The expectation is high for the Boston Celtics in the 2018-19 NBA season, especially after they made it to the Eastern Conference Finals 2018 and forced a Game 7 against LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers despite not having Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward on their roster. The return of Irving and Hayward to join Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, and Al Horford in the starting lineup made most people believe that the Celtics were the No. 1 team in the Eastern Conference and had a real chance of beating the reigning NBA champion Golden State Warriors in a best-of-seven series.
Unfortunately, since the 2018-19 NBA season started, the Celtics have failed to live up to expectations from the team that was supposed to be the best in the Eastern Conference. Celtics’ young players like Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, and Terry Rozier are noticeably having a hard time adjusting to their new roles, while Gordon Hayward is yet to regain his All-Star form.
In the past two games, the Celtics are playing without some of their core players, including Kyrie Irving. However, instead of struggling, the Celtics managed to perform better and defeated the Minnesota Timberwolves and the Dallas Mavericks. In an interview with Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald, Celtics Head Coach Brad Stevens gave the credits for their recent victories to their players who took the “opportunity” to excel in the absence of some of their starters.
“I think you see that everywhere. You see that at the end of the season, especially when teams have a bunch of guys out. You saw that last year here in the playoffs. When you know your time on the court is unlimited until you wear out, it’s an easier way to play. And that’s why I think it’s so important for us as coaches and everybody around to understand the guys that are playing less or playing more sporadically. That’s really hard to do to be as effective as you are when you are getting unlimited opportunity.”
— Tom Westerholm (@Tom_NBA) January 2, 2019
With Kyrie Irving still recovering from an eye injury, players like Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and Gordon Hayward stepped up after getting an increased role on the offensive end of the floor. Terry Rozier looked better in the Celtics’ starting lineup than serving as a backup point guard. The Celtics undeniably have one of the most talented rosters in the league, but Coach Brad Stevens admitted that they are still trying to figure out how to maximize the effectiveness of the players on their team.
Kyrie Irving is expected to rejoin the Celtics soon, while Marcus Morris’ status for their upcoming game remains questionable. Aside from Irving and Morris, the Celtics also played their recent games without Robert Williams (left groin) and Aron Baynes (left-hand fracture).