The Celtics fell in disappointing fashion yet again on Monday night in Charlotte, succumbing to a dominant effort by Kemba Walker, who torched the visitors for 21 of his 43 points in the fourth quarter. The loss leaves Boston with six losses in their last nine games and on the verge of falling back to the .500 mark nearly 20 games into the regular season.
That’s a pretty worrisome situation to be for a team with aspirations to contend but it’s not exactly surprising given the struggles that this group has experienced up and down the roster. In the wake of starting lineup shift on Monday night, let’s take stock of a few areas of concern that keep cropping up.
1. Crunch-time lineups and Gordon Hayward: This was always going to be an issue of contention heading into this season given the talent on the roster. With eight guys that have played regularly at crunch time in the past two seasons (when healthy), there is going to be a whole lot of choices for Brad Stevens to make on a nightly basis. With nearly a fifth of the year in the books, he’s failed to find a unit that he can rely on consistently, which is not a surprise given the team’s 9-8 record. Smart plays late on nights the team needs to slow down an explosive guard. Morris got a chance against Kawhi Leonard on Friday night. Gordon Hayward has been in the mix fully since he had his minutes limit lifted last week.
While there is a fine balance between wanting to give a former All-Star the reps he needs to regain his rhythm and confidence, Hayward seems to be playing by different rules than a lot of his younger teammates when it comes to crunch time. While others have been benched after struggling on the offensive end in games, Stevens has given Hayward more slack and stuck with him through his shooting woes.
A great example of this was Monday night against the Hornets.