Celtics drop out of first place, Jayson Tatum gets ejected in frustrating loss to Knicks


Following Monday night’s 109-94 loss to the New York Knicks, the Boston Celtics do not hold the top seed in the Eastern Conference for the first time since Dec. 22. The Milwaukee Bucks, who are currently riding a 14-game winning streak, are now ahead of them by mere percentage points.

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It was a tough night for the Celtics from the start, as they scored just 15 first-quarter points. It was the first time this season they failed to reach 20 points in the first quarter. It was the missed threes that told the story for Boston, as they finished the first half shooting 2-of-19 (10.5%) from deep. Their two made threes are the fewest in a half this season. Eleven of those 19 missed threes in the first half came in the first quarter. The Celtics would finish the night shooting 9-of-42 from (21.4%) from three, tying their season low for made threes in a game.

The Knicks would take advantage of Boston’s poor shooting, as they closed the first quarter on a 15-4 run and put the Celtics in a 12-point hole at the end of one. With shots still not falling for Boston, the Knicks built a 20-point lead in the second quarter that they would not surrender.

It was a frustrating loss for the Celtics, who couldn’t find a way to get back on track after a tough start. Boston was without All-Star guard Jaylen Brown, who missed the game due to personal reasons. Head coach Joe Mazzulla confirmed pregame that Brown will return to the lineup for Wednesday night’s game against the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Though it was certainly frustrating, this loss isn’t as bad as people may think for the Celtics. The Knicks are playing some really good basketball, they have now won their last six games, and they have quietly crept up to the five-seed in the Eastern Conference.

Here are three takeaways and a couple of reasons not to panic after falling out of the top spot in the Eastern Conference:

Three-point shooting

The Celtics have been an outstanding three-point shooting team all season long. They have been top 10 in three-point percentage all year and rank second in the NBA in three-pointers made behind just the Golden State Warriors.

The league-average this season for three-point percentage is 36%, and the Celtics have shot over that number in 30 of 62 games. It’s no question the Celtics can knock ‘em down from deep; it’s a matter of whether they can adjust when the threes aren’t falling.

One of the aspects that has made the Celtics’ offense so dangerous this season is their ability to score in different ways. Sometimes, though, the team has a bad habit of sticking by the three ball even when it’s not falling. The Celtics need to know when to get downhill and attack the rim. For reference, the Celtics finished Thursday night shooting 9-of-42 (21.4%) from deep. They finished 28-of-42 (66.6%) inside the arc, including 26-of-36 (72%) in the paint.

Not to mention, Boston had a lot of very good looks from deep.

This play just about sums up the night for Boston. Sam Hauser, who is shooting 41.9% from three this season, gets a wide open look and can’t knock it down. It’s hard to imagine there will be many games the Celtics shoot that poorly from deep, but in the case they do, they need to know how to adjust.

Jayson Tatum shooting slump, ejection

It was a frustrating night for Tatum, who received his first career ejection late in the fourth quarter.

Tatum has been in a bit of a mini-slump since returning from the All Star break. In his three games since returning, he is shooting a combined 22-of-50 (44%), and 7-of-29 (24%) from deep. He also has 13 turnovers in the last three games. A problem for Tatum as of late has been his inability to get to the free-throw line. In his last two games, he has attempted just three free throws.

Take away the threes and Tatum is shooting 15-of-21 (71.4%). Obviously Tatum is a terrific three-point shooter and should continue to take them, but when he is in a slump like he is now, he, like the team, needs to attack in different ways.

Malcolm Brogdon shines again

Brogdon led the Celtics in scoring with 22 points off the bench, as he continues to show just how valuable he is to this team. Since returning from the All Star break, Brogdon is shooting a combined 21-of-34 (61.7%) in three games. He also recorded 10 assists in those three games.

It can’t be stressed enough how dangerous the duo of Brogdon and Derrick White coming off the bench for the Celtics will be come the postseason.

The Celtics ranked 14th in bench scoring in the playoffs last year, which was a major downfall for them. The Celtics’ bench was outscored in three of their four playoff series. The one series they weren’t outscored in was against the Bucks, and the Celtics only outscored them by one point (153-152). All together, the Celtics’ bench was outscored by 122 points (663-541) in the 2022 playoffs. That problem seems to be solved with Brogdon and White coming off the bench for the C’s.

Featured Image Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports