Celtics' loss reminds us that they are still a player away


We entered into Friday night with the delicious debate regarding who was actually better, Jaylen Brown or Jayson Tatum.

It was an early-season gift given to us by the emergence of Brown and way to many step-back jumpers from Tatum.

By the time the Celtics had dropped their 96-93 decision to the Pistons, we were really no closer to an answer. Tatum (28 points, 6 rebound) and Brown (25 points, 9 rebounds) each had their moments while also exhibiting the subtle flaws that didn't allow for a win at Little Caesars Arena.

That definition of that debate will have to wait for another day.

What we were left with a reminder regarding the rest of the roster. Tatum and Brown are great, but there simply needs to be someone else to consistently lean on. Right now there isn't.

The dilemma was punctuated by Marcus Smart, who resurfaced the ire of those screaming about his shot selection with an unnecessarily quick 3-pointer with 27 seconds to go and the Celtics trailing by just a point.

The defenders of Smart and his shot have ammunition. He was 3-for-6 from beyond the stripe and evidently the idea of taking a three on the move is his thing, clocking in at better than 40 percent on such shots last season. And we get it, the Celtics wouldn't have been in that position if not for all the other things the guard brought to the table, helping the visitors dig out from a 21-point hole with grit, guile and just enough offense (13 points in a team-high 38 minutes).

But Smart should be Option No. 5 in such situations. But because of the roster's current construct, the Celtics have to rely on Tatum, Brown and then an uncomfortable offensive combination of Jeff Teague and Smart. That's it.

The idea of putting together Tristan Thompson and Daniel Theis together has been painful, as was evident in how the Celtics fell into their 27-12 hole after the first quarter.

Grant Williams. Payton Pritchard. Robert Williams. Semi Ojeleye. There's the rest of your rotation. Not exactly a third-option go-to guy in the bunch, is there?

Part of the pipe dream was that rookie Aaron Nesmith was going to supply instant offense. Well, he didn't play. But you know who did? Pistons' rookie Saddiq Bey, who netted 17 points in 30 minutes. In case you forgot he was taken 19th overall, five spots after Nesmith.

This is just one game and there will be times where we do believe Tatum (who seemed to at least attempt more drives to the bucket) and Brown (who got a chance to win the game at the buzzer but couldn't hit a good-look three) are enough.

But this is also a good slap-in-the-face when it comes to the importance of both Kemba Walker and that trade exception. That is this team's reality, one which a very mediocre Detroit team surfaced once again.