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The 2019 Boston Celtics Are Off To A Great Start

Dallas Mavericks v Boston Celtics

Screen Shot 2019-01-05 at 7.39.15 AM

What did I tell you the other day. Don’t try and make sense of this team. When we heard that not only would Kyrie be missing another game, but that Marcus Morris was also going to be out and Al Horford on a minutes restriction, I had never felt more confident in my life. The Hospital Celtics are 13-5 this season, and for those counting at home the Celtics area undefeated in 2019. They got their revenge after losing to this team around Thanksgiving, and frankly with a team that’s 3-16 on the road coming in, this isn’t exactly like beating the Warriors. But look, who are the Celtics to just assume they are better than someone, we’re seen them lose to enough dogshit teams at home to realize that despite the record, the Celtics were still going to have to play well to win.

We all know how important this homestand is, and it’s off to a great start. The Celtics are showing up on both ends, and honestly scoring 115 and then 114 in back to back nights given who was missing is fairly impressive. Having consistency on the defensive end in both games is exactly what I hoped for as we entered the New Year. There’s no parade because the Celtics beat the Mavs, don’t go that far, but to see this team not make excuses for who is out and beat whoever is in front of them is why their depth is an important factor during the regular season. Guys are starting to snap out of their slumps and we’re seeing how dangerous this team can be.

Are they there yet? No. But the Celts are heading in the right direction if they keep playing like this. Let’s get started

The Good

– It’s hard to find a Celtic that had a more brutal start to the season than Jaylen Brown. He’s played in 32 games this season and the first 16 were a disaster to put it lightly. It’s what sparked impatient Celtics fans to completely forget what happened during last season and the playoffs and demand he be traded. You can’t deny he stunk out loud, but 16 games or so does not make a season. Here’s why. In his last 16 games (or half his games played), Jaylen is back up to 13.7/3.9/1.7 with 52.5/34.7% splits and 1.1 3PM a night. If you remember, his 14.5/4.9/1.6 on 46/39% with 1.4 3PM last season was considered a breakout year and everybody loved him. So essentially, for HALF of his games played this season, Jaylen has been pretty much the same guy as he was last season. And yet, the narrative surrounding him is that he stinks and is having a terrible year. He had a terrible start, but when you’re playing at a similar level for half of your games played as you were the year everyone loved you, it’s time to maybe come around to the fact that Jaylen is starting to claw his way out of his god awful start.

Last night was a great example. Making the spot start for Morris who was out with his neck injury, Jaylen showed up in a big way. Finishing with 21 points on 9-15 shooting, Jaylen was a starter best +20 in his 27 minutes

I can’t keep stressing this enough. With Jaylen it’s a pretty simple formula and the key to his success will always be his offensive approach. Five of his nine FGM came in the paint, he took only one bad long two, everything else came within the flow of the offense from behind the arc, and once Jaylen had his confidence, it’s no surprise his three point shot followed.

On the defensive end, opponents shot just 38/24% against Jaylen, he led the team with a 88 Drtg and had a ridiculous +34.8 net rating. He was their best player on the floor last night, had the second highest usage rate after Tatum at 24.2%, and has been rock solid over his last 5 games. I do not find it a coincidence that the Celtics look much better with Jaylen playing well. It’s great to see.

– You know what else was great to see? That after his great performance against MIN where he had another 35, we did not get a situation like the last time that happened with Hayward and he immediately disappeared. You damn right I’ll take 16/11/8 in 30 minutes off the bench.

Just like against MIN, don’t go acting like Hayward is back to Utah Hayward. He isn’t, but at the same time is getting closer each and every game. This game was a pretty good example of all the different way Hayward can help this team and thrive in this system, and for me it starts with his playmaking. His ability to create for others is such a luxury, he had a RIDICULOUS 47.1% AST% which led the team, and you add in his willingness to be aggressive and attack the rim with his much needed rebounding, and you can tell he’s starting to feel more comfortable. His three point shooting still has a way to go, but here’s a guy shooting 50.9% over his last 5 games and that includes an 0-6 stinker.

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Hayward is another guy that some Celtics fans were starting to lose patient with. Going on and on about how bad his contract is. Just take a fucking breath, he’s going to have ups and downs as he works his way back, that’s how this goes. But it’s pretty clear the 2019 version of Hayward is exactly what this team needs.

– I cannot stress enough, when this team moves the ball like they did last night, they will never lose. Another 30+ night with 35 assists on 42 baskets, that’s exactly how this team has to play. In wins, the Celtics average 26.9 assists on 42.7 FGM. Basically an assist percentage of 62%. They get to that number (83% last night) they win, simple as that. You have to give credit, even with guys out, nobody forced anything. Terry did his job with 7 assists, Horford had 8, Hayward had 8, Wanamaker 4, it was a collective effort of unselfish play, and that makes me all warm and fuzzy on the insides.

– We were so lucky Marcus Smart did not dislocate his shoulder

Do I think Smart can consistently go 5-8 from deep? No, but what I can tell you is he’s having a career year shooting the ball from three. Sure it’s only 33.8% but whatever. Over his last 5 that number is up to 36.8% which is respectable, so who knows maybe that shoulder injury fixed his problem. You can’t tell me that’s totally unrealistic. I know there were some that maybe thought the Celtics overpaid to keep Smart this summer, but I think his play this season has reaffirmed it was money well spent.

– So the Celtics won the rebounding battle 53-49 and held DAL to 38/25%. You could say they played good defense and rebounded well. What’s their formula for success? Oh right, playing good defense and rebounding.

– This may be a hot take so forgive me, but I have to say it. Things are a whole hell of a lot easier when you make 21 3PM. The Basketball Gods reward you when you move the ball, so this wasn’t all that surprising to me.

– He shot like shit, just 7-21, but it was still nice to see Tatum be aggressive. He didn’t let his inefficient night get the best of him, which has been a problem more than a few times this season

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It was good to see him assume that role of #1 option in terms of usage rate at 30.7%, and Brad talked postgame about how he didn’t really care about the percentages, he was happy with Tatum’s decision making. It’s true, DAL was going under a bunch of screens and those are the scenarios where I don’t even want Tatum thinking, just let it fly. He made 4-11 from three last night, but nif he maintains that approach the next time a team defends him that way, who knows maybe he goes 6-11. Him not being afraid to shoot just because it wasn’t falling was important. Being that offensive threat that defenses have to worry about is what helps create space for everyone else, so it’s good to see him letting it fly no matter what.

– Impossible not to feel great for Brad Wanamaker.

– Long live Dirk. A shame he didn’t get a bucket, but what a legend

– I see you Daniel Theis. After struggling over the last few weeks, Theis was huge off the bench with 8/13/3 in his 23 minutes off the bench. He took Yabu’s minutes and this was one of the rare instances where I had no problem with it because he was actually playing well. Brad loves him, loves the consistency that he brings, and it was a relief to see him hold the fort down and have this sort of impact. When opposing teams go small it’s obviously a big part of Theis’ success, but credit where it’s due, he was solid.

– Really enjoyed the stress free night. Celts won by 23, were never tied, never trailed, a pure wire to wire beatdown. Needed that.

The Bad

– Very on brand for the Celtics to have their lowest scoring quarter (24) and 34/33% splits in the second quarter. No hyperbole this is one of the worst second quarter teams in the entire NBA, so it was nice to see them stay on brand here. Wasn’t even a second unit issue either, the starting five combined to go just 5-17 in their stretch during that quarter.

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–  It’s really a shame the we don’t get to root for Luka. He’s just so fucking good. Another 19/9/4 for him, he was a monster

– Very weird to see Al Horford have the highest Drtg on the team at 113.7. On a night where essentially everyone played lockdown defense, Al sneaky struggled on that end. It didn’t end up mattering, but something to keep an eye on since his defense is basically the anchor to everything.

– I know this happens when you take 45 3PA, but this team only rtook 14 FTA. No starter took more than 2, and three of them took 0. Hayward/Jaylen/Tatum combined to take 3 FTA. That’s just annoying above everything else. Again part of this was the fact that nearly half of their shots came from deep, but man, it’s like this team is allergic to the FT line.

The Ugly

– Unfortunately Dirk did not pass Kobe. Really bothers me that Kobe has a record involving the Celtics. Fuck Kobe. He deserved a moment like this

(yup, I’m crying, so what….don’t judge me)

 


Alright, so looking ahead, the Celts have BKN/IND/MIA/ORL/BKN up next. That game with IND is going to be huge given where they are in the standings and the fact that this team blew it at the end the last time they played. The Celts have won 3 of their last 4, their offense is rolling, and hopefully by that game next Wednesday guys like Mook and Kyrie are back. 2018 was pretty frustrating for sure, but 2019 is off to a great start.