Celtics Shake Up Lineup, Nab Victory in Atlanta
Boston, Massachusetts - After a three game losing streak that plummeted the Boston Celtics to 9-9 and a distant third place in the Atlantic Division, there were no clear answers for head coach Brad Stevens on what he needed to do to get this team back to their full potential. On paper, a lineup of Gordon Hayward, Kyrie Irving, Al Horford, Jayson Tatum, and Jaylen Brown should be among the league's best. But on the heels of too many minutes for the team's players needed with not enough to spread around and a hobbled Hayward still trying to climb back from his injury, the Celtics looked to be among the league's top underachievers.
With a must-win game in Atlanta against the Hawks looming, Stevens took the team to scratch and decided to unveil a brand new lineup. Something had to be changed, after all. Stevens kept Brown, Tatum, and Irving in the starting lineup, but he subbed out Hayward and Horford for Aron Baynes and Marcus Morris. This change seemed to go well as Baynes led the team with sixteen points and Hayward came off the bench to add eleven. In the starting lineup, Brown, Tatum, and Irving scored ten, fourteen, and thirteen, respectively. The team seemed well balanced and no one played over twenty-five minutes (Terry Rozier actually led the team in minutes), creating a sense of parity for Boston and plenty of rest before their game against the Dallas Mavericks tonight.
With the new lineup, the Celtics came out strong out of the gate by scoring forty-five points in the first quarter. Their scoring was limited after that, but it was important to show that a change in energy could result in a high octane offense. The sketchy defense (which is not a hallmark of Stevens' coaching prowess) also came through to hold the Hawks down early on before letting the team score a third of their points in garbage time.
It remains to be seen whether or not this energy shift will hold up against a team that is, frankly, better than the Hawks, but it is promising that Stevens was willing to shake up the formula in search of a solution to Boston's woes.