Celtics ‘Anticipated’ Roller-Coaster Start to 2020-21 Season

It’s been a roller-coaster start to the season for the 3-3 Boston Celtics. Though, none of the dips and loops they’ve experienced so far have come as a surprise to the team, nor should they be concerning in the long run.

To recap, Boston opened the season with a thrilling, last-second win over Milwaukee, followed by a Christmas blowout defeat against Brooklyn. It then split a two-game miniseries in Indiana, before returning home to deliver a 19-point win over Memphis.

Following their most convincing win of the season, the C’s suffered their most disappointing loss Friday night against a previously winless and Blake Griffin-less Detroit Pistons team, bringing them back to square one with an even record.

Before the season began, Celtics coach Brad Stevens said he expected there to be some early roadblocks. And based on how the journey has gone so far, he was spot-on with that prediction.

“This is what I anticipated,” Stevens said following practice in Detroit Saturday afternoon. “I’ve said this before, we’ve got a lot of questions to answer. There’s a lot of new guys, a lot of people playing new roles, new responsibilities, new pressures that come with that. Like, this is exactly what I thought it would be like.”

Some of the changes that the Celtics are adjusting to include the addition of four new players to their roster, two new starters in their rotation, and several individuals acclimating themselves to new roles, such as Daniel Theis switching from the 5 to the 4, and Marcus Smart taking on heavier ball-handling responsibilities due to the absence of All-Star point guard Kemba Walker.

Smart, like his coach, knew that all of these changes would result in some early hiccups. But he also refuses to let that serve as justification for the way they’ve been playing of late, especially during Friday night’s 96-93 loss to Detroit.

“We expected to have some ups and downs, a lot of curveballs thrown our way with a lot of young guys, a lot of new guys,” said Smart. “But it’s still not an excuse. A lot of us have been here for a longer period of time. We know the system, we know what Brad wants, and we have to go out there and do it. The coaching staff does a great job of putting us in a position to win and a position to succeed, but it’s on us.”

While they’ve dipped into some valleys, the C’s have certainly hit some peaks as well, such as Jayson Tatum’s game-winner against Milwaukee, Brown’s career-high 42-point effort against Memphis, Tristan Thompson’s offensive rebounding, and rookie Payton Pritchard’s early emergence, among others.

However, consistency has been the main issue; there are some games where the team comes out on fire and others where they come out stagnant, such as Friday night when they scored only 12 points in the first quarter against Detroit and trailed by as many as 21.

“It's not about if you can do it once, it's what you can do over and over and over again,” said Brown. “So as we have young guys who are entering the league, that's we try to tell them, that's what the league is about. It's about being consistent, so, keep continuing to make the effort, continuing to adjust is going to be key for us. I think we'll be fine down the line."

Brown doesn’t anticipate this rocky start to harm the Celtics in the long run, and Thompson agrees that “it’s way too early to be concerned.” However, there are bound to be more obstacles along the way while the Celtics continue to form their 2020-21 identity.

“It’s going to continue to be challenging,” said Stevens, whose team will play a rematch against the Pistons Sunday afternoon. “We have to improve in the areas that we can control. And those areas to me are we’ve gotta bring great competitiveness and a great ability to do our job every day.”

If the C’s start doing that consistently, then the roller coaster should begin to even out, allowing them to get back on track.

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