What’s wrong with the Celtics’ bench?

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(Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

“If everyone is healthy and playing up to their capabilities, I think we are the deepest team in the league.”
Austin Ainge to BostonSportsJournal.com, July 2018.


Most of the NBA world agreed with Ainge’s assessment about the Celtics before the start of the season. On nights like Thursday, when guys like Terry Rozier, Jaylen Brown, Gordon Hayward and Daniel Theis were matched up against Gerald Green, Austin Rivers, Nene and Daniel House, that is supposed to be a serious advantage for the Celtics bench.

Yet, it was that very unit that cost Boston the game on Thursday night as the Celtics fell 127-113 to the Rockets, surrendering a season-high for points in the process. The combo of Rozier/Brown/Hayward/Theis allowed 203 points per 100 possessions in their nine minutes of action (nearly double the team's season defensive rating), primarily against lineups that didn’t include James Harden (45 points). They were embarrassed by three league-minimum players and a veteran big in Nene who doesn’t have much left in the tank.

The Celtics are obviously a bit shorthanded right now without Aron Baynes (broken hand) and with Al Horford on a minutes limit, but they are far closer to full strength than the Rockets (no Chris Paul). However, as the C’s have moved the strong pieces of their bench (Marcus Smart, Marcus Morris) into the starting five, it has left the second unit vulnerable to nights like this as a group of inconsistent players try to hold down the fort with limited success while the top dogs rest. Let’s take a look at all the other players involved in this debacle while examining the big picture.

Daniel Theis (minus-27 in 18 minutes): He was the No. 1 culprit on this list tonight. Defensive rebounding has been an issue for him all year following his torn meniscus and that reared its head in this one (one board in 18 minutes). He really struggled