We all know about the start this Celtics team has had. We all know the current slide they’ve been on where they are losing to the worst teams in the league. So when they came to NO for the last game of this quick three game road trip, it’s safe to say it was an important opportunity for them to show that they can beat a good team, on the road, and end the trip 2-1 before they return home for a pretty light schedule.
What I won’t do is say the Celtics have officially turned the corner. We’ve been in this position before (see TOR win), only to be immediately let down, so I’m not going to go down that path. Instead, I choose to look at last night’s win as a game where the Celtics perhaps for the first time this entire season, looked like the Celtics we all expected, on both ends. I’ll go so far as to say this was their most complete win of the entire season. Sure it helps that the Pelicans are dealing with their own losing streak, but this is a team that is still among the best offenses in the league. They still have a guy named Anthony Davis who can beat entire teams by himself. The Celtics needed this win badly, so to see them play with the type of energy they had, and to see them actually play the right way and be rewarded was fantastic. Now the next step is to truly build on this performance and keep it going. Show me you can do it back to back, or better yet for a legit multiple game stretch.
I know the blog has been a little depressing lately because let’s be honest the Celts gave us no reason to be happy. Finally we have something positive to talk about so you bet your ass I’m going to enjoy this. We have a lot to get to so let’s get started.
– Normally this spot is reserved for the player that had the biggest night. With that comes huge box score numbers and awesome highlights. Today, we’re still starting with the player that had the biggest overall impact on this game, only he finished with just 8/2/5 on 3-8 shooting. That’s right, Marcus Smart was the biggest reason the Celtics won this game
Brad inserted Smart into the starting lineup with Jaylen out, and boy did he change the entire mentality of this team. So often they have looked soft, with no toughness whatsoever and as a result teams were walking all over the Celts. Well, Smart played a ridiculous 40 minutes last night and right from the jump brought exactly what the Celtics needed. First, we’ll start with the defense. To be honest, this has been an area that Smart has struggled with lately, but he brought the noise last night.
He guarded Jrue Holiday on 38 possessions, held him to 7 points and caused him to have 5 TOs. On E’Twuan Moore, he help him to just 3 points on 1-4 shooting. Smart even held AD scoreless on 5 possessions. The biggest difference I noticed last night was Smart was fighting over and through screens on a consistent basis. He was beating the screener to the spot which made all the difference for a team that has had trouble guarding the pick and roll, and then obviously you have to factor in the classic Smart plays, like this block in transition
The other area Smart helped with was he allowed Kyrie to move off the ball. Not having to worry about defending Holiday, Kyrie was fresh for when it mattered most in the fourth quarter. I know there are a lot of Marcus Smart haters out there because he’ll never be the shooter you want him to be, but last night was a prime example of why everyone on Team Smart is so loyal. He has the ability to change a game all by himself, all while not having to score the ball. Best night of the year for Smart, hands down.
– But let’s not act like Kyrie wasn’t nails as well. After struggling with his shot for the last like 4.75 games, Kyrie showed up big when it mattered most, and at the end of the day that’s all I care about
How rare was Kyrie’s night? Well what if I told you think was only the third time in his CAREER he finished with 25/5/10/5? Pretty good. Through three quarters, I don’t think it’s outrageous to say that Kyrie was still struggling with his shot. At that point he was 6-15, and the Celtics saw their 20 point second half lead get down to 10 heading into the fourth. Thankfully, that’s when Kyrie snapped out of his funk and he was fantastic over his 7:45 in the final frame. He finished the quarter with 10 points on 4-7 shooting, had a couple huge Fuck You Threes, but also had 2 assists and 0 turnovers.
Defensively, he was also so much better. No Pelican player had more than 3 points while being defended by Irving. You get that sort of defense from your starting backcourt, against two opposing guards who can go for 20+ on any given night, you’re finally cooking with gas.
– He had a couple off nights, but it’s looking more and more like Mook has played out of his slump, and like Smart he made another spot start. Morris responded with 19/11/3 on 8-14 shooting, and once again he was back to not even hitting the rim
The offense is nice, but expected. It’s the commitment to rebounding that impressed me most in this game. Going small against a team like NO is always risky, but the Celts were able to win the rebounding battle 42-40 and Morris was a huge part of the reason why.
– Hmmm, defense and rebounding helped lead to a Celtics win. Imagine that.
– The internet, primarily Sixers fans blew their load over the early struggles of Jayson Tatum. They couldn’t get enough of it. Well now they are in big, big trouble because it looks like someone has figured things out
Here is Jayson over his last 5 games
and here is his November
What, nobody wants to make jokes anymore now that he’s averaging 16/6 on 46.9/46% splits with over 2.0 3PM a night this month? Weird. You know how I know we’re getting closer and closer to last year’s Tatum? He, like Kyrie, was nails in the fourth quarter. Last season Tatum was the second best fourth quarter player on this team, and his 8 points on 3-3 shooting certainly fit the bill. As with everything involving Tatum, it always comes down to his offensive approach. A quick look at his shot chart
tells us that really only 1 FGA was pretty bad. Everything else continues to be either at the rim, or behind the arc. Boy does it make me happy to see Tatum shake that Kobe-itis and be the player we all know he can be. This is probably the biggest development of the entire month.
– Whenever you cause 22 TOs and hold a team to 11 points under their average, that means your defense was pretty damn good. Finally, a complete 48 minute defensive effort which in case the Celts don’t realize, really fixes all their problems
Smart set the tone, Kyrie held up his end of the deal, and Tatum FINALLY showed some effort on the defensive end. The Celtics had 32 points off NO turnovers, which also helped them win the fast break battle 18-13.
– We knew heading into this game that it was going to be a huge test between the best team in the NBA in scoring in the paint, and a Celtics team that ranks 5th in the NBA in opponents points in the paint. Win that matchup, you’ll probably in the game. Seeing as how nobody really stops AD, that was a tall task, but the Celtics pulled it off. They won that battle 42-34, which is nearly 20 points under what NO averages in that area. What a huge effort by both Baynes and Horford to control the paint.
– Speaking of Al, would you say this was his best overall performance of the year?
He was aggressive, his shot was falling, his defense was acceptable, and they finally decided to utilize Horford as a passer, giving him the ball in the high post and then have multiple guys cut to to the rim. We saw that play a handful of times in this game, and I’m pretty sure they scored on almost all of them. After a pretty brutal stretch of play as of late, I was very happy to see Al respond to what may have been a must win given everything that’s happened.
– You know what makes the haters and losers of which there are many nervous? If the Celtics make shots. Hell, they just have to not be the worst shooting team of all time and look what a difference it makes. The 19 3PM probably isn’t sustainable, so don’t get caught up in that. The biggest thing we saw in this game was the fact that the Celtics MADE their open looks. Everyone wants to over think things and dissect what the issues are, well maybe it really is as simple as them not making shots. When they put the ball in the basket at an acceptable rate, they are incredibly tough to beat.
On “wide open” shots last night, here’s how everyone looked
Al Horford: 4-7
Terry Rozier: 3-4
Marcus Morris: 2-4
Kyrie Irving: 1-3
Marcus Smart: 1-3
Gordon Hayward: 1-1
So for those who struggle at math, that’s a combined 13-24 on “wide open” looks. Here is how they did on “open” looks
Kyrie Irving: 4-9
Jayson Tatum: 2-5
Marcus Morris: 1-4
Terry Rozier: 0-3
Marcus Smart: 1-2
Gordon Hayward: 0-1
Aron Baynes: 0-1
That’s a combined total of 8-25 which isn’t great, but I’ll take a total of 21-49 on open/wide open shots. That’s a cool 42%, so for a team that is literally the worst in the league at making open shots, you can see what a huge difference that makes.
– This was the Terry I thought were going to get the whole year. Need him to keep it going
– Look just because they played well and finally won a game doesn’t mean it was flawless. These are the Celtics after all. You know what really bothered me? The Celtics for whatever reason refuse to stop doing the one thing we all learn very early when playing this game. When passing to a big, you can’t throw it at their feet. For whatever reason, the Celtics LOVE throwing the ball at Horford’s feet, especially in traffic. When has that ever worked out? It was everyone, Kyrie, Tatum, Smart here and there, I counted probably 4 or 5 passes that Horford had no chance of even catching. It’s part of the reason why Kyrie finished with a crazy high 6 TOs. Just hit the man in the hands please.
– I guess nobody really told the Celts that Mirotic LOVES to shoot threes. Maybe they were not aware that he is a stretch four who can get hot and turn automatic, because every single time he touched the ball he killed them from deep. This is a 30+ point blowout had they been able to check him at the three point line, and I found that weird considering that’s the Celtics biggest strength.
– Needed more Robert Williams. 1:43 was simply not enough, and it’s not as if they didn’t have a huge lead or anything. We are yet to see him mess up in any appearance so far this year, so why not give him some more run. Hopefully we’re going to get that once they return home and face an easier schedule.
– Gordon Hayward had that big momentum corner three, but I wouldn’t say he played well. He didn’t play that poorly either, but it was mostly meh. At this point you put in a “meh” performance, you’re going to end up in this section. I always said I would give him until Thanksgiving before I started to put stock into how he plays, and we’re here so I think this is fair.
I don’t need him to be 100% back on November 26th, but I do need him to be a little bit better than he was last night. I did find it interesting that Brad gave him 7 minutes in the fourth, so it’s clear he still trusts him.
– It’s getting comical at this point. The Celtics might be the only team in the league that refuses to use the FT line. They were outshot 29-10 in that area, and the Pelicans made more than double (27) than what the Celts even attempted. It’s not as if the Celtics aren’t driving either, which is what makes this truly remarkable. They are 29th in FTA a night, have such a pathetic FTr I don’t even want to type it, and I just don’t know how they can sustain any level of winning while getting complete jack at the line. The second half FT difference was 20-3. That is outrageous! You cannot tell me every NBA team suddenly learns how to not foul whenever they play the Celtics. This is the most bizarre part of this entire season so far.
– Just like they did when the Celtics won without Al Horford (now look how silly that is), people will say “wahhhhhh look at how good they look without Jaylen Brown waahhhhhhh”. This is my least favorite thing whenever the Celtics win a game without someone in the lineup. For whatever reason morons then say that this team is better off without this player.
Just stop it. I know it’s the low hanging fruit, but you sound like a moron.
The Celtics needed this win. I needed this win, you needed this win, we all did. Sure 11-10 still isn’t all that great, but it’s certainly better than 10-11 #analytics. We now know the Celtics are playing a complete game against a good opponent, so now I need to see them do it again, and then again, and then again. They obviously have some serious ground to make up given how they started the year, so hopefully we’re headed in that direction.
Now we can exhale.
11 down, 51 to go (lol).