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The Celtics Really Needed That Win

Boston Celtics v Oklahoma City Thunder

I know it’s just the 5th game of the season. I know it’s only late October, but trust me when I say this team desperately needed a win like this. I think we can all agree the start to this season, at least offensively, has been utter dogshit. Certainly not what we all expected once the “real” games started given the talent this team has. Instead, we’ve seen them look like your average men’s league team that doesn’t really know how to play the sport of basketball. But you see the great part about this team is they never change. They are who they are. If you’ve spent any time watching this team play over the last few years, you’ve seen last night’s game 1,000 times. In fact, I would go so far to say that last night is basically their blueprint of how they win games. Start the game with an effort and offensive execution you commonly see at your local YMCA (or JCC) pick up run, get down big early, then out of nowhere flip a switch and suddenly look like GS. A tale as old as time for these Celtics and why you shouldn’t be all that surprised they pulled last night out.

Remember, this team frustrating the hell out of you is all part of the ride. That’s why you can’t overreact one way or the other. Guess what, this is not the first time we are going to get this Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde type performance. I bet we get the same shit tomorrow night in DET. Learning to accept that fact is a big part of rooting for this team. I know there are some of you who want them to just blow every team out and actually look like a basketball team that knows what the hell it’s doing. Please watch this team for me one time. This is how they play. This is how they win. It’s not easy on the heart, it makes your brain explode because at times it’s inexplicable, but it’s just how things go. The Celtics never, EVER make things easy on themselves.

So given the start they’ve had, in my opinion they needed a win like this. I know OKC is winless but they are still loaded with talent and that’s still a tough place to win. What you love is that despite the horrific start this team was able to scratch and claw its way back into this game, and they closed it out playing some of the best basketball we’ve seen from them all year. A foundation to build off of if you will. Sometimes you just need a win like this to get the monkey off your back to remind you that at the end of the day, maybe you’re actually a pretty good team.

Celts avoided disaster last night, so we may as well get started

The Good

– There were a handful of worthy candidates to start us off, but it wouldn’t feel right if we went with any other choice besides Mook. That opening paragraph I wrote? Basically sums up Morris perfectly. Here’s a guy that was pretty horrific in the first half of this game, and yet just like this team something snapped in him over the final 24 minutes and the Celts do not win this game without him

21/10 on 5-10 shooting (4-5 from deep), Mook was a different animal in the second half and a big part of why this bench has big expectations. You may have felt like his “game winner” was familiar, and that’s because it was

Safe to say Mook owns the Thunder. I mean sure this one came with 28 seconds left instead on the last possession, but it’s plays like that where you have to respect Mook’s don’t give a fuck attitude. Granted this one he was wide open for so you can’t have a problem with it, but everyone on the planet knew once they saw who had the ball that the shot was going up. He led the team with 11 fourth quarter points on just 3 FGA, which was important because the starting five had just 15 points.

– You know what rules? When Jayson Tatum doesn’t go 3-12. In fact, last night’s 24 points on 8-18 shooting was the third time in the first five games that Tatum has eclipsed 20+ points, and for long stretches of this game he was really the only one who showed up offensively

For whatever reason he couldn’t make a shot from the right side (0-7), but for a team that is having trouble scoring, I loved how 7 of his 8 FGM came from the FT line or closer. That’s where I want Tatum to live, and not to worry about the three point shooting. We need to focus on actually scoring points, and that area is where Tatum is basically unguardable. His transition poster on Paul George was encouraging to all of us who worry about his ability to finish strong at the rim and through contact, and you have to love that he led the team with 18 FGA. For a team where half the guys look extremely tentative, last night Tatum was one of the few that was assertive and demanded the ball.

– I love Al Horford and I do not care who knows it. That third quarter three barrage that ultimately brought them back is why I don’t care that he may get bullied by big ass centers. They can’t do that shit, and without it the Celtics don’t make that huge third quarter run

He finished with 19/9, and I’m not sure what’s more surprising. The fact that he is still rebounding at this rate, or the fact that he took 16 FGA. Al led all starters with 13 second half points on 4-8 shooting, and I just can’t get over the confidence in which he stepped in and took those threes. That’s our fucking center!!

– Listen, there were a lot of factors that helped the Celtics make this comeback, but I don’t know of too many that were bigger than our lord and savior Brad Stevens. First, we have to address the fact that he 100% gave the most inspirational halftime speech in the history of coaching. I don’t know what he said, but I know he most likely almost cursed and that was enough to whip everyone into shape.

Then, he unleashed Mad Brad. After a blatant miss on a bear hug of Gordon Hayward, you think Brad is going to let that shit fly? No chance. So he went as edgy as he can and gave a good old “god dammit” and got a tech. A soft tech, but an inspirational one at that. What do I mean? Pretty sure by my calculations the Celtics went on a 16-8 run after that tech. You knew it when you saw it, that was going to be the turning point of this game. Also not to mention EVERY time the Celtics needed a huge basket down the stretch it was Brad recognizing the situation, calling timeout, and running a beautiful ATO for buckets. Nights like that night are why I would take a bullet for this man. We are so lucky to have him.

– Look I’m not picky. I just want any sign of progress from our main guys, and last night was a step in the right direction for Kyrie. It wasn’t always perfect, he fell asleep on defense at times, his shot selection still made no sense at others, but on the whole this was a positive performance, especially in crunch time

He finished with 15/5/5 but had 11 in the second half on 4-8 shooting, and finally we saw him get to the rim in the clutch and finish, something he sneaky has struggled with so far. Kyrie isn’t out of the woods yet, but I thought he did enough to go toe to toe with Westbrook and that matchup which is all we really needed.

– What can be said about this defense. Sure the offense may be the worst in the league, but that’s not new. The defense however, that shit rules. I’m talking best in the NBA level rules. The Celtics held the Thunder to just 45 second half points on 39/26% splits, and then in the fourth quarter where they had to really buckle down, they held OKC to 22 points on 36/27%. Westbrook and Paul George went a combined 0-9. Classic case of blowing their load too early, and the Celtics were willing to defend for four quarters and make them earn this win. It was clear Westbrook didn’t have his legs yet and maybe if this game was played in a month, things would look different.

When I say the defense was good, I may be underselling it. This may have been the best all around defensive performance from this team, because everyone was involved

Screen Shot 2018-10-26 at 6.04.37 AM

I thought Semi did a really, really good job in his 8 minutes, and it’s probably why Brad left him in during an important stretch of this game. Admittedly, not the best showing from Jaylen, but more on him in a minute.

– You want to know why else you should have never worried about this game? We literally saw the exact same performance in OKC last year. I’m talking virtually the exact same thing

Last year:

Screen Shot 2018-10-26 at 6.07.14 AM

This year:

Screen Shot 2018-10-26 at 6.07.23 AM

When I say this team is predictable, I’m not kidding. They are who they are.

– You know what else I liked? The ball movement in that second half. I’ll take 13 assists on 19 FGM any day of the week and it’s incredible what this team can look like when they simply make shots that EVERY OTHER team in the league makes. I don’t need anything crazy from them, I just need them to make open shots at an average rate. If they do that, who beats them?

The Bad

– Obviously nothing about how the Celtics started this game was good. Some (me), might even call it bad. How do you spinzone 31/0% splits and 34 points in a first half? You can’t, so I won’t. Everything about that opening half was a microcosm of this team’s poor start. Their shot selection was awful, they were overpassing, they were tentative, and you could tell their struggles were impacting them on both ends. Frankly their body language looked terrible, sort of a “oh no it’s happening to us again” type of look. Personally I hated it.

In typical Celtics fashion they really shit the bed in the second quarter, giving up 28 points (their most of any quarter), and really looked lifeless. They went 28/0% in those 12 minutes and outside of Tatum no Celtic had more than 2 points. Again, struggling in a second quarter? This team? No way!

– The Celts were lucky to win this game for a couple of reasons, but mainly because they got DEMOLISHED on the glass. Part of that is because they shot like assholes for a half, but a 57-45 difference tends to spell trouble. Combine that with missing 9 FTs, and you could say they were playing with fire.

– I don’t want to be mean, but I’m still waiting for Terry Rozier to show up this season. Is that too strong? I don’t mean it to be, I just have high expectations of him based on what he showed us last year, and he really hasn’t been that same guy this year. He had just 4 points on 2-5 shooting in his 24 minutes, and for long stretches was outplayed by Dennis Schroder. That can’t happen.

The Ugly

– OK, the NBA needs to explain to me how this was not a goaltend. Go ahead, I’m listening

– OK, we can be honest. Jaylen is reaaaallllllllly struggling right now on both ends of the floor. Offensively he doesn’t look like he’s found his fit, and on defense I don’t know what’s going on. Another rough night for him with 6 points on 1-8 shooting, at this point I think it’s mental. He’s trying to make up for his slow start in one play, and when a player does that it usually doesn’t work out well. I don’t need him to force plays in order to prove his worth. I just need him to take a deep breath, play his game, be a dog on defense and the rest will come. I’m not doing anything drastic like take him out of the starting lineup or anything like that, but frankly he needs to be better if this team wants to be as good as we want it to be.

– Gordon Hayward is going to have nights like this (5 points 1-5 shooting). The good news is he started the second half and came away healthy. He gets a pass for me for about another week or two.

 


At the end of the day, it was ugly, but a win is a win. Just like we saw last year, one win can spark a nice little run and I wouldn’t hate for the Celtics to have one since TOR/MIL/DET look so good early. This game was a reminder to us all that you can never rule this team out no matter how poorly they shoot, that you just have to believe things will work out for the best. This team has balls, and last night they dragged them all over OKC.

3 down 59 to go.