Boston Celtics: Was a blowout loss to the Knicks a sign of things to come?

Are the Boston Celtics in trouble?

The Boston Celtics suffering a 30-point loss to the New York Knicks this year is not quite as bad as past seasons being that the Knicks actually look like a competent team this season under head coach Tom Thibodeau.

A 30-point loss is still a 30-point loss; it’s demoralizing, embarrassing, and frankly it’s concerning. The Celtics sit at 8-4 as a second seed in the Eastern Conference, which sounds fine but I’m not sold that that is where they will end up come the end of this season.

This season more than others, health is one of the biggest advantages that determine the success of a team. With health and safety protocols, the impact of COVID-19, and your standard nagging injuries, the best ability is availability.

The Celtics were feeling the effects of the pandemic with their young star Jayson Tatum missing yet another game. The Celtics have been without the 27-point per game scorer since January 8th. Boston’s injuries add up with the return of Kemba Walker.

Kemba had been nursing an injury all season and made his season debut on Sunday against the Knicks. Only to leave with another apparent injury towards the end of the third quarter after having a nine-point, four-assist performance, which by Kemba’s standards is very below average.

The Celtics shot under 30 percent from the field, and 15 percent from the 3-point line on 46 attempts. In the NBA, if those are your field goal percentages, you’re not going to win. Head coach Brad Stevens played 13 players and shuffled the lineup in a variety of ways but just could not get the Celtics any momentum.

Out of the 13 who played for Boston, only two scored in double-figures; Marcus Smart and Jaylen Brown, who both shot below 50 percent from the field. The Knicks outrebounded the Celtics by 10 and assisted on more baskets than the Celtics did as well. Take all those factors and you have a homemade recipe for a 30-point loss at home.

Some may not put this much stock into a regular-season game but here’s the case on why it’s cause for concern moving forward.

This year there aren’t 82 games. A 72-game season means each game weighs just a little bit more than usual. You hear about teams who can “turn it on” come winning time, and I don’t believe the Celtics are that type of team. Even if they were, with 10 fewer games, there is less time and overall games to sort of “get in playoff mode.”

I don’t think many teams have that luxury but even more so this season with the effects of the pandemic being thrown in. It’s tougher to stay healthy this year, and those who can’t will get passed by those who can. And so far, the Celtics have struggled to stay healthy, whether it is the health and safety protocols or injuries like the one Kemba suffered while playing.

A shorter schedule and injuries are playing a part in the Celtics season this year but another reason they’re in trouble is their roster. Let’s face it, they’re worse. Losing Gordon Hayward to free agency hurt them a lot. Not getting an asset back for him is very unfortunate for Boston. Although the Celtics may not have gotten the production that Hayward is giving Charlotte as he is playing out of his mind this season.

Hayward is averaging 22 points per game, a five-point increase from last season. If the Celtics could get 18-20 points per game from Hayward this team would be much deeper and dangerous this season. Unfortunately, they have to rely on rookies like Aaron Nesmith, and players such as Grant Williams and Semi Ojeleye. Which are fine NBA players but the Celtics need them to be better than have proven they can be.

For this season I see the Celtics struggling, winning fewer games than anticipated, and getting a 6-8 seed heading into the playoffs. Which of course likely means a first-round exit, unless they can stay healthy and get their role players to go Eddie House mode as he did in the 2008 playoffs for the Celtics.

The Celtics currently sit at 8-4 on the season with their next two games being in Philadelphia against the Sixers. I see 8-6 in their future unless they can grind out a win or two. A statement win or a bounce-back game could be the only thing they need to get some pep in their step. I just don’t see it