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The Celtics Ruined What Was A Perfect Night By Pooping Their Pants When It Mattered Most

Denver Nuggets v Boston Celtics

Last night was big for a few reasons. Obviously first and foremost was the return of Isaiah, something that was 2 years in the making and a moment I couldn’t wait for personally. Even today waking up I’m still seeing people on Twitter not really understand why this was a big deal for Celtics fans, and I’ve blogged enough about why that’s silly. Then you had the revenge factor given what happened between these two teams back in early November with Jamal Murray gunning for 50 and Kyrie Irving freaking out about it. This was their chance to let the Nuggets know they didn’t forget about that. And most importantly, it was the last game of the homestand against the best team of the three game stretch and an opportunity for this team to build even more momentum before the pretty important showdown in Philly tomorrow.

So while things with Isaiah were better than I could have imagined, his tribute and reception was incredible and his postgame interview even better, when it came to what the Celtics actually did on the basketball court, well it was the exact opposite. I suppose that’s the more important part and what we should really be focusing on today, because make no mistake about it, the Celtics took this game and threw it in the trash. The Nuggets are damn good don’t get me wrong, but this was more about the Celtics losing it than the Nuggets winning if that makes any sense. They made them pay for every mistake they made, but this was about as careless and lifeless as we’ve seen this team look in weeks. Given they were rested and all the hype surrounding this game I find that pretty pathetic.

As expected with every Celtics loss, the sky is apparently falling. At least that was the sentiment I got in my mentions after the final buzzer. Let’s not forget that IND also lost in POR so if we want to be technical about it this loss didn’t hurt them all that much, but it’s still frustrating as hell to see this team fold in a fourth quarter like they did. It should have been a night filled with joy and at times it was, but as I look back at things this morning all I can feel is anger and frustration.

Let’s dive in.

The Good

– You know who I’m not going to kill for last night? Kyrie Irving. You know one of the few guys on this team that actually showed up and proved that they actually have a pulse.

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His outside shooting was a bit rough at 2-8 but other than that he was the best Celtic on the floor in his 36 minutes and it’s not really close. Given that he started so poorly (1-7) and still ended up with 30/5/4 on 10-23 shooting is why as fans you have to allow him to shoot his way out of an early slump, and this wasn’t one of those games where sure he scores 30 but then also gives up a billion points on the other end. On a night where defense was hard to find Kyrie actually brought it on that end. His primary matchup in Gary Harris (36 possessions) had just 6 points on 2-8 shooting. On the night Kyrie only gave up 11 points in total, caused 4 TOs, and had a respectable 105 Drtg.

On a night that fans celebrated a former awesome Celtics point guard, the guy he was traded for wasn’t half bad either.

– Same goes for Al Horford, he’s another guy who you can’t really have a problem with. He was aggressive with the second most FGA on the team and was efficient from the floor with his 20/6/6, and it was especially nice to see him knock down 4 3PM given he was just 1 for his last 7 heading into last night.

He was the only Celtic to finish with a positive net rating, and while he certainly had his issues defending Nikola Jokic, I don’t really question his defense moving forward. What I care about is that his reliability on the offensive end comes back and that he and Kyrie continue to make beautiful music together. Al’s ability to pick and pop and consistently make that outside open three is going to be a huge part of this team’s offense in the postseason, so the quicker we see that come back the better.

– I’ve watched this a billion times and I don’t plan on stopping anytime soon. Sorry to make you a little emotional while you may be at work but the Isaiah tribute is too awesome to not watch again. Not bad for a city that apparently only likes and cheers for white players

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and for those who may have missed it late last night, the postgame was even better

On a night where so much went to shit, sometimes it’s nice to be reminded things are bigger than sports. That is how I would describe the Celtics/Isaiah ordeal. Now that all this time has passed, this was the perfect closure in my opinion.

– Everyone knock on wood that Mook is finally getting out of his slump. Another efficient 4-7 night with a couple threes, it’s no secret he’s going to keep getting minutes so personally I would prefer he not shoot the ball like an asshole.

The Bad

– OK, enough of the bullshit let’s get to the meat of this game and that’s largely how embarrassing this team looked. They came out flat and a large reason for that was their shot selection. Of their first 22 FGA 10 were threes and they finished the first quarter with 36/30% splits. There was no ball movement, guys were settling and I don’t know how many times we have to see it but when this team plays outside/in it almost never works. The frustrating part is they never fixed this approach, which I have to ask what the hell Brad was doing all game? Maybe tell his guys to ya know, drive to the basket?

What we saw was what happens when this team panics and folds. They played the last like 10 minutes of this game like they were down big points and went with nothing but homerun shots when they could have easily just taken a deep breath and run an actual offense. Especially on a night when you’re not exactly lighting it up from deep. Going 5-19 in the second half after a 7-20 first half from deep is just being lazy. While not all their threes were bad, it was their hesitation to actually go back to what was working for them early that’s the most frustrating.

– I think we’re seeing just how valuable Hayward is to this team because without him things certainly weren’t all that great. They missed his playmaking, they missed his shooting, and the lineup combinations that Brad was forced to use were pretty rough. It forced him to have to play Tatum maybe a little more than he should have, and when he ran with that second unit it was gross.

I would say the most frustrating part of the second unit last night was again their shot selection. Of Terry’s 9 FGA, 6 of them came from behind the arc. The ball stuck with him again which is where you miss Hayward, and I’m positive almost anyone can bait Terry into taking a three as long as you give him enough space. Then you have Jaylen. It was almost as if his entire two months didn’t happen because just like Terry, he played outside/in. Of his 6 FGA, 4 were from deep. What happened to the Jaylen that we saw be aggressive and attack the basket? No wonder he only played 20 minutes because that is not the version of Jaylen that deserves to play more. You combine his offensive showing with plays like this

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and there really isn’t an excuse for this type of mental lapse. Jaylen has been so solid lately his play last night really took me by surprise because in theory it was a good matchup for him to be aggressive and attack. For him to have just 2 FGA in the paint in inexcusable.

– Let’s call a spade a spade here, for the second time this season Marcus Smart had all sorts of trouble guarding Jamal Murray. After he lit him up in the first meeting last night was no different with him going 5-8 against Smart, the most of any matchup. It was really a rough night overall for Smart, who’s stretch right in the beginning of the fourth quarter was a huge swing in momentum and definitely a factor as to why things started to spin out of control

His 1-7 fourth quarter was brutal, and this was one of those games they needed someone (Brad/Kyrie/whoever) to step in and tell him to reign it in a little bit.

– I am at a loss for words trying to explain this play. Brad said postgame this is a look they’ve successfully run this season and I’m not calling him a liar but I certainly can’t remember one off the top of my head. You want to look at where the game was lost it was the end of the third quarter no question. Up 5 with 49 seconds to go and you give it all away in a blink of an eye because you tried to be cute.

He admitted after the game this was a mistake, and to that I say uhhhhhhh ya think? Who cares if you lose the timeout? Since when does Brad care about timeouts (more on this in a second)?

The Ugly

– We all talk about how things were fixed on that plane ride, but you know what clearly wasn’t? This team’s defense. DEN can obviously score, but giving up 114 at home is a problem and you look at their recent points allowed: 109, 107, 140, 120, 120, 114 and it is certainly trending in the wrong direction. This team is too streaky offensively to be playing this poor of defense, and for a team where elite defense is supposed to be their calling card I’m wondering where it is. Guys are fucking up rotations, they’re slow on closeouts, and call me crazy but every single time DEN swung the ball for an open three it felt like it went in because guys were lazy. It doesn’t matter what this team does moving forward if they don’t address their defensive issues. Things haven’t improved since Baynes returned, and that’s a little concerning.

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– Boy did Jayson Tatum put up a stinker. Maybe it’s one of those nights where nothing is falling, but we can’t really ignore his struggles from three this month. He’s shooting 18.5% from deep and even if you think he’s not the same shooter we saw last year, he’s still better than an 18% shooter. It felt like he just needed one of those to drop last night to snap his funk and he just couldn’t buy a bucket. Combine that with his nonexistent defense and this may have been one of Tatum’s worst all around performances of the season. This is where not having Hayward hurt, because chances are he doesn’t play 36 minutes if Brad had other options.

– Speaking of Brad, hard to not pin this loss largely on his shoulders. The biggest complaint is obviously how he handled the fourth quarter and it’s complicated in my opinion. When the Nuggets took that 6-0 run he took a timeout with 10:34 left in the quarter. Obviously Kyrie had played 30 minutes and he has to be cautious with him, but I get wanting to put him back in the game at that point. My thinking is you do it just to prevent a situation where there’s a long wait before the next stoppage, at least Kyrie is on the floor to stop the run. He chose to not do that and things honestly weren’t that bad immediately after that timeout. There was another stoppage at 8:18, but the lead was only 4 points so I get not putting him in then too. In fact, one minute before Kyrie checked in it was a 3 point game, so I know there are people who wish he called another timeout to get Kyrie in the game but the Celts were right there.

The problem was when he went to the table with 8 minutes left the lead ballooned from 4 to 8. It was those 2 minutes that you could argue Brad should have called a timeout to get Kyrie in the game. Maybe after the Beasley layup that made it 5, but that’s using hindsight. It’s not Brad’s fault this team can’t defend a pick and pop to save their life and Jokic hit a brutal three to make it 8 right before Kyrie came back in.

– Which brings me to my next point about pooping their pants. I expect the Celtics to win a tie game heading into the fourth quarter at home, no matter who they’re playing. I think that’s a fair expectation. Well to come out and allow DEN to shoot 59% and have their highest scoring quarter of the game is just pathetic. The on the offensive end you once again have half of your FGA be threes which you don’t make and turn it over 5 times. That’s how you give a game away which is exactly what happened. Instead of showing the balls and resolve that we’ve seen in the previous games, the Celts got punched in the mouth early to start the quarter and they turtled, I don’t really know how else to say it.


Now the pressure is on with a red hot Philly team that’s looking to get their first win of the year against the Celts. They’ve been monsters since Embiid got back and I can say with certainty that if the Celts give this sort of effort and have the same sort of offensive approach we saw last night they are going to get absolutely murdered. Hopefully Hayward is cleared by then and hopefully Brad wakes the hell up because in case they aren’t aware they are running out of time.