Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

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The Celtics just can’t make it easy on us can they. Certainly not the 2017 Celtics that’s for sure. Nobody loves losing to bad teams to kill momentum quite like this group, and at this point in the season I don’t really get that upset about it. This is now the what, 9th or 10th time its happened? Nevertheless, this is a classic two steps forward one step back scenario. CLE ended up pulling out their game yesterday, so the Celtics now find themselves 2.5 back of them, and now just 1.5 ahead of WSH who they play tonight.

For some reason, every time the Celts play PHI it’s close. To fans who have watched all season, we all saw a game like this coming, and it was only confirmed after barely sneaking past BKN the game before. Yes, it is true the Celtics did not have Isaiah, who obviously makes a pretty drastic impact, but don’t let that cloud your judgement as to why the Celtics lost this game. Known for being a defensive liability, the Celtics defense let them down in a big way despite Isaiah not being in the lineup. Great tidbit for all of us to use who are on Team Isaiah while we fight the trolls, bad tidbit when looking at this team as a whole.

At this point there’s no real point in trying to spin it. This loss was bad, I mean real bad, not only because of the opponent, but the timing. You want to lose this game in December be my guest. I’d prefer it not happen with 12 games left as four teams are all fighting for position. Call it PTSD from the weird tie breaker shit that went down last year, but the Celts could not have picked a worse time to let a game in which they were up 13 in the second half slip. Gross.

But, such is life, and as painful as it may be, it’s time to relive it.

The Good

– What makes me probably the most angry is the Celtics wasted a tremendous effort from Al Horford. The guy continues to be on an absolute tear in the month of March, and yesterday it was to the tune of 27/8/6/2 blocks on 11-16 shooting. Just masterful, and because things are going to get ugly here in a minute, take some time and enjoy something beautiful. Those are the rules

Now here’s the huge grain of salt. This was against PHI and without Embiid so how much can we really take away? In situations like this, it’s not so much the numbers that stand out to me, but the position and mindset in which he got them. Horford showed a level of aggression that I think we all can get used to, he caught the ball in great spots that ultimately left him with 10000 offensive options, and with just 1 turnover, he played smart basketball. Not for nothing but he did lead all Celtics with a +3, so it’s a shame that this performance was all for nothing.

I don’t think it’s rocket science as to how to get Horford going like this. Look at his shot chart from this game

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I can’t remember the last time Horford had that many attempts around the basket before, and wouldn’t you know it, he has some around the basket offensive game!

– Kelly Olynyk for some reason loves playing the Sixers. In a rather low for him 11 minutes of action, he did have 12 points on 3-4 shooting and they came in an unusual fashion. Normally if I told you he had that many points in that few of minutes you’d think he hit multiple threes. Now what if I told you he didn’t make one. Instead, Kelly drove hard to the basket and either finished at the rim (sneaky one of the only guys who can make a damn layup) or he got to the line. His 7 FTA were his highest of the entire season, so if I’m to believe we might be getting Drive To The Basket Awkwardly But Not Fuck It Up Kelly, well that opens up an entirely different can of worms.

– Everyone loves trying to pick out trends that happen during the regular season and anticipate how they will translate once the playoffs start. Whether good or bad, we all do it. Well I want to focus on one thing I’ve noticed about the Celtics offense that I do think will be important once defenses start to get tighter. What is it? The ability of Avery Bradley to back cut. It may seem small, he doesn’t always get the ball when he does it, but when you have this level of passers on the floor with with Avery, it absolutely is a weapon. Think of how Avery gets open most of the time, usually it’s running him off a number of screens to free up his midrange. Well sooner or later a good playoff team is going to anticipate that and start to cheat. That’s where Bradley’s basketball IQ comes in, and his cutting ability so vital. We saw it two more times in this game, and yeah I know it’s PHI, but again I care about the mindset.

– He shot the ball like an asshole, but how about 14/10 coming from our favorite Summer League Crush Terry Rozier! Four rebounds on the offensive end, his 25 minutes led the second unit and he delivered. Terry is such an interesting player because you see flashes of his potential, he just has to figure out how to play at this level on a consistent basis. What I liked about his day was despite the uptick in minutes, he played in control (just two turnovers). Finishing at the rim continues to be a challenge, but the athleticism almost makes me forgive him. Rozier is an NBA player, whether or not it’s here in Boston is the only question.

– Much like Horford’s night it essentially didn’t matter, but for a guy who couldn’t throw a pea in the ocean, some BIG time fourth quarter threes from Jae for the second consecutive game. He may have had the same success rate as Francis, but as they say, shooters shoot. Seeing him not afraid to take that shot, tells me despite the struggles he didn’t let it impact his confidence, and with Jae, that’s most important.

The Bad

– Man where to begin. I suppose we can go with the offense. Again without Isaiah it looked absolutely pathetic. Jae (3-13), Marcus (3-12), Jaylen (1-6), Rozier 4-12) could not have struggled more. Really it was the same type of shit we saw in the game against BKN. Guys need to make shots, period. If you happen to be one of the people who fear this once the playoffs start and Isaiah gets 50 guys thrown at him, you’ll look at this weekend to point to your concern, and I’m not so sure it can be ignored.

What’s frustrating is this didn’t happen against an elite defensive team, far from it. In a make or miss league, when you’re missing your best offensive player, you cannot have basically everyone else go cold like this. For the game the Celts had 40/20% splits, but the game turned in the second half, where they had just 32/18% splits and 11 turnovers. You want to lose to bad teams, you play like that.

– The problem in this game was the shot selection. Not to single him out, but what the hell was Marcus doing? I’ve had enough of this little running jumper in the lane hoping to get contact but not getting rewarded and thus missing it very badly move. I’ve written about it, there is film on it, getting Marcus going offensively is pretty damn simple. Put. Him. In. The. Post. The problem when Marcus fills in for guys like Isaiah is it takes him out of his normal role. He thinks he needs to be a score first PG, which is exactly when he tends to get into trouble.

By the time he figured this out and actually went to the paint in the fourth quarter, it was a little too late. He does so many other things well (rebounding, passing, defending) it’s infuriating when he reverts back to his old offensive shot selection mentality like he did yesterday.

– How else do you lose to bad teams? You let them dominate the paint (52 points), beat you in fast break points (21-10), and turn it over (17 total). We heard some comments after the game that maybe guys were looking past this game in anticipation for today’s match up with WSH. Well that’s certainly what the numbers show me, and that really, REALLY pisses me off. Enough of that shit already. How many more times are the Celtics going to be burned by dogshit teams when they do this? They are not GS or SA. They need to be locked in and focused for every game they play. I put this not only on the players, but Brad as well. You cannot have these mental lapses so late in the season. Just can’t.

– Another game another blown double digit second half lead. I’d go into more detail but I don’t feel like getting vomit everywhere.

The Ugly

– You have a three point lead heading into the final quarter. Is shooting 25/20% with 4 turnovers, while giving up 55/56% good? No, no it’s not. In fact it couldn’t be further from good. What bothered me most about this quarter was all the sudden the Celtics stopped going through Horford. He had just three shots in the entire quarter, and again that’s on everyone. It’s on him for not getting to the same spots that made him so successful int he first three quarters, it’s on his teammates for not directing him to go there, and it’s on Brad for not calling the plays for him. Just a colossal fuck up from everyone involved during those 12 minutes.

– Why can’t the Celtics inbound the basketball after a made basket? I’m talking the PHX game, and I’m talking the end of the third quarter in this game. Sometimes it’s as if they’ve never played basketball before or something. Woof.

– I’m sorry but I can’t ignore the defense in the second half. Giving up 30 and 29 points to this team without THEIR best player is simply inexcusable. The Sixers shot 51% for the half, and they did it because the Celtics were not interested in defending them for whatever reason. All the people who played significant second half minutes are supposed to be our better defenders (Jonas/Gerald played just 9 total minutes together) so that is a bit concerning. This wasn’t a situation where the Sixers went at Isaiah every possession and he couldn’t get a stop. Guys like Sergio Rodriguez were doing this to Smart/Avery etc. Inexcusable effort that they should be ashamed of.

It’s harsh maybe, but it’s the truth.

– Maybe if Brad played James Young things would have gone differently. We’ll never know though.

 

Now, despite this horrific performance, it can all be saved with a win tonight. That’s the beauty of the NBA. Win this game against WSH, create a little more separation, and when you factor in that the Celts do not leave the Garden for the rest of the month, it by no means is the end of the world. It would have been nice to ride into this game winners of four straight, but if you haven’t noticed by now the Celtics have not done anything easy this entire season. Hopefully Isaiah is back, because if they even play remotely the same way today as they did this weekend, they are going to get destroyed.

Fortunately, the Celtics have a way of bouncing back after these embarrassing losses, they’ve done it time and time again so it may just be par for the course. Either way..

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