Their luck was going to catch up to them at some point.
Before last Friday’s game against the Rockets, the Celtics had won 17 of their last 22 and 14 straight home games. While I’ll still declare that the Celtics are a much better team than most people realize, it was always clear that they were still playing way above themselves during that stretch. Now, the basketball gods are evening things out a little bit.
The Celtics got blasted tonight, as the 4th ranked Celtics defense (in terms of defensive rating) was no match for the mighty Oklahoma City offense, especially with Jae Crowder out with a high ankle sprain. Kevin Durant had 28 points, 9 assists, 7 boards, and an absurd +30 plus/minus in only the 30 minutes he played before the game was out of hand. The only reason the Celtics lost by “only” 21 was that the game was out of hand early and the Thunder played their garbage time guys. This is how bad the game was: Oklahoma City played 38 year old Nazr Mohammed for 2 minutes tonight, prompting everyone across the league to ask, “Nazr Mohammed is still in the league??!!”
The advanced stats demonstrate just how important Jae Crowder is to the Celtics, but you don’t need them to realize how much the Celtics him. Durant’s stat line shows that Boston had absolutely nobody to put on KD.
Crowder’s injury worries me and should worry you, because I’m more than a bit skeptical that he can return from a high ankle strain in 2 weeks. If he was out a pair of weeks, then he would be back in time for the Clippers game in L.A., but if he’s out longer, he could miss consecutive games against the Clips, Blazers, and Warriors on the West Coast.
The Celtics are in a rough spot, no doubt about it. They’re now tied for 4th in the East with the Hawks and sit half a game back of the Heat. With all that being said, if the Celtics fall all the way to the 6th seed in the East, they would still be a very dangerous team in the playoffs. They’ll have Crowder back, and they would likely play the Heat or the Hawks in round 1, two teams who don’t have anything resembling a good crowd to boost their home court advantage. They’d be on the other side of the Eastern Conference bracket as the Cavs.
The Celtics are not screwed. They’ve hit a bum in the road, but as always, we have to take a step back and look at the big picture with this team. Crowder may be out, but at least they have him locked up at $7M per season for the next 4 years, right? Their salary cap books, draft picks, and organizational wherewithal still puts them in a hell of a spot going forward.