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The Only Consistent Thing About The Celtics Right Now Is That They Continue To Stink Out Loud

Boston Celtics v Dallas Mavericks

Ah, inconsistency my old friend. The Celtics notched their 10th loss of the season last night in Dallas, a number they didn’t reach last season until Christmas. Now while no two seasons are the same, and previous success never guarantees anything in the future as every year is it’s own organism, I think we can all agree that with every slight sign that maybe, just maybe this team is going to turn some sort of corner, they play another game and it’s right back to square one. If you are more of a visual learner, it looks like this

I always said, I’m giving this team until Thanksgiving as they figured out how to play together. Well, we are now past Thanksgiving and not one thing has changed. A 20 game sample isn’t exactly “early” anymore, so yeah I would say this team has legit issues right now. But here’s what I won’t do. I won’t scream on the internet for trades, because I don’t think that solves the issue here. Marcus Smart said it best during this postgame interview. Nobody fears the Celtics right now, in fact, it’s the exact opposite. To me, trading Terry Rozier or something does not change the fact that this team is not playing hard on a consistent basis. That’s why I believe even the lineup changes haven’t solved their issues, because it’s not a lineup problem, it’s a mentality problem. Why they have this different mentality is the million dollar question. I would think that at this point even if they were hyped up in July, given how they have played that shouldn’t still be a thing. Like just think about that, guys are hyped in the summer to that means the Celtics will shit their pants in the fourth quarter in Dallas? That makes no sense. And honestly this is where the leaders need to step up. This is where we need Kyrie and Al and Smart to figure out a way to change the mentality of this team. This is where I need Brad Stevens to actually have his team ready to not only play, but to play for 48 minutes, something that has not happened at all this season.

Just like I said at the end of the Bulls blog, the only thing we know for sure about this Celtics team is we have no idea what to expect. Some nights they look like a basketball team that actually knows how to play the sport, and others they look like a lottery team. It’s incredibly frustrating and simply talking the talk and not walking the walk is getting old pretty quick. Even if history tells us that the Celts have been in this position before

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that is no excuse for what we are seeing. Not with this talent, not when you are losing to teams under .500.

So, just like we always do, we do not run from the embarrassment. We sit down and we take our medicine in this blog when the Celtics look like dogshit aka what 90% of this season has been. Let’s get it over with.

The Good

– You know who HAS turned the corner? Jayson Tatum has apparently shook off his Kobe-itis, as his November has been terrific. He finished with a team best 21 points on 9-14 shooting, including 3-6 from deep.

He’s now up to 45/45% splits this month while making 2.0 threes a night. This is MUCH closer to the Jayson Tatum we saw last year, and just like it always does, his success is all about his approach. We really only had one long two, and everything else is either at the rim or behind the arc, which is exactly what he needs to be doing

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In his last 6 games Tatum has been over 45% in 5 of them, and over 50% in 4. What’s annoying is we were all under the impression that a lot of the Celtics struggles came from Tatum’s offensive issues, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. After a very slow start to the season though, he’s looking like his old self again. I also didn’t hate his effort on the defensive end, as he led all Celtics with 10 contested shots.

– I know this sounds crazy, but I’m pretty sure the Celtics almost never win when Marcus Smart has a good scoring night. You would think that on a night where he had 19 points on 5-8 shooting including 3-4 from deep that it would mean the Celts played well and won, but I’m going to say they only have like one or two wins when that happens.

But look, the one thing we know about Smart is he is not shy when it comes to shooting, and I felt like even though he was relied upon to have a bigger offensive role, nothing was really forced. He was the only Celtics player to consistently be aggressive and attack the basket which resulted in a team high 6 FTA, and considering that is double what every Celtics starter took, I’d say that’s an issue.

– Defensively, there were issues, but offensively this is now back to back games where Jaylen has had the right approach and ended with an efficient night. His 16 points on 7-9 shooting was nice, and the fact that 6 of his 7 makes came from the FT line or closer is exactly what I want from him.

It’s showings like this that should remind you it’s silly to give up on Jaylen. He is going to have inconsistent stretches because he’s a young player, but when his mind is right offensively and he attacks the basket, he can be extremely effective. His combination of speed and strength make him so tough to keep out of his area, and one thing we noticed was Brad took away the spot up attempts (where he has been struggling), and instead gave Jaylen chances to score off the dribble which helped him get into rhythm and look what happened. If you look at his last four games, it does appear that Jaylen is starting to figure it out, as he’s finished with at least 40% shooting in all of them and at least 57% shooting in three of those four.

– The Celtics biggest lead in this game was 1 point, so at least they didn’t trail wire to wire!

The Bad

– There’s just no other way to say it, this team continues to defend like a bunch of bitches. It’s not hard, it’s mostly an effort thing, and with each embarrassing loss to another below .500 team these Celtics are giving up 110+ points. Just look at their losses this month, 123 points to UTA, 117 to CHA, 117 to NYK, and now 113 to DAL. Last night it was a situation where the Mavs came out and made 15 3PM, 10 of which came in the first half. How outrageous is that number? Well it’s 3 more than their average, and their 39% outing was 6% more than their season average. Remember, defending the three point shot was supposed to be the Celtics biggest strength defensively. They lead the league at preventing teams from killing them from deep, and this shit started right in the first quarter. Why does it feel like against all these “bad” teams the Celtics are always giving so much space behind the arc?

To say they had closeout issues would be a gigantic understatement. Poor perimeter defense on DAL guards allowed them to draw and kick to wide open corner threes, which is the easiest shot to make. Give me any sort of resistance on the perimeter by any fucking guard, and who knows what happens. That didn’t happen at any point.

– Now things were a little messed up with Hayward not playing, but the bench as a whole outside of Smart was pretty much a disaster. Terry Rozier, after showing life against the Hawks was right back to his old struggles ending the night 1-6 with just 4 points. Baynes rebounded well but didn’t do anything else well (especially defend), and Semi didn’t even take a shot in his 18 minutes. I found it odd that Theis got no burn at all, and when it was all said and done the Mavs bench won that battle 40-27. I know role players tend to play well at home, but this team is not good enough to be getting no shows like this from the majority of their second unit.

– Let me preface this by saying this is not his fault, that the team is really leaving him no choice, but we need Kyrie to be better. You could tell that he was trying to will this team all by himself, and while I commend him from that, we had a situation where offensively he was forcing things and overall he struggled going 9-22. Over his last three games Kyrie is shooting 22-60, and hasn’t had a game over 37% shooting.

We saw this at times last year too, I think when Kyrie takes 20+ shots it’s just not the best situation for everyone involved. Now he wouldn’t have to do that if literally anyone else on his team showed up, but if you look at this stretch in which the Celtics have lost 4 of 5, he’s averaging 20+ shots a night and has 41/22% splits. Look at October, when the Celts were 5-2, Kyrie was only averaging 14 shots a night. But as they’ve struggled he’s had to take on more, bumping his average to 20.1 a night in November, and with that comes the forcing. Again, it’s NOT his fault, it’s a result of everyone else sucking, but it’s also true he’s in a little bit of a valley right now, and that’s just adding to the pressure.

– 19 assists on 41 baskets. That is so pathetic I cannot even go any further without getting extremely angry.

– It’s been a problem all year, but how does this team explain their starters only taking 3 FTA? I get that this team loves to shoot threes, but they only took 28. That’s not a crazy number. This team’s inability to get to the line is a legit problem and I’m pretty sure they are getting to the line at a historically low rate. Like never been this bad in the history of the NBA rate. It’s usually a problem when your opponent makes the same amount of FTs you take, but I felt like the Celts were aggressive (42 points in the paint), they just for whatever reason cannot get to the line.

– I am at a loss. This was not called out of bounds. And I know there were some people who said it has to hit the shot clock in order to be out of bounds, and frankly that is incorrect, I looked it up.

According to the rule book

Any ball that rebounds or passes directly behind the backboard, in either direction, from any point is considered out-of-bounds.

Now you tell me, did that ball go behind the backboard there? Some might say that was a pretty big momentum play. You go from a 5 point lead with a chance to cut it to a one possession game, to now down 8 and all the momentum with DAL. Huge missed call in my opinion

The Ugly

– To be frank, I need Al Horford to be a whole lot better, period. After missing the game against the Hawks with knee soreness, it was not a great return for Al. In fact it was pretty brutal. Offensively things were off on his 3-11 shooting, and I’m sorry but only having 2 FGA in the paint is not enough. I don’t know why this team moves away from just posting Al up and run cutters off him, but he only had 1 assist which maybe is part of the problem for this team offensively.

I’m not one of those guys who says that Horford is only worth his contract if he puts up 20/10. I understand how he helps this team. But his start to the 2018-19 season has been awful, and outside of his improved shot blocking this year I would say he’s regressed in every area so far. They need him to be a consistent, efficient player on both ends of the floor, and he’s been anything but that.

– It’s becoming a tradition for this team, and if you’re an opposing guard you are licking your lips to get a crack at this team. Our latest example? JJ Barea. There was not a player on this roster capable or willing to stay in front of Barea, and while the matchup numbers aren’t posted to at the time of me writing this I don’t need them to be. He cooked everyone, let it be Terry, Marcus, Kyrie, it didn’t matter. He finished with 1 point shy of his season high, and single handedly tormented the Celtics whenever he touched the ball.

If it feels like JJ Barea always does this against the Celtics it’s because he does. He is for sure on the list of random guys the Celtics simply cannot stop.

– You know what we can’t do? We can’t only talk about Brad Stevens when things are going great. This poor and inconsistent start is every bit on him as it is on his players. Why can’t he motivate his guys to play hard every night? Why is he unable to make in game adjustments? Where are the timeouts during crucial runs?

Look the biggest question for Brad was how was he going to handle this team now that they were a target and now that they had real talent. I would say he is failing in both of those areas through 20 games. Can he turn things around? Sure, but what would we saw about any other team that had these same struggles. We would say they are tuning out their coach. I don’t know if that is the situation, but Brad has not been good at getting his team to play with consistent effort at any point this season.

– Losing 4 of 5 when not one opponent is over .500. That’s fun.

So now we turn our attention to NO, a high powered offense that is loaded with guard depth. I’m not sure if Anthony Davis is playing or not given his recent injury issues, but don’t get it twisted, they can absolutely beat this version of the Celtics even without AD in the lineup. I know people want an answer as to what’s wrong with this team, and what the solution is, but I really think it’s just as simple as they are playing heartless basketball. Things go poorly and they have this “oh no not again” mindset instead of fighting and scratching and clawing their way out. You can make all the trades or lineup changes in the world, but if you don’t play hard none of it matters.

At the moment, things are bad. They’ve been bad all year, and who knows if they can change. Win in NO to end the trip 2-1 and then go home where hopefully the tide will turn. It’s certainly not early anymore, but the season isn’t exactly over.

Once again, go ahead Celtics haters, the floor is yours. We deserve it.

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