OLYNYK’S BIG NIGHT
Kelly Olynyk’s career-high 32 points on Wednesday night marked yet another instance where Boston couldn’t handle one of their former teammates this season. Stevens brought up the team’s recent ineptitude when facing off against former Celtics following their 90-89 loss to Miami:
“He [Olynyk] played a great game…It was definitely at our expense. Second time in a week one of our former players came in here and just gave it to us” –Brad Stevens following Wednesday night’s loss.
The Celtics have recently begun to show signs of concern on the defensive side of the ball. Lack-luster defensive efforts during the month of December have exposed Brad Stevens’ group. Boston has allowed seven 100-plus point games in their eleven contests this month.
Break-downs on defense have wavered fans’ confidence in this Celtics group. Despite recent struggles, they remain tied for first in the league for team defensive rating. The team’s current struggles may be over-stated when considering their whole body of work this year, but there has been one constant. This year, revenge games may be this team’s Achilles’s heel.
When Danny Ainge decided to ship out Isaiah Thomas and the rest of what seemed to be a temporary core for the green team, he was confident in his decisions. It is hard to argue with Ainge’s confidence as his new roster has spent almost the entirety of this season atop the Eastern Conference standings. However, what Ainge and company may not have foreseen was most of the players shipped out last summer coming back and taking revenge on the league’s best defense.
DOES BOSTON HAVE A FORMER PLAYER PROBLEM?
Olynyk’s 32 points are only the most recent example of former players getting up for their return to Boston this year. Piling on top of Olynyk’s career numbers Wednesday night was his teammate, and former Celtic, Jordan Mickey. The 2015 second round draft pick added eight points, eight rebounds and 2 assists in the victory over the Celts.
Just five days earlier, Jonas Jerebko made his return to the TD Garden with Gordon Hayward’s former squad, the Utah Jazz. On a night where no one expected more than a respectful applause upon Jerebko’s first check into the game, the big Swede proceeded to drop 17 points while adding seven boards and two steals. Two weeks prior, Amir Johnson returned to Boston with the 76ers, and while he didn’t exactly light the world on fire, Johnson exceeded his season averages in points, rebounds, assists and steals in the game.
Surprisingly enough, Avery Bradley, arguably the best player outside of Isaiah Thomas to depart from Boston this past summer, is the only former teammate the Celtics have been able to hold in check. Bradley has averaged a modest 12.5 points and 3.5 assists in his two games against gang green this season. Both are below his season averages.
If the Celtics were giving up big points to what, for the most part, are role players, then there may not be much concern surrounding it. Unfortunately for Boston, competing with their ex’s has proven to be costly in the loss column. The Celtics have lost eight games so far and five of those losses have come against teams with members of last year’s roster. In those five losses, Cleveland and Detroit are the only teams that are currently in a playoff spot.
SHOULD THE CELTICS BE NERVOUS?
In the grand scheme of this season I’m sure Brad Stevens and company have more on their mind than getting bested by their former comrades. While Jonas Jerebko may not be a threat to the Celtics immediate success, the one cast-off that may threaten Boston’s success has yet to make his return. I’m sure you can figure out that I’m referring to the aforementioned Isaiah Thomas.
Isaiah Thomas processing the news that Danny Ainge traded him is pretty intense to watch pic.twitter.com/9JBhGYfSZ7
— AP (@Ananth_Pandian) December 20, 2017
Should IT decide to return for Cleveland’s match-up in Boston on January 3rd, it is clear that, emotionally, he is ready. He will look to exact his revenge against Trader Danny and his new crew. The Cleveland game is one many fans and players have marked on their calendar. If it does prove to be Isaiah’s return to Boston then recent history tells Boston fans to be weary. IT will be coming to exact his revenge.