If there is one thing we know about this team, it’s that they have never, ever, ever, taken the easy road. Sure they could have gone into Cleveland, won a game, and taken a commanding 3-1 series lead. That would have been the smart thing to do in my humble opinion, but the facts are they shit their pants and ruined all of the momentum they had built up from the start of this series. Such is life. And honestly, while last night’s loss was disappointing, it was a much better effort than Game 3. They got blown out on Saturday because they played lifeless basketball, which to me is inexcusable. Last night was a little different, as I wouldn’t say the effort wasn’t there but instead the Celtics could not get out of their own way. Self inflicted wounds were the story for me last night, and while that can be equally as frustrating, I think the Celts feel a little bit better about themselves heading into Game 5 than they did heading into Game 4.
I don’t want to have this sound like I’m making an excuse for them. They played like shit for the most part, and deserved to lose. These last two games were not a situation where they got boned by the officials or anything like that. The Celtics laid two eggs on the road and paid the price for it. That’s what happens at this stage of the playoffs, on the road, against a team with the best player on the planet. You have to be perfect, and everyone from the players to the coach were anything but. Now they return home for the biggest game of their season, but before we look ahead we need to talk about what we saw last night. As painful as it might be.
– Unlike Sunday’s blog where we skipped this section because the Celtics did not deserve one ounce of praise, last night was different. There were still some positives to take away from this disappointing loss, and we’ll start with the play of Jaylen Brown
Jaylen led the team with 25 points on 10-23 shooting, and the reason I am putting him in this section is because I thought he did a great job responding to what was a very, very slow start. There’s a reason the Celtics offense looked much better in the second half, and in my opinion that’s because Jaylen FINALLY won his matchups on the offensive end. He went 7-11 in the second half for 17 points and was a team best +9 over his 21 second half minutes. If I am looking for things to focus on for Game 5, this is where I start. It’s no coincidence that in the games the Celtics won Jaylen had solid offensive nights, and he showed that he CAN have success against his matchup with Korver. Why did he have this change of fortune? Well like anything with Jaylen it always goes back to his shot chart, and this is how he ate in the second half
When Jaylen attacks the basket under control and actually uses his size and strength to not get bitched around by Kyle Korver, good things happen. That’s something I expect to see a lot more of tomorrow, because not only do the Celtics need to find a way to slow down Korver on the offensive end, but I really think that if they make him work on the other end that’s probably their best shot. An aggressive Jaylen is crucial for that.
– The efficiency was still a problem, the shot selection wasn’t always ideal, but at the end of the night Terry gave you a little bit of everything in his 16/6/11
Here’s the thing with Rozier. He is an uber confident player. At this point this style of play is just something we as fans are going to have to accept. The reason why we love him when he is scoring 20+ and hitting all these threes is the same reason he also can at times make you want to pull your hair out. The one thing I will say is that Game 4 was a much better performance from an energy standpoint, and I do love his aggressive mindset.
Believe it or not, Rozier not only had the second highest Ortg in this game for the Celts at 110.9, but also the best overall net rating at +9.0. Terry did not have a TO in his 39 minutes either, which are all things that will be important to maintain tomorrow night.
– Much like Jaylen Brown, I thought Jayon Tatum was MUCH better in the second half
He scored 11 of his 17 points in his 16 second half minutes while shooting 50% from the field. It’s no secret how important it is to get efficient, consistent offense from Tatum and if CLE is going to continue to play Jeff Green/JR Smith on him that’s a good sign for Boston. Green matched up with Tatum on 20 possessions which led to 3-5 shooting. JR Smith was there for 37 possessions and 2-4 shooting. The Celtics still have the matchup advantages, that hasn’t gone anywhere. The problem with their two losses in CLE was that they did not exploit them often enough like they did in the first two games. If those two are going to guard Tatum a total of 57 possessions, he needs to take more than 9 shots in my opinion.
– As bad as the defense was in the first 24 minutes, the Celtics head into Game 5 knowing they can actually defend based on what happened over the final 24 minutes. Now part of this could have been due to the score, but it really wasn’t a blowout in the second half, so I’m going to go with the fact that the Celtics simply woke up on the defensive end. They held CLE to just 43 points on 40.5/16.7% splits. I thought the Celts did a MUCH better job at guarding the perimeter, holding CLE to just 8-23 from deep the entire game. If you remember, it was the 17 3PM that sunk them in Game 3, so this was a nice adjustment.
When the Celtics defend like they did in the second half, it won’t matter what their offense looks like, they will be in the game. Horford was probably their best overall defender, holding opponents to 5-20 shooting. He did a great job holding Love to 1-6 and Tristan to 2-5, and as we all know the defensive impact of this team starts with him.
– It might not be the most beautiful thing to watch, but I thought Baynes played really well, and we may end up seeing him start Game 5. He did his job on both ends, even stopped Lebron iso’s a time or two, and it’s clear they need his rebounding presence in order to have a chance in this series.
– Ok, now let’s get down to business. Did you know the Celtics had the lead just twice during their entire time in CLE, never had a lead more than 2 points, and only led for 4 minutes and 30 seconds into this game. They would never get as close as 7 the rest of the way, and we can all agree these starts are absolutely what is killing them. Terry Rozier made and 18′ pullup jumper with 4:05 left in the first quarter, and from there on the Celts went a stellar 1-10 from the field to close things out. Of those 10 FGA we got three missed Smart 3PA, a missed Jaylen 3PA, and three missed layups/dunks. This is a problem when you also play no defense, resulting in 60/50% splits for CLE.
Once again, it was as if the Celtics did not learn ANYTHING from their Game 3 first quarter, because Horford had just 2 FGA in his 10 minutes. Meanwhile Morris/Terry/Smart had 12. Just like Game 3, and you know what happened in that first quarter? The Celtics lost it 32-17. Weird how last night was 34-18 huh.
– If we can be honest, it did not matter who matched up with Lebron, they did not have an answer. I know a lot will be made about how Lebron kept switching onto Rozier, but that happened on just 6 possessions (it didn’t help that Lebron went 3-3). It was actually Jaylen Brown who guarded Lebron most, a total of 27 possessions and he held him to 3-6 shooting. Marcus Smart tried for a total of 19 possessions which was the second most of any Celtic, and Lebron went 4-7 against him. Morris only had him on 10 possessions because of all the switching and Lebron went 3-6 so that didn’t work either.
This is basically a long way of saying it would not shock me if we get the exact same strategy from Lebron in Game 5, so someone, anyone, is going to have to put up some sort of resistance. The problem is the Celtics were unable to keep him out of the paint, and when Lebron is able to get into the paint, things like this happen
– I find it extremely annoying that for whatever reason, the Celtics could not stop either Kyle Korver or George Hill while in CLE. Korver went a combined 9-12 (6-9) and Hill 10-20 (4-12). I can live with Lebron going crazy, I can live with Love making an impact, I cannot live with these two old ass dudes being the ones to kill you, especially since they were both essentially non factors in Boston. I’m not sure I understand how the Celtics given all their athletes couldn’t hang with these guys, but I find it in no way acceptable. We ALL know it comes down to stopping the non-Lebrons, and the Celtics did an awful job in that regard in both of these games.
– Last night was one of the rare occasions where both fanbases absolutely had a right to be upset with how the game was called. It was equally bad for both teams, I mean really bad, and it just brings me back to my overall point. The officiating cannot be this poor at this stage of the season. Whether it was the Morris foul, or the foul on Terry’s 3PA, the late whistles, whatever. I would say neither team truly benefitted because both had to deal with absolute trash.
– I know Celtics fans will want to say it was worse for them given all the fouls, but look, when you can’t defend Lebron without fouling, that’s a YOU problem not an official problem. You can’t have Jaylen hugging Lebron as he backs you down, you can’t not move your feet and instead try and reach. Love had just as bad foul trouble and the Cavs were able to work around it. The Celtics weren’t and have no one to blame but themselves.
– The formula is simple. Everything comes down to defense and rebounding. Well, for half the game the defense was pathetic and the Celtics got absolutely demolished on the glass. Didn’t help they gave up 50 points in the paint either if we’re being honest.
– We’ve all seen the stat by now. The Celtics missed 15 dunks/layups in addition to their 7 missed FTs. That is comically bad, but not all that surprising considering if you’ve watched this team you should know that layups and dunking are some of the hardest things for them to do. There so many, I decided to just pick some of my favorites
I mean jesus fucking christ what are we even doing. There’s your ballgame right there folks, all because you could not finish your dunks and layups. This makes me want to vomit.
– It’s true that there are times in which Marcus Smart will win you a ballgame. It is also true that he was a major factor as to why you lost this game. Don’t let his 2-8 fool you, when it mattered he was 0-6, and had over half of the teams TOs with 5. Whether it was passing it out of bounds or directly to the other team for an easy basket, Smart did more harm than good last night and that simply can’t happen. His shot selection didn’t make it any better, but to have this sort of negative impact was very weird to see.
– A lot of talk will be about how Brad was “outcoached” by Lue, and while I think Brad made mistakes, I don’t know about saying he was outcoached. Nothing about Lue’s coaching prevented the Celts from missing wide open dunks, but Brad was in no way perfect during these two games in CLE. It felt like he was stubborn about his desire to switch just to switch, and I didn’t love late in the fourth quarter taking Baynes out after he blocked that three, only to immediately give up a HUGE Love OREB to push the lead back up to 9.
For someone who has mastered in game adjustments, I didn’t really feel like we got all that many. Again Brad has to be nearly perfect for this team to pull this series out, and now that the players struggled we all can’t pretend like Brad isn’t somewhat responsible. The same way when the players play well, everyone wants to give Brad all the credit. He has to be better as well, period.
Ok, so here we go. Season on the line basically tomorrow night, and any Celtics fan that tells you they aren’t nervous is lying. I know they’re undefeated at home. But I also know Lebron doesn’t give a shit about that and can win in any building on the planet. The hope is that the role players have a reversal of production, and I guess it’s cool that we finally have a competitive series, but boy it sure would be nice if just once the Celtics made things easy on themselves. Such is life.