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The Boston Celtics Remain Undefeated In 2019

Brooklyn Nets v Boston Celtics

Screen Shot 2019-01-08 at 7.50.42 AM

Before we dive in, let’s just all be honest with ourselves. Yes it’s true that for the month of December the Nets were one of the best teams in the NBA. Heading into this game they had the second most wins in the NBA since December 1st with the 7th best offense. It’s fair to say they put together a pretty impressive stretch and came into Boston riding a three game winning streak. However it is also true that the team the Celtics played last night was NOT that same Nets team that had been on this recent tear. They were missing like 60+ points worth of scoring, heavy rotation players were out, so at the end of the day it’s not all that big a deal that the Celtics beat a severely injured Nets team. I mean they were getting all their guys back with Kyrie/Morris/Timelord being active, they were playing at home, so yeah this result is sort of expected.

But at the same time, this is the Boston Celtics we’re talking about here. You know them, they’re the lovable dickheads that very often lose games they should win against inferior opponents. If you think any game, against any team, at any moment of the season is an automatic win for this group, well then you simply haven’t been paying attention. Two months ago, this is probably a game the Celtics lose because nothing about their season made sense at that time. This is the same team that has already lost at home to ORL/NYK/PHX/UTA which is why every night is an adventure. But those were the 2018 Celtics. The 2019 Celtics fucking rule. They give consistent effort, they play defense, they move the ball, hell they actually look like the team we all expected them to be. Is it great that it took nearly half a season to even get flashes of that? No not really, but it’s here and we should all enjoy it. They came into the month of January with some pretty heavy pressure to play well and stack wins, and so far that’s exactly what they’ve done. They don’t make the schedule, I don’t really care who they are beating, they just need wins right now as they scratch and claw their way back into the top of the conference. The real test of this homestand comes tomorrow against IND, and it sure feels good to be riding some momentum into that showdown.

All in all it was a fun, mostly stress free night at the Garden on Monday night, so let’s get started.

The Good

– You know, maybe Kyrie Irving getting scratched in both of his eyeballs was a blessing in disguise. It allowed him to get some much needed rest and in his return last night he looked rejuvenated, and turned in a performance that may look modest in terms of the box score, but was exactly what this team needed. He finished with just 17/2/6 on 8-16 shooting in his 27 minutes, but he didn’t turn it over and more importantly didn’t force things.

I think what I’m enjoying most about Kyrie this season isn’t just his ridiculous scoring ability, but how willing he is to create for others. He had a very respectable 31.6% AST% in this game and is averaging a career high in assists (6.6) and a near career high in AST% at 35.2%. In terms of his own offensive approach, 11 of his 16 FGA came from the paint which you know I love, and on a night where the offense was about as balanced as it’s been all year, it was good to see him lead the team with 16 FGA but not go crazy with like 25. For a guy that missed time nothing felt forced and that was great to see.

– Statistics are a funny thing. For a lot of players, if they were shooting 35% from three, you would think they kinda stink. That’s league average, but it’s not really that great. However, when that player is Marcus Smart, that 35% may as well be 65%. That’s what Smart is shooting from three on the SEASON this year, and last night the dude had nearly half of the team’s 3PM

Smart already does so much for this team in terms of energy, defense, passing, intangibles, etc that if he can legit be a respectable outside shooter it takes his value to a whole different level. I’m not saying he has to be Steph Curry, but if he can maintain this 35% to the point where defenses have to respect it, well then that opens up everything for their drivers like Kyrie/Tatum/Mook on that starting unit. He’s at 44% from deep over his last 11 games, so while I am willing to concede that this is simply a hot streak, that there will be some sort of come down eventually, it really does seem like he could at least be average to slightly below average instead of horrific. With Smart it was never really his form, but rather his shot selection that got him in trouble. We’ve seen him take a MASSIVE step in the right direction when it comes to his decision making, so it really shouldn’t be all that surprising that the percentages are starting to turn in his favor.

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You add in the work he did on the defensive end, holding D’Angelo Russell scoreless, holding Spencer Dinwiddie to just 2 points, and Shabazz Napier just 3 points, this was perhaps one of Smart’s best all around games of the year. I would advise you to enjoy this hot shooting while it lasts because we are in uncharted waters here so who knows how long it’ll be around, but as long as it is Marcus Smart becomes a legit weapon on both ends.

– Hard to find someone who had a bigger impact while just playing 24 minutes than Al Horford

12/9/5 with a block on 6-7 shooting, Al was efficient, he held his own against a very good young center in Jarrett Allen who had just 4 points on 35 possessions against Horford, and I’m certainly not going to complain about his 34.8% DREB%. This was a matchup Al should have won so it was good to see him play well, and even better that he did it all despite his minutes restriction. Over his last 5 games Al is averaging a nice 12/6/4.6 on 60/60% splits, and the way he is shooting the ball is so much better than when he first came back from missing all that time. That tells me he’s finding his legs which is going to be important because his efficient scoring is pretty important to how this team plays.

The way the Celtics use him in P&R/Pick & Pop is the key to their entire offense, so him being able to switch it up from hitting that jumper to attacking the rim is going to be key moving forward.

– It’s not rocket science, when this team passes the ball like they have over the last few games, they are nearly impossible to beat. They have now recorded 30+ assists in 4 straight games which is the fourth longest streak in franchise history. I’ve talked about it before, but their AST% target is around 67%. Last night, just like over the last 4 games, they were up over 75%. A total 37 assists on 47 FGM that’s a cool 78%, which is utterly ridiculous. That’s some Warriors type ball movement right there, and we know how dominant they are. What makes me happy is that this passing and unselfish play is coming from everyone. Four of the five starters had at least 4 assists, guys that aren’t known for their passing like Jaylen and Terry both had 4. Even the deep bench guys like Semi and Theis came in and had 2 a piece. They say ball movement is contagious and the way the Celtics are currently playing I don’t know how you argue against that. Hopefully this is a large enough sample size for the team to realize this is how they have to play at all times.

– Still not crazy about his efficiency going 5-12 (2-6), but it’s hard to deny Jayson Tatum did a little bit of everything in his 27 minutes

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He had a little trouble early with Kurucs, but by the end of the night held him to just 7 points on 22 possessions, and everyone else was essentially scoreless. That tells me that despite his shot not falling at the rate he may have wanted, Tatum was still engaged defensively. The only annoying part was 10 of his 12 FGA were uncontested, so him only making 4 is a bit disappointing. I think we all take 16/4/4 with good defense, and it was a good sign that he had the second most FGA among starters after Kyrie.

– A 56-38 points in the paint win, a 24-8 fast break point win, and just 13 TOs is how you get yourself a blowout win.

– At first I was a little nervous that this neck injury broke Marcus Morris. He started pretty slow, missing some shots he normally made, but at the end of the day his 12 points on 3-6 shooting from deep reminded me that nothing can stop Contract Year Mook

Defensively he was rock solid, holding opponents to 2-5 shooting and he guarded everyone from Jared Dudley on 19 possessions, to Russell for 10, to Faried for 11. None of them had any success against Morris, and that’s a great display of his versatility and why he’s so important to how Brad wants to play. You can play him essentially with any style, as a big, as a win, as a 2 guard, whatever.

– It was nice to see this team punch back. When BKN made their run early in the third and cut this lead down to like 6, the November Celtics probably collapse. The 2019 Celtics punched back, went on a run of their own and coasted to the finish line. That’s the mental toughness I want to see at all times. We know they are going to blow leads, again this is the Celtics we’re talking about, but seeing them nut up and punch back was reassuring.

– His shot wasn’t great, but watching Gordon Hayward you can sense he’s feeling more comfortable. He’s being more aggressive when it comes to attacking the rim, he did a great job defensively on Kurucs and Treveon Graham, giving up just 5 points on a total 37 possessions, and so far we have not had another disappearance after a 30 point game like what happened last month. That’s a positive

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– When in doubt, just throw it up

Man for a team that has a bunch of unhappy players that never root for their teammates when good things happen to them, everyone sure looked to celebrate this one. That’s weird, I thought people were jealous and hated their roles and were problems. Guess not.

– Shouts Daniel Theis for dominating his minutes. You get him against any non gigantic bruising center and he can be really effective

His consistency is why Brad loves him. I love him because nobody on this team taps the ball like he does, and while Horford still has his restrictions if they are going to get consistent Theis minutes that look like this, then I have no problem giving him some run. It’s when he’s a problem that I need Brad to bite the bullet and take him out. Recently, that hasn’t been an issue.

The Bad

– As well as the Celtics played, they were still pretty sloppy at times. Looking at you Jaylen and Gordon. Of the team’s 13 TOs, 8 of them came from those two and that’s just not acceptable. Jaylen was mostly up and down, I thought he was good when it came to drawing attention and finding others on drives, but other than that it was mostly a forgettable night for him. Just 2-6 from the floor, he had a little trouble staying in front of Spencer Dinwiddie, I would say had the Celtics played a better team, this would have been a problem. Need Jaylen to be better, no denying that.

– I think it’s time we all just accept that this Celtics team will never take FTs. Just 12 FTA for the game, no starter with more than 4, Kyrie took 0, Horford took 0, Smart 0, I remind you they were playing at home. It’s not even really a ref issue either, they just don’t play to contact it seems like. They are 29th in FT rate this season and 27th in FTA per game, which I can’t comprehend. We haven’t seen a Celtics team avoid the line like this maybe ever.

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– Couldn’t have given us more than 4:26 of the Yabu/Timelord frontcourt pairing Brad? Shit was a blowout, how dare you not give the people what they want.

The Ugly

– Pretty predictable that the Celtics were going to blow their 20 point lead, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it. I was expecting it to come in the second quarter, so when that didn’t come you knew it was only a matter of time. They blew it back up, but it wouldn’t be a Celtics game without making you sweat just a little bit. BKN came out and shot 70% in that third quarter, so whatever Brad’s speech was at the half, I’m going to need him to throw that in the trash moving forward.


We now turn our attention to the very, very good Indiana Pacers. We all remember what happened the last time these two played, Kyrie missed a point blank layup that would have put the Celtics up 4 with like 5 seconds left, Oladipo then went down and hit the game winning three. It stung. If you look at their recent tests at home, they failed against MIL, passed against PHI, and now have this big one against IND. The Pacers are 2 games ahead of BOS in the East, and as we know H2H records are going to be very important come the Spring when it’s time to figure out seeding. Play like they have over the last 5 or 6 games, we should be all set. This is going to be an entirely different beast than this Nets team obviously, so if the Celtics want to show me that their 2019 is for real, you gotta win this game. Can’t wait.