Imagine waking up and seeing after a full season worth of effort and snagging a top 4 seed your favorite team lost to a lower seed and immediately coughed up that home court advantage that is ever so important in a playoff series? I can’t. No clue what that life is like after the Celtics thankfully didn’t shit their pants like every other top seed in the East not named MIL did this weekend. If you took a poll before the weekend of which top 4 East teams would be most likely to lose in the first game, many would probably say TOR because that’s their jam, but I guarantee the Celts would be high on that list. I don’t know how they couldn’t be given their up and down season, the fact that IND almost won the last time they were at the Garden, and the overall unknown surrounding this group with Smart unavailable. While your brain says logically that the Pacers just don’t have enough, my eyeballs remind me that I just watched this Celtics team be dickheads for 6 months and lose games they had no business losing.
But thankfully, at least so far, we have no reason to worry. There’s winning ugly, and then there’s what the Celtics did yesterday and frankly I could give two shits. I don’t care how they look in a win as long as they get it. This is a race to 16 wins, you don’t get half a win if you look like shit, so as long as they can improve moving forward I have no complaints. Let’s not get too ahead of ourselves, if the Celts were playing pretty much any other team in the East yesterday their performance yesterday probably comes up short, but that’s the beauty of seeding baby. Many fanbases wanted to clown the Celtics for being a 4 seed after all their preseason hype, well who’s laughing now? Me. I am laughing.
It wasn’t perfect, but here’s a secret for ya, it’s never going to be perfect with this team. But they told me all year they were going to flip a switch come the playoffs, and let me tell you something on the defensive end at least, that shit is flipped. Now all the pressure heads to Game 2, but before we get to that let’s have ourselves some fun because honestly this team is so goddamn stressful we deserve it.
– Normally the top spot of the blog is reserved for whoever I felt like had the best night. And while there were some solid individual performances, nobody really blew my dick off. What did though was what I saw from this team on the defensive end. Does IND have basically 1 scorer? Yup, don’t care. The Celtics were flying around, were active in the passing lanes, were communicating, had great energy especially in the second half, so we’re starting with that. They defend like this and it’s going to be a quick series
It was unfortunate that they didn’t have Marcus Smart available because man was this an ideal game for his style of play. When I say this was a collective effort, I mean it and it made me very happy that someone like Kyrie Irving led the charge. This may have been the best defense I’ve seen him play in weeks, he led the team with 5 deflections (the team had 16!!!), Horford did his thing and led everyone with 13 contested shots, Jaylen owned every loose ball, and as a team they finished with a 77 Drtg which is the second lowest number in a playoff game in franchise history.
The biggest thing that stood out? How great the Celtics were at fighting over screens and limiting the Pacers DHOs (dribble hand offs). That’s basically all they do to get Bogdanovic and Matthews open looks, and I thought the Celts did a great job of not playing like soft little bitches and actually fought over screens. That’s what told me they cared right from the jump. Now they still struggle in P&R which will be their biggest adjustment in Game 2, but everything else we saw from a defensive standpoint was nails.
– Kyrie told us not to panic this playoffs because he exists, and while he started slow in the first half, he for sure came through in the second. He finished with 20/5/7 so he did a little bit of everything, and I can live with his 6-17 shooting because he was still making an impact everywhere despite the shooting struggles
Defensively he owned his matchups against Wes Matthews (23 possessions, 5 points) and Collison (17 possessions, 2 points), and honestly what was most impressive to me was that nothing Kyrie did felt forced. You would think given missing all of last postseason that he would come out and try and do too much, but I felt like for the most part he was in control and took what the defense gave him. I’ll take his 41% AST% everyday of the week, and I thought his 30% usage rate was the perfect number. You expect his efficiency to get even better, but in my opinion Kyrie backed up all his talk through one game so far.
– I fully admit I am a deranged person when it comes to this team. I can convince my stupid brain of pretty much anything if it helps me stay positive. Right before tip I thought to myself, “what if the Celts get November Mook for this playoff run?” If you’ve watched him play over the last like 3 months you know how ridiculous of a statement that is. Mook basically has been unplayable for months now, and yet my stupid brain was ready to believe things may be different. Well……
How do we feel about 20/7 on 5-12 shooting off the bench in 29 minutes? That feels like November Mook to me, and make no mistake he was CARRYING this team in the first quarter when no other Celtic even entertained the idea of making a basket. It’s a fine line we have to walk trusting Mook with this type of load, but all I kept feeling watching him yesterday was how confident I was whenever he had the ball back in November. It’s been a lonnnnnnnnng time since I’ve felt that way, and I don’t think I’m going out on a limb when I say if we can get something close to this Mook moving forward, it’s a game changer. What he can do in terms of lineup flexibility and exposing bigs on one end while still holding his own defensively and on the glass on the other end is gigantic. I should warn you, this probably means he’s going to jack it up big time in Game 2, but if he’s making em then I say fire away.
If he gives you anything offensively and then continues to dominate the IND frontcourt like he did yesterday (Young/Turner combined for just 3 points on 33 possessions), Mook becomes to ultimate wild card.
– How did Gordon Hayward’s playoff debut look? I’d give it like a C+/B-. The efficiency wasn’t there with his 4-12, he missed a couple bunnies we’ve seen him make over the last few weeks, but everything else? It was exactly what makes Hayward so crucial to this team’s success
His rebounding was there (4), his playmaking was important (4 assists), and what I loved most was his 30 minutes of action. Even on a night where Morris had it going Brad was able to find enough minutes for Hayward and he’s only going to get more comfortable now that his jitters are out of the way. You want to know what I really loved about Hayward’s night and something that encourages me moving forward in this series? Look at his shot chart
I don’t care about the misses, I care about the approach. This is aggressive Hayward, and I don’t see anyone on the Pacers that is going to prevent him from living in the paint. We know that when Hayward isn’t hesitant it makes all the difference for the second unit, and so far so good.
– There are few things on this Earth that I love more than Playoff Al. Guy doesn’t even shoot the ball that well and still does everything. What a monster
– What do I say over and over again when it comes to this team? Their success largely revolves around defense and rebounding. Well we know how good the defense was, but how about the beatdown on the glass 55-42? Limiting the Pacers to just 9 OREB was huge and it was a collective effort. A total of 7 Celtics had at least five rebounds, and that’s exactly how this team has to approach the glass this postseason. They get killed when they don’t rebound, so to see everyone make a conscious effort to get dirty and actually rebound was awesome and very very important.
– You almost forget Jayson Tatum is also on this team, and he’s really the only one who shot the ball all that well and was the second leading scorer for that starting unit. He only took 11 FGA which is a little concerning, but he was another guy that did a great job of not forcing it on one end, and then not letting his defense suffer just because he wasn’t a huge part of the offense
I’d like to see Brad post him up a little more because it feels like there were a bunch of possessions against Collison for Tatum, so maybe that’ll be a Game 2 adjustment.
– Another game against IND, another beatdown in fastbreak points with 24. That’s been consistent each and every time these two have played.
– I don’t know how you could go anywhere else other than how this team shot the ball. Finishing with 36/35% at home is pretty pathetic, and I’d say I’m shocked but I almost expected it. Maybe it was nerves, maybe it was the rims, who the hell knows but what I do know is this team is going to have to shoot a whole hell of a lot better if they want to win this series and then have a chance against MIL. The good part was they didn’t do that annoying thing where they just settle for a million threes, but man scoring just 38 points in a half is pretty embarrassing.
– Not to mention in classic Celtics fashion they threw up one of the worst second quarters these eyes have ever seen. Another thing we should be used to by now because it essentially happens every single time this team plays, but woof. Just 18 points, 27/25% splits and no answer whatsoever for the IND second unit guards. A tough stretch for both Terry and Jaylen which is a problem because with no Smart they become even more important for that second quarter shift, and the carelessness in which we saw the Celtics play was just plain pathetic.
– I’m sorry, what is this?
– Call me crazy, but this team is going to need more than 2-11 from Jaylen/Terry on the offensive end. For both more than half of their FGA were threes, and that’s annoying because we saw everyone have success against IND the minute they decided to be aggressive and drive the basket. Nobody on this roster can stay in front of Jaylen, and Terry can live in the paint if he wants to, but both felt like they settled and the poor shooting didn’t really help.
– Only 30 seconds for Yabu and 2 minutes for Timelord? In what was basically a blowout? That’s messed up from Brad.
– Turnovers. No better way then to dick around and lose a game you shouldn’t than turning it over a billion times. The Celts finished with 17, but it felt like way more because they started the game with like 10 in 15 seconds. It was everyone really, from Tatum to Al to Kyrie, they were just as sloppy as you can get. Again, against IND it may not matter, but why risk it? Clean that shit up in Game 2 so I can not have a heart attack please.
– Inbounding the ball has always been a challenge for this team. Most of the time they just throw it to their opponent, but last night watching them get a 5 second call essentially broke my brain. How does that happen? Did we ever get an explanation for that? They should be as ashamed and embarrassed as I am.
At the end of the day, I’ll take it. Being up 1-0 no matter how ugly it may have looked is certainly better than 0-1, and given how pathetic this team is on the road I don’t care how they get these home wins as long as they get em. The question now becomes can they back up this performance tomorrow because it just feels like IND will come out and shoot better. I don’t know why I feel that way, but I just think Game 2 will be entirely different. This team wants me to believe things are different, well now is the time to prove it.