We all knew heading into last night what a huge game it was. Not just because it was the front end of a back to back against two good teams, but because as these Celtics work through their struggles and try to right the ship, they needed a win over a team like this. For basically this entire season, the Raptors have been a force. With Kawhi, without Kawhi, it hasn’t really mattered, they’ve been one of the best teams in the league to start. Honestly they had the start many Celtics fans thought this team would have, and then once they beat the Celts up in Toronto it only added to the pressure. In what is for sure to be a tight race all season, you can’t go down 0-2 H2H against these guys, even if it is only November. We needed to see how this team would respond to this type of challenge at home, after looking great against the Bulls we needed to see if that improvement was for real.
Well, I would say unlike the last time these two played, the Celtics rose to the challenge and passed this test. It was by far one of if not the best offensive performance of the year, it was Kyrie’s best game this season as he single handedly dragged this team over the finish line, even when things maybe didn’t look so great he kept attacking. After the final buzzer sounded I called it the best win of the year and I’m not exaggerating. There have only been 9 so far and this was clearly the biggest. Not only did this tie them up H2H, it tied them in conference wins and division wins, which are going to be very important come Spring when it’s time to deal with possible tie breakers.
In all honesty, this was pretty much the Celtics formula. Get off to a good start, blow your double digit lead, keep it close till the fourth, then have your All Star PG carry you over the finish line with ridiculous play. A scenario we’ve seen play out a million times came through once again last night, and I personally could not be more thankful. Let’s get started
– How can anyone start with any other player than Kyrie. Just an unbelievable performance from start to finish on both ends of the floor
This team needed someone to step up and be the leader of this team, decide that they were going to will this team to victory and would not accept anything less. That’s exactly what Kyrie did in this game. His performance on both the offensive and defensive end was inspiring, there was no slacking off, no taking possessions off, Kyrie brought it big time and not only destroyed his point guard battle with Lowry, but when the game got tight he did exactly what we needed him to do. He was aggressive and he attacked the basket. Earlier in the year we saw Kyrie settle and try and do that hero ball shit from three at the end of games. Last night it was the exact opposite, and when you’re doing that against a quality defense like TOR, I don’t know how that’s not impressive as hell.
It wasn’t just his scoring though. Kyrie had a ridiculous 57% AST% in this game which is fairly ridiculous and wayyyyy above his season average. That tells you that while he had 43 and was a primary scorer, he didn’t ignore his teammates, he got everyone involved. His 34% usage rate is also higher than his season average, and he responded well to that additional usage obviously
– With each game, Jayson Tatum is becoming more and more de-Kobefied. That’s not even a word yet you know exactly what I’m talking about.
Another 21/7 with 2 steals and a block on 8-13 shooting in 37 minutes, Jayson Tatum did what he does best and that’s show up in the clutch. He had 10 of his 21 in the fourth quarter/OT of his game on a combined 4-5 shooting. Overall, this was his shot chart
he had a couple frustrating midrange attempts sure, but everything else was either at the rim or behind the line which is exactly what we need him to be doing. Did you know last night marked the fourth straight time Tatum has shot at least 50% from three while making at least 2 3PM. In fact, in his 8 games this month he’s shot under 50% just twice. This marked the third time in four games Tatum has eclipsed 20+ points, and he’s shooting 44/48% this month. It sure looks like someone figured out his early struggles doesn’t it? Having those sort of numbers against good teams like UTA/POR/TOR should have you feeling pretty good about Tatum right now. He’s starting to get back to his old self.
– I talked yesterday about how a big factor in this game would be the Celtics ability to defend the three point line. They didn’t do so hot with that up in Canada, but last night it was so much better. The Raptors finished just 8-29 from deep in this game, so the Celts held their opponent to 2 3PM under their league leading 10 average, and outside a couple times where they lost Danny Green and then didn’t come out far enough on Lowry, I thought they were exceptional in this area and it made a real difference.
Defensively sure they gave up 116, but 107 of that was in regulation and TOR did finish with 43/27% with 13 TOs so I would say the Celts showed up for the most part on that end as well.
– With each game, he’s getting better and better
This was a huge night for Horford not just because he played well down the stretch, but mostly because his 39 minutes led the entire team. I don’t think anyone saw that coming especially with another game against UTA tonight. But what we saw was a guy figuring things out. Between his playmaking ability and his offensive approach, we’re starting to see what a healthy and confident Hayward looks like, and guess what that’s a pretty good player.
This is why when it comes to Hayward, you have to ignore the noise. You have Boston radio talking about how Hayward/Irving/Tatum shouldn’t share the floor together, how Hayward should move to the bench. Do we now see how fucking stupid that is? Can we stop with that no please? This game is a prime example of what this team can look like when everyone is playing well. They can take down the so called “best team in the East”. I thought Hayward did a decent job on Siakam in his 36 possessions against him, holding him to just 2 FGM. For a guy that was pretty unstoppable, I thought Hayward defensively did about as good as you could want. He stayed with guys, he challenged without fouling, and it’s why he had the second best net rating of the entire roster.
– What else can you say about that OT period. Celts went 6-6 from the field and scored 16 points in 5 minutes. This, a team that literally cannot score, did not miss a shot. Pretty impressive stuff considering they had just shot 55% in the fourth quarter. The NBA doesn’t want this team to figure out how to shoot the ball, because if they ever do, look out.
– You know Mook is having a ridiculous year not just because he once again came off the bench and gave a solid 11.7 on 4-8 shooting, but he’s even playing some lock down defense which honestly makes my brain hurt a little bit. His defense at the end of this game against Kawhi had me so jacked up I could have run through a goddamn wall. Mook is known for a lot of things, but elite defender sure isn’t one of them. That’s OK, but when it came time to guard Kawhi late without fouling, guess who rose to that challenge. Mook.
– I was very impressed with the discipline of both Baynes and Smart to not take stupid threes. In a game this important shot selection becomes a factor, and there were a couple possessions where Baynes had the ball and definitely could have shot it from the top of the key, but instead resisted and found someone like Kyrie off a curl. That tells me he understood the moment and it was probably not the best idea to jack it up. I thank him for that.
– He won’t get the headlines, but Al Horford was awesome in this game. He did exactly what we needed, chipped in 11/9 with a couple blocks on 5-9 shooting, didn’t force it from three, and played great defense. I just want him to know I noticed.
– But come on, it wasn’t all good so don’t tell yourself that. No Celtics game is complete without some frustration, so about about that second quarter. I would say that fit the bill wouldn’t you? Especially the end of it. The Celtics shot 40/28% in that frame, had 4 TOs and the next thing you knew their 15 point lead was gone. Now this shouldn’t have surprised anyone, I can’t imagine by now you actually think the Celts will hold these early leads, but that doesn’t make it any less annoying when we are watching them blow it.
– My biggest takeaway for Brad after this game is you better make sure you have a plan for the Siakam switch the next time you play this team. It was pretty much a bloodbath whenever the Raptors would run a nice little switch at the top of the key to get a smaller player on Siakam. His spin move is legit as hell and the Celtics really had no answer for him. He got to the rim at will, and even when he missed because he was up against a smaller player, he was able to just put it right back up. I can guarantee you they are going to run that a ton the next time these two play.
– After a great start, it’s fair to say Jaylen sort of disappeared. He played 10 minutes in the second half, went 0-6, and in my opinion it’s because he stopped driving. Here are the differences in his approach
We have the first half
where you can see it’s perfect. Either at the rim, or behind the arc. Well when you look at the second half
it’s completely different. Only one FGA at the rim, a couple tough midranges, one where he most definitely could have attacked the basket, and then three missed threes. It’s probably why you saw Brad close with Smart and why Jaylen didn’t play in the OT. Sure that’s the benefit of depth, but also because I bet Brad didn’t love what he saw from Jaylen in terms of an approach. He needs Jaylen to be aggressive at all times and not settle, and if taking him out when he settles, just like he did with Tatum in PHX is the answer, then so be it
– What was this. I’d love to know the thinking here. Hold for the last shot and then try and throw this unnecessary pass. Makes sense.
– Boy was it hard to get a FTA for the majority of this game. Things eventually evened out which was nice, but for a large portion of this game the Celts starters couldn’t buy a FT. By the end of it they still lost the battle 28-16 compared to the TOR starters, and for once the Celtics were actually aggressive which made it so frustration. You add the no calls to the extremely light touches that earned TOR a foul, and you had every right to be annoyed as a Celtics fan. I feel like Kawhi was getting a couple of late continuations, but that shit happens.
– The Celts were pretty lucky this worked out considering Terry/Smart went a combined 4-11 for 9 points. It’s not often your second unit can lay an egg like that against this sort of team and still come out on top. I think it goes without saying we need both those guys to be much better. You know I love to talk about Smart’s +/- when it’s good, well last night he was a team worst -17. Not great.
– Once again they couldn’t stop Serge Ibaka. What the hell is up with Serge Ibaka where he becomes this Celtics killer? So goddamn random and I did not love his 21 points on 8-15 shooting. Why can’t they ever hold him to a quiet night? He’s like 55 years old, figure that shit out.
Many are saying this would be a fun ECF, well I don’t know if I could take a series between these two teams, way to stressful for my little heart to handle. Before we get there though, this team still has a long way to go. I guess what’s exciting is they can play like this while they still haven’t truly figured it all out yet, which means they’re only going to get better. So will TOR, but I don’t really care about them for the sake of this blog. We wanted to believe we saw improvement against CHI, but you couldn’t be sure because they stink. Well after last night I am certain that this team is getting better, that once again Brad knows more than the radio hosts or the hardos on Twitter that thought he should change things up. When will people realize Brad knows what the fuck he’s doing and we just have to trust him. I think he’s earned at least that much.
Right back at it tonight against the Jazz for another revenge game. Let’s get it
9 down 53 to go.