The Celtics have now lost six of their last eight games after dropping a four-point contest to the Suns on Saturday night at the TD Garden. Four of those six defeats in the past two weeks have come against sub .500 teams. There are a number of built-in excuses (tough schedule, injuries) but the Celtics are no longer finding a way to win games when they are down some key manpower and that wasn't true in the opening two months of the year. This is a group right now that has Brad Stevens throwing darts at the wall with lineups, cycling through a host of different personnel while playing gimmick defenses at times to try to stop top talent, such as the box-and-1 used on Devin Booker Saturday night amid a 39-point explosion.
The Celtics couldn’t stop Booker or any of the Suns' key supporting pieces on Saturday as DeAndre Ayton scored 26 points and Mikal Bridges each posted 26 points each.
“We’re kind of in a stretch of guys that haven’t shot the highest percentage in the world that have shot really well against us,” Stevens said. “In the first half we missed him on a couple of opportunities that were system mistakes, and in the second half they did a good job of playing out of the trap with Booker, because he was killing us. We played a little bit of a zone. We were going to take our chances with other guys – Saric and Bridges hit a couple of big ones when we cut it to five.”
With the caveat that the C’s have not been at full strength, the slumping has reached a level now where it is worth taking a big picture view of what’s going on with this group. What’s costing this team games? Can it be fixed internally? Has a hot start to the season faded for good? Let’s explore four areas of concern for this group over an ugly past few weeks.
1. No one besides Marcus Smart is hitting 3s routinely: The sixth-year guard managed to bump his 3-point shooting