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What's Wrong With The Celtics? Try Everything

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Stop me if you’ve heard and seen this before. The Celtics lose games against good teams and all the talk after each game is about figuring it out and playing better and how there’s still a bunch of time left. Then they go out and beat a bad team (barely), as a way to build some confidence for their next opponent which is one of the better teams in the league. They’re at home so it’s a great opportunity to restore some confidence for the fans and a great chance for them to actually apply all the bullshit they’ve been talking about during this bad stretch. What happens? They are competitive for a total of 2 minutes and 30 seconds of their next game, find themselves once again down 28 points at home, and it’s clear that not a goddamn thing has changed or improved as currently constructed.

I don’t know if it’s a stubbornness issue from everyone involved or what, but for all this talk about changing and playing the right way, it sure seems like every time this team hits the floor they do the exact opposite. The best we can hope for is getting one or two stretches where this team looks like the one we all expect, but it’s certainly the exception and not the norm. The numbers aren’t pretty since Rondo hit that game winner, whether it’s the 3-7 record, the 26th ranked offense, the 16th ranked defense, or the 23rd best overall net rating. Everywhere you look it’s a full blown disaster and the good news is the schedule only gets harder. Their best players are stinking up the joint, Brad isn’t making necessary adjustments, and with each subpar performance this team is becoming more and more hatable. It doesn’t take a lot of please Celtics fans, you don’t even have to win. All you have to do is show us you care and give a full effort and there would be no problems. but time after time this team shoots itself in the foot, doesn’t play defense and watches the lead balloon to something crazy only to then make a late run that falls short. It’s so goddamn annoying.

I honestly feel like I could just copy and paste every blog from the last month, but as you know we do not run and hide when things looks terrible. We face the music and take our medicine no matter how sickening it may be. Let’s get into it.

The Good

– If there is one bright spot in this massive pile of shit, it’s Jaylen Brown.

He’s been one of their best players for over a month now, is the one guy who consistently plays with great energy, and the work he’s doing on the defensive end is something the rest of the team can learn from. For all the blame his teammates loved to throw on him during the team’s struggles, it’s clear to everyone with eyes that he has earned his spot back in the starting lineup. What do they have to lose? It’s not as if they could look any worse so what’s the issue.

Not only was he an efficient 7-13 from the floor, but on the defensive end against HOU’s two best players in Harden/Gordon Jaylen matched up with them on 24 possessions and gave up 4 points.  He finished with the second best net rating on the team, and honestly it was his energy and effort that even got this team somewhat back into this game. The one trend that we’re seeing that tells us Brad is starting to trust Jaylen more is the fact that yesterday was the 3rd straight game in which Jaylen played all 12 minutes of the fourth quarter. This is the Jaylen we saw last year, and if this is a sign of what we may get in the playoffs, that will make a difference.

– On a night where many didn’t show up, at least Al Horford was his consistent self. He finished with 19/6 on 7-8 shooting, and I dunno maybe they should have played through him more. The fact that he had second lowest usage rate despite being so effective was a little annoying, because it was clear he was a matchup problem

Now we can be fair, every single time he was matched up with Harden on a switch he got dominated in space, but that’s going to happen.

– How many times would you think if the Celts starting backcourt went 11-19 for 42 points that they would get absolutely killed? In terms of shooting the ball, both Kyrie and Smart were great.

The bad news is there is more to their job than just scoring, and when it came to everything else they seemed to do more harm than good. Kyrie was the one early who was able to actually hit a shot, so offensively I don’t have that much of a problem with him. His issues which we’ll get to come on the other end.

– OK do I have to keep going in this section? It just feels forced so I’m going to call it.

The Bad

– OK, we’ll start with what set the tone for this game, and that’s turnovers. This game snowballed early, and a large reason for that is because this team could not take care of the ball in the first quarter. They finished with 6, that gave the Rockets a quick 10-0 advantage in points off turnovers, and once they took their first lead with 9:26 left in the first quarter, this game was never tied again. For the second consecutive game this was an issue for BOS, the Rockets finished with 23 points off turnovers and honestly it’s just careless basketball. This team has enough issues that repeatedly shooting themselves in the foot only makes it worse. Then the body language goes, then everyone tries to hit homerun threes which don’t fall, they don’t get back in transition and things get out of hand. It’s a scenario we’ve seen a thousand times and you can almost set y0ur watch to it.

To make matters worse in that first quarter, not only could they not stop turning it over, but once they actually got into their halfcourt defense there was zero resistance. Look at HOU’s shot chart!

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Uncontested layups like you read about. It’s almost as if they’ve never seen any tape on how HOU plays or something. Do you think this team practices how to cover a P&R? I hope the answer is no because if they do and this was the result well that’s a big time issue.

– You would think there was no way things could get worse, but you forget they hadn’t even played the second quarter yet. Just like it always does this quarter was essentially the nail in the coffin, as the Celts scored 20 point on 7-20 shooting and 0-9 from three. Now there’s a common narrative that the second quarter struggles are due to the second unit coming in and ruining everything. That’s only partly true, and certainly not the case yesterday

As you can see, the majority of those guys are normal starter caliber players. The Celts had things down to 11 with 7:21 in the quarter, Kyrie came in for Jaylen and immediately the lead ballooned 20 points just 3 minutes later. I’m NOT saying this is Kyrie’s fault, but my point is the whole point of having him on the floor is to prevent these type of runs from happening in the first place.  There was no timeout called from that substitution through the 20 point lead, in fact it was the Rockets that actually called one with around 3:30 left. Poor shots from Terry, Morris, Baynes, only fueled the fire and gave HOU momentum to help them extend the lead, and I’m not sure what the answer is. If your best players are coming in and the lead is still getting out of hand, that’s a problem.

– Jayson Tatum was really bad on both ends. I mean really bad. The thing is, I’m giving him a pass because who among us wasn’t a little hung over following out 21st birthday. This was the most predictable performance from anyone, and now that he can legally drink I’m going to have to ask him to learn how to manage his booze because his effort was unacceptable.

– Always a good sign when two opponents outscore your entire team in a first half. I didn’t even know that was possible.

– Is this good?

I’m going to go ahead and say no, no it’s not.

– You know what kills your momentum as well as your hopes and dreams? Fourth quarter offensive rebounds. The Celts actually got this game into a decent deficit in the fourth quarter, only they decided to not rebound which is a strategy I would certainly not recommend. The Rockets snagged 4 OREB that led to 8 second chance points, and seeing as how they only scored 15 points in the quarter, I’d say that’s fairly significant.

I’m looking at you Al Horford. There is no excuse for his 13% DREB rate, nobody else wanted to box out, and you just knew every single time HOU got a second opportunity they were going to hit another dagger three which is exactly what happened. Rebounding is an effort thing, and it’s not surprising that they didn’t show the type of effort that was required to mount the comeback.

– It most definitely looked like Aron Baynes had not played basketball in a month. Woof.

The Ugly

– Someone, explain these to me

Look, I am NOT someone who believes the Celtics are better without Kyrie Irving. That is beyond stupid. However, they are better without THIS version of Kyrie Irving.

Whether he likes it or not, he is this team’s best player and with that comes more responsibility and higher expectations. You look at his defensive effort and it’s just lazy. We put up with all the drama because we have an expectation he is going to be an elite player on both ends, one that makes a difference in a positive way. Yes, he scored efficiently which is part of it, but there’s more to his role on this team than that. He’s been unable to stop the bleeding with these huge runs, and there’s no denying this team played harder without him and Mook on the floor yesterday. Interesting because they are the two that always are quick to assign blame, but honestly have been some of the biggest issues as of late.

Kyrie made it clear he’s done caring about the regular season, and that’s fine, but if this is the version of Kyrie we get in the playoffs the Celts won’t win a game.

– I hate to say it, but Gordon Hayward is unplayable at the moment. His shot isn’t there, he’s still hesitant as this was another game he took 0 FTA, and defensively he’s not providing much resistance at all. Honestly, you move Jaylen to the starting unit and give Mook his minutes. We need to start figuring out playoff rotations, and nothing we’ve seen from Hayward suggests he’s earned them. They need to decide one way or another, either play him on the second unit and run EVERYTHING through him as a #1 option, or don’t play him. This in between bullshit isn’t working and that much is clear.

The Celtics now head West for a little GS/SAC/LAL/LAC stretch and honestly I have no idea what to think. Everything we thought we knew about this team, like them getting up for good teams has been debunked recently, and we already know they struggle every time they go out West. It wouldn’t shock me if they went 3-1, and it wouldn’t shock me if they went 0-4. The one thing we do know for sure is this team is in no way close to being fixed, if anything things are getting worse. With just 18 games left in the season it’s time to accept the fact that this team will not figure it out for the rest of the regular season. The hope now is that there really is a flip they can switch in the postseason, but why should be trust them when they say that?