Kyrie Irving Puts This Team On His Back As The Celtics Avoid Disaster In Atlanta

Boston Celtics v Atlanta Hawks

I know today is a day dedicated to football, but until we get to kickoff we have to talk about what we saw from this Celtics team down in Atlanta. To put it simply, Kyrie Irving is carrying this team. Of this 3 game streak, the first two performances by Kyrie were some of the best of his entire Celtics tenure. Last night, it was another get on my back type of performance from a guy who honestly is playing at al All NBA level. We knew Friday night against MEM was a chance for this team to show they wouldn’t immediately undo everything they accomplished with the TOR win by having another let down loss at home to a bad team. Well last night was another problem area of this team and that’s playing on a back to back on the road. The Celtics are struggling with this game, they’ve certainly not been the same B2B team we’ve grown accustomed to during the Brad Stevens Era. Add in the fact that this Hawks team just beat PHI, and dropped 142 on OKC. They stink sure, but they can beat anyone on any given night apparently. Not to mention, all the teams they are in a race with won outside of the Sixers. TOR beat MEM, IND beat DAL, MIL beat ORL, so yeah this was a game the Celtics pretty much couldn’t afford to lose. Get used to that line of thinking because the Celts have put themselves in this position due to all those times they played like basketball dickheads.

Naturally, the Celtics started this game by laying an egg. I’d say I was surprised but I wasn’t. Seen that movie a thousands times before. Although this one went a little differently, usually they get down 20 before they start to try, tonight it only took getting down by 16. I suppose we call that progress! But that’s where Kyrie comes in. This is a player that has refused to let him team lose over these last three wins. I’ll repeat what I said yesterday in that I don’t care what Kyrie says off the court if he continues to lead like this on the court. He talked the talk, and this is him pretty much walking the walk. Instead of allowing an “oh no it’s happening again” attitude to take over the team when things didn’t look so hot, this team woke the hell up, started to play engaged on the defensive end, and just like that disaster was avoided.

The good news is now the Celtics return home for a nice 5 game homestand. The same place they’ve won like 12 of 14 or something like that. You could have told me this back to back would have been a schedule loss to kill momentum before a nice homestand and I wouldn’t have doubted you. That’s what this team has done up until this part of the season. Thankfully, Kyrie made sure that didn’t happen. This team held up their end of the bargain and didn’t ruin our moods for today’s Pats game.

I say we get started.

The Good

– Until further notice, this is how we are starting every one of these blogs as long as Kyrie continues to play the best basketball of his career

It’s hard for me to pick my favorite part of this current Kyrie stretch. I could start with the efficiency, another 57/62% with 5 3PM last night, and he’s never shot under 50% from either the floor or three in any of these three wins. Of his 11 FGM, 5 of them came from the paint. That has to be where you start when you talk about his offensive production. Kyrie has been so much better at not just getting to, but finishing in the paint. To me, that’s they key to everything. When Kyrie has his floater/finishing at the rim game going like this, you see an unstoppable offensive player. He’s also going on this offensive outburst all while taking 21 or fewer shots which tells us he’s moving the ball and creating with others, and last night was a perfect example of a player who is giving you exactly what you need to win.

It was pretty clear that Kyrie was going to have to carry this team offensively. We got that feeling after his 8 first quarter points. The rest of the roster was doing that bullshit lay an egg thing, and Kyrie just kept answering. His personal run in the second quarter was why this team was within striking distance at the break. On the defensive end, nobody is going to complain about holding opponents to a combined 5-17 shooting. Trae Young had just 7 points on 22 possessions, he was second on the team with 3 deflections, and he had the second best Drtg of the starting group.

– After what was the worst performance his career the other night, it was nice to see Jayson Tatum bounce back like he did with his 19/5 on 7-13 shootoing

What do you do after you lay a big time stinker? You come out the next night and right the ship. To do that, you put yourself in positions to succeed, stop settling for poor tough contested shots and instead use your size and athleticism to get into an area you have the advantage. That looks like this


Screen Shot 2019-01-20 at 9.08.36 AM

Each and every one of us who has played this sport has been in the position Tatum was after his 0-6 night. You just need to see the ball go in a few times to shake that off. So the fact that Tatum didn’t really attempt anything outside of 16ft and had success makes me very happy. His defense was nails with three blocks and I like that even after his tough night he came right back out and was 2nd among starters in FGA. He was what kept this team alive in the third quarter when it seemed like every other Celtic couldn’t by a bucket, and sometimes you just need to play a really bad team to get your rhythm back.

– You have no idea how badly I want to buy into the recent play of Terry Rozier. We all know he’s had a down season, but there’s no denying that when he plays at this level it makes the Celtics so fucking good. He didn’t even shoot well, just 4-12, but it didn’t matter. His energy, his 11 boards, his defense made such an impact. It’s why Brad talked about it again for the second straight night, it’s while you heard Al talk more about it last night, it’s not bullshit. When Terry plays like the Terry we saw last season it changes everything. When you can play him legit minutes at crucial times and he doesn’t immediately blow everything up, it matters.

– OK, let’s talk about the “fight”.

I debated where I wanted to put this part, and I’m putting it in the Good section for one reason. Since that Smart ejection, the team ended the night with a 44-29 run. It was clear he lit a spark. As long as we agree that it was a very dumb thing to do given the fact you can’t fight in an NBA game, and the fact that it seemed to be over before he ran at Bembry, as long as you acknowledge that I still think it’s OK to love Smart for the whole thing.

There was no energy, no spark, no nothing from this Celtics team. Up until this point they were a soft as team that was getting their shit pushed in. No resistance on the defensive end, couldn’t score for shit, they needed something. Was this the best way to motivate everyone? Probably not. But as Celtics fans this is what we love about Smart, that he’s always down for whatever at any moment against any person, so we can’t then get mad when he acts like it. I hated the decision, but once it was made it was time to ride or die. I’m sure he’ll be called a fake tough guy and all that bullshit before he got held back, but people who say that clearly don’t know the life story of Marcus Smart. Just because he flops does not make him a fake tough guy. You wouldn’t say that to his face I’m damn sure of that.


– It always has to feel weird for Al when he comes back to ATL, and I would say he was good not great

His shooting wasn’t all that efficient at just 4-11, but he did his job on the boards and when things got tight and they needed a clutch play/moment, he was there to deliver. No Hawk had more than 6 points against Horford all night, his defense was better and really the only thing  missing from his performance was that big momentum late three. Lets just hope we can get this type of Horford on a consistent basis.

– Make no mistake, the Celtics don’t win this game without the fourth quarter of Jaylen Brown

Jaylen still gets a lot of shit for how he started the season, but I”ll remind you that since Thanksgiving, so essentially since the first month of the season, Jaylen is putting up 13.3/4.3/1.5 on 49/37% splits with 1.2 3PM a night. His Ortg (109) and Drtg (103) are pretty respectable. He’s essentially improved every month of the season

Screen Shot 2019-01-20 at 9.32.35 AM

and is starting to get back to being the player we all need him to be. He still has his defensive lapses like almost every young player, but last night was a great example of how he can help you win games. Big threes, big FTs, great defense, he was a team best +16 all while shooting a really bad 3-10. Just like Terry, when Jaylen is playing the right way and with the right energy and not letting his poor shooting mess with his head, he’s a real positive.

– Aron Baynes deserves MVP votes. Prove me wrong.

– Look at Al actually yelling at people. Angry Al exists? Who knew


– Shoutout 23 for 25 from the line. Not just for the makes, but for the 25 FTA. For a team that averages like 19 a night which is near the bottom of the league, I’ll always cherish the games we actually see them take FTs.

The Bad

– The start. Giving up 36 points to the Hawks with 53% shooting was embarrassing to watch. This was the time every single Celtics fan said the same thing. We all rolled our eyes and quietly said “god dammit, this fucking team” to ourselves. They couldn’t stop turning it over, they couldn’t stop a nosebleed, the shot selection was awful, everything that could go wrong was going wrong over those first 12 minutes.

Then, right on schedule we had another 30+ point second quarter. In this one the Celts gave up 50/50% splits and another 5 3PM. You gave up 67 points to the goddamn Hawks? Have some self respect my lord. You want to be happy that the Celts put up 60, were actually shooting well from deep and Kyrie had gone crazy for 23 first half points. We should have been in a good mood, but 8 first half TOs and a lack of defense made that pretty tough.

– Speaking of TOs, this team is still too sloppy. Kyrie and Terry and Al were the biggest culprits, and 15 as a team is too many. I need this team to be back in their like 10-12 range. the worst part of the Celts turnovers is that it’s not like they are turning it over and then not giving up points. It seems like with every one the other team is somehow getting points so they need to cut that shit out.

The Ugly

– I don’t know why, but the ATL PA announcer is my mortal enemy. Nothing, and I mean nothing is worse than their “FOORRRRRRR THREEEEEEEEEEEEEEE” with a Hawk screech routine. I need to know if Hawks fans even like this. How could you? It’s annoying as shit. So when the Celtics opened up this game and surrendered nothing but threes and my ear drums were bukkakked with that bullshit, it was not great. I watch a lot of basketball in a lot of different arenas and I can’t think of a worse routine. You know which one I sneaky like? I like the dude in DEN that just straight yells “yyyyeeaaaaurrrrraahhhh” in a low voice after a huge three. Now that plays.

– OK, I’m not concerned, but I’m getting there when it comes to this Mook slump

Screen Shot 2019-01-20 at 9.46.48 AM

We are now approaching rare waters. Mook has not had a stretch like this at any point of his career year, so while I’m still confident and want him taking any shot he wants, I can’t say I’m not a little nervous. Maybe he needs a day off? He’s too important to this team and this offense to let this fester and develop into a prolonged slump. Give him an off day and let him rest and let’s see if that helps.

– How does Al miss this layup smh

So while there won’t be any parades because the Celtics beat the Hawks, it was still a relief. Can’t be at the point where you’re down by 16, but I liked the fight on the road with tired legs. Finally, we saw them not take two steps back, and now it’s on to focus on getting revenge against MIA who is up next. Find a way to go on a run leading into GS on Saturday which will be not only your first look at them, but Boogie is playing. A true measuring stick performance I want to see this team go into riding a 5 game winning streak.


Now, please join me in collectively exhaling. They didn’t lose to the Hawks, thank God.