Dwyane Wade Reveals The Biggest Reason The Celtics Are Struggling

Getty Images Dwyane Wade addresses the crowd during his jersey retirement ceremony at American Airlines Arena on February 22, 2020

What is the Boston Celtics’ identity?

TNT’s Dwyane Wade and Shaquille O’Neal tried answering that question after the Celtics’ 106-96 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers.

Boston (25-26) dropped its third consecutive game of the regular season against the 76ers, surrendering the season series at the mercy of superstar Joel Embiid, who finished with a game-high 35 points, including 16-of-20 free-throws. Scoring a combined 115 points in all three head-to-head matchups, Embiid averaged an absurd 38.3 points at a 61.4% clip to go with 9 rebounds, and 2 blocks per game.

Against the Celtics’ All-Star duo in Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, the Sixers — for the third time this year — won by a wide margin.

Dwyane Wade On The Celtics’ Biggest Issue: ‘You’ve Got To Have An Identity’

“I don’t think they have an identity,” Wade said Tuesday night on TNT’s postgame show. “What is the Boston Celtics’ identity? It’s not defensively. They’re not great in transition. They’re not exceptionally great in the half-court when it comes to execution of the game even though they have an amazing coach and amazing players.”

For Wade, this is problematic for Boston. He believes talent can only get you so far, in the NBA, before a team, such as the Celtics, has to ultimately figure out its identity.

“You’ve got to have an identity as a team and what are you going to lean your head on when things get tough,” Wade added. “When guys do miss games — when injuries do happen — this team does not have one. They are talented but they don’t have an identity.”

Shaq On The Celtics’ Ongoing Issues: ‘You’ve Got To Have That Alpha Male’

Shaq agreed with Dwyane before adding one caveat.

“And you’ve got to have that alpha male,” O’Neal said. “That go-to guy.”

For a team equipped with two All-Stars that are putting up scoring numbers that are nearly identical to one another, do the Celtics have an alpha male issue?

Jayson Tatum & Jaylen Brown: Boston’s Alpha Male Issue?

Tatum, who finished with a team-high 20 points on 7-of-17 attempts was rattled by the Sixers’ defense throughout the night, which freed up his star teammate before Brown saw fewer touches before and after halftime.

Brown scored eight of his 17 points, including a pair of 3-pointers in the first quarter. It felt like the makings of a brilliant performance for Jaylen but then he took only two field goals in the middle quarters — one was a layup and the other a missed 3-pointer.

Tatum, on the other hand, took 11 shots throughout the second and third quarters and made five of them, including 3-of-6 from inside the arc. Jayson finished a perfect 2-of-2 in the final frame but by the time Tatum’s 26-foot stepback three found the bottom of the net, with 4:53 left to play, the Celtics were still in a 16-point hole (96-80) and couldn’t do much in trying to contain Philly high-power offense.

The New & Improved Philadelphia 76ers

The duo took turns attacking the Sixers, whereas, for Philly, it’s a group effort. It wasn’t just Embiid, or Ben Simmons (12 points), or Tobias Harris (10 points) — Philly’s top three scorers — taking care of business.

Steph Curry (9 points, 4-of-9) and Embiid traded baskets with Boston for four consecutive possessions and the Celtics never squeezed the lead down to single digits inside the final four-minute mark. Danny Green (17 points) torched the Boston, including a dagger three that pushed the Sixers’ lead to 14 (104-90) with only two minutes left.

“Philly, when we talk about Philly — they’ve been without their MVP player for 10 games, they’re still 7-3,” Wade said. “That’s an MVP player, they have an identity — their identity is on the defensive end of the floor.”

Validating Wade’s assessment of this team, Boston proved just how far the gap is between it and the transformed Sixers. How things have drastically changed in Philly; between the team that stood before the Celtics in the final moments of Game 5 of last year’s first-round playoff series and the juggernaut we saw Tuesday night at TD Garden.

The Sixers did a complete-180 and are now neck-and-neck with the Brooklyn Nets atop of the Eastern Conference. While the Celtics, 50+ games in, are still searching for who they are.