they could.

Sullinger got a bit exposed late in the fourth quarter when LaMarcus Aldridge made three straight shots over him. There was not much that he could do to alter Aldridge’s shot, so we’ll give Sullinger a pass. The Celtics can’t be too upset about their defense against one of the league’s best team.

The Rotations are Still Unclear

This was the third straight game Boston’s starters failed to set the tone with offense. The Celtics put up only 13 points on 26.1% shooting from the field in the first quarter, finding themselves behind by 10.   Eleven different players appeared in the game, and the Celts again got important contributions off the bench. Hopefully we will see new player combinations featured in the next game, on Wednesday, in Indiana. This leads me to . . .

The Frontcourt Disaster:

Three games are too soon to make any rash decisions, but it is enough time to be concerned about Boston’s under-producing frontcourt. Again, David Lee failed to find any semblance of offense, while Tyler Zeller found himself glued to the bench after six minutes of play.   After the game coach Brad Stevens did not reveal that he would make drastic changes much to the chagrin of impatient fans, proclaiming:

“I think the biggest thing is we’ve talked about the rotation, and there are certainly some challenges that come with that. But it’s going to continue to be who plays the best.”

As of right now Lee and Zeller do not put the Celtics in the best position to win. The good news is that Boston has other big men who are outperforming them, but that doesn’t mean Stevens will make any changes to the starting lineup yet.

Are their struggles something worth monitoring? Yes, but not to the point where Stevens has to hit the panic button.  That said, it might be wise for him to keep that button nearby because the Celtics’ offensive woes might not be over.