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Sometimes You Just Have To Give The Ball To Kyrie And Get The Hell Out Of The Way

Memphis Grizzlies v Boston Celtics

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Coming off a huge win against the Raptors, you’re lying to yourself if you’re a Celtics fan and you weren’t a little nervous heading into last night’s matchup against a sinking Grizzlies team that had lost 14 of their past 17 games. We’ve seen this team in this position quite a few times already this season and it almost never ends well. Whether it’s a big win over TOR followed up by an 86 point performance in a loss at home to UTA, or beating IND convincingly and then immediately losing to the below .500 Heat. While other teams don’t usually have to worry about playing the bottom of the league, that is not the case with the Boston Celtics. They are just as likely to beat someone like GS as they are to lose to a team like this Grizzlies squad that is losing to everyone on the planet right now.

Which is why a game that should have been a blowout was anything but. Even with the Celts getting out to a 16 point lead, every Celtics fan on the planet that lead wasn’t safe. I want to say I can’t imagine what it would have been like had the Celtics dropped this game but that’s a lie. I do know what it would have been like because I’ve seen them do it, even in their own building. We all said the same thing after that TOR win, it was huge and very much needed, but we’ve been hurt before. We as fans needed to see this team play that well consistently and for a sustained period of time in order to truly buy in. Given how soft their schedule is right now it was another prime stretch to do just that. Now remember, we were just here like a week ago and dropped all 3 on the road to bad teams so obviously nothing is a given. At the end of the day though, the Celts didn’t collapse. For one night they avoided disaster and mostly it was because they went to their best player and allowed him to carry them home. Looking at the big picture the Celtics have now won 8 straight at home and 12 of their last 14. Given how their schedule played out early with everything on the road, they are right in the middle of a big time stretch of games at the Garden, and if their level of play recently in that building is any indication, they have a real opportunity to stack up wins to close out the month.

To me, it’s no big deal that they beat the Grizzlies. It’s not about the team they beat, it’s that for once they didn’t overlook an opponent and take a step backwards immediately after taking a step forward. I call that progress, so now let’s talk about it.

The Good

– As a founding rule of this blog, you do something on the basketball court that puts you in a category with Larry Bird, you start the blog off. For the second consecutive game, Kyrie Irving was virtually unstoppable

So much of the talk recently has been questioning Kyrie’s ability to be a leader. It’s leader this and leader that every damn day it seems. The one thing that cannot be argued is between the lines Kyrie Irving has been an incredible leader since the season started. We hear him off the court talk about how he needs to assume that role and carry this team and be that go to guy he wanted to be when he came here. Well, what better example of that than these last two games? You back up that TOR performance with some Larry Bird shit? Right from the start of this game everything from Kyrie was aggressive. 8 of his 14 FGM came from inside the paint, but his aggressiveness wasn’t only self serving. Kyrie touched the ball 79 times last night and passed on 47 of them. That means on nearly 60% of his touches, he was moving the ball, looking for teammates and not just holding and dribbling for 20 seconds. So not only was he carrying the offense with his efficient scoring, he was also spending a majority of his team leading 32.5% usage rate finding and creating for others. His 52.4% assist percentage is like 18% higher than his season average and was 22.4% higher than any other Celtic in this game.

On the defensive end it was a mixed bag, he didn’t dog it by any means but also wasn’t all that effective. Conley was 4-5 against him, Holiday 3-5, but at the same time I thought Kyrie played with great energy on that end. He led the team with 5 deflections, and he was good when it mattered so that’s all I care about.

– Here is something that cannot be debated. This is a stone cold hard fact that you’re just going to have to wrap our brain around. Are you ready? Maybe sit down or something.

Marcus Smart has a higher 3P% on the season than Klay Thompson. Yeah that’s right. You didn’t just have a stroke, you read that correctly. Marcus Smart, known terrible three point shooter, is suddenly not only serviceable, but he’s above league average and an actual weapon. This is what that looks like

Like everyone else, I’ve been waiting for Marcus to come back down to earth from three. We’ve seen enough to know he’s probably going to live around like 33% if we’re lucky. Well, jokes on us!


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No, I don’t expect him to go 6-8 from deep on a consistent basis. But the facts are Marcus Smart’s three point shooting is no longer a negative. He already gives you so much, the one thing was it always made you nervous when he would play late because you couldn’t trust his shot selection. Well now, things are starting to change. This play in particular stood out to me. This was a night where Marcus couldn’t miss from deep, had a wide open look, and decided to make the better basketball play

I don’t think anyone would have been mad if he shot this given how he was playing, but for a guy that’s only 24 and has had poor shot selection his entire career, this is a step in the right direction. Pass up a good shot for a great shot, you’ve heard it since you first started playing basketball and it’s why the good teams are who they are.

You add in his defense, holding opponents to just 2-12 shooting, and yeah this was about an ideal Marcus Smart performance as you can get.

– What a difference these last two games have been for Al Horford. Not only has his production been so much better to the tune of 21 points on 77% from deep, but it’s when he’s hitting these shots that I love most. He’s back to hitting his big, late, momentum threes. You get him in a P&R or P&Pop with Kyrie and he’s shooting that jumper with confidence and I don’t think I’ve seen him hit the rim.

On the defensive end, the man made Marc Gasol his bitch. I’m talking 47 possessions with 2 points on 1-7 shooting. Completely owned that matchup and made the Grizzlies second best player a non factor. Back to back games his defense has been a lot better after the disaster performance in BKN, and this looks a whole lot more like the Horford we’re used to and are going to need moving forward. Again it’s not so much the points, it’s the efficiency and the timely makes combined with lock down anchor defense. Al keeps that up and this team can go on a run.


– Aron Baynes is perfect. I don’t really know what else to say. It’s not exactly a coincidence the player with the best net rating on the team at +13.0 and the best Drtg on the team at 98.5, returns to the lineup and instantly the Celtics look a billion times better. It’s funny to joke about because he’s such a random player, but there is no arguing the impact Aron Baynes has on this basketball team. He was a +21 in this game, had 12 rebounds off the bench including 7 on the offensive glass and watching him play elite level defense was nothing new.

The sample size is large enough, where maybe it’s time to consider getting Baynes around 20 minutes a night. He got 22 last night and was a force, and I think the biggest thing he does for this team is bring a sense of calmness on the defensive end. Everyone is better with Baynes on the floor, and it’s why he’s Brad’s secret weapon. Don’t be shocked if we see him start here or there moving forward.

– Hey they won the rebounding battle and went 17-22 from the line. Shout out to them for shooting more than their season average from the charity stripe!

– Credit has to be given to both Terry and Jaylen for the energy they’ve both brought off the bench in these last two wins. They’ve essentially saved the starters in both games, and it does seem like Jaylen is starting to figure things out. Shooting over 50% since Thanksgiving, last night even gave us some better defensive effort which is always appreciated

The two of them were a +17 in their minutes off the bench and were the only two second unit players in double figures. It’s pretty clear that when the second unit gives this team the sort of boost we’ve seen over the last two it makes all the difference in the world. Efficient scoring, good defense, unselfish play. Please God let them find a way to be consistent with this.

– Crazy what ball movement can do isn’t it? Another 29 assists on 44 baskets I’ll take that everyday. Four players with at least 4 assists that sort of ball movement led to open threes and as this team continues to show they are coming around in that department. I won’t complain about 17 3PM and you shouldn’t either.

The Bad

– Never good to give up 116 points to a team that barely averages over 100 and is dead last in the league in scoring. No real other way to say it but the energy on that end in the first half was pretty pathetic. Not too much resistance as they allowed 28 points in the paint, but it was more than that. They didn’t really defend the three point line either as MEM got off to a 7-13 start. It was that defensive start that had all of us a little nervous that this was going to be another really bad loss, we’d seen what happens with that type of effort before.


For the second time this season the Celts gave up 38 points in a second quarter to this team, and shit like that makes me want to claw my eyes out. That was bad.

– To make matters worse, the Celts were sloppy. Easiest way to give a bad team confidence is to turn it over a shit ton, and the 17 the Celtics had certainly qualifies. That led to easy points and it’s the number 1 way this team ultimately collapses. They have these mental lapses where TOs are the only thing they do for like 4 straight possessions and I do back to quietly crying inside. I mean they had7 in the second and 6 in the fourth quarter alone. Clean that shit up.

– They didn’t get Yabu a shot in his 2 minutes. That has to be the goal every single time he steps on the floor because nobody knows when those opportunities come.

The Ugly

– Man, where to start. I guess the most sense makes Jayson Tatum considering he went for a nice 0-6 2/6/4. Listen I get he has these new shoes, but I’ve seen enough to say it’s time he go back to whatever he was wearing before. It wasn’t the best offensive approach from Tatum which is what we fear when he starts slow. He stopped attacking, he became passive, and on a night when he wasn’t shooting well the fact that he took just 2 FTAs is annoying. He’s been pretty consistent for a while now so fine maybe this was just a bad game, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t ugly to watch.

Then we had something that I’m trying to convince myself isn’t a big deal. But I have to ask, are we about to embark on a Mook slump? See for yourself

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I can’t remember Mook having a stretch like this so far this season, so I’ll admit my ears are perked. It’s no secret how important he is to this offense and his consistency and efficiency is a huge part of that. Felt like he couldn’t buy a bucket last night, and the 0 FTA is concerning with him as well.

And finally, Gordon. He wasn’t bad, but he was a second unit worst -7, shot 2-7 from the floor and missed a couple FTs. Defensively Casspi sort of game him fits going 3-4 against him, and I wouldn’t exactly say this was the best defensive effort from Hayward this season, mostly I’m just annoyed at his usage rate once again. Under 20%, I don’t get why Brad or whoever can’t seem to figure out that the only way Gordon gets back to who he was is if you actually give him the ball and use him. Let him run the offense in the second unit and let him be selfish. Let’s see if he can handle that.

– Blowing a 16 point lead against this dogshit should never be acceptable.

– Imagine being Shelvin Mack and talking shit to Kyrie Irving? Lack of self awareness like you read about.


Now, tonight is yet another test. Not because they play a good team, but because they play a bad team on the road. As you’ll remember, this is something the Celtics struggle with. Common sense says the Celts should roll, but that common sense is how you get your ass beat. Show me this same type of overall effort on a back to back and let me be in a good mood for the Pats game tomorrow. That’s all I ask.