All Those Early Takes Of The Celtics Imminent Demise This Season Look Pretty Fucking Stupid

I know this blog at times can partake in hyperbole, so allow me to begin today with nothing but stone cold hard facts. The Boston Celtics are tied for the best record in the Eastern Conference. They are giving up the 3rd fewest points of any team in the East. They have the most division wins in the Atlantic. They have won 5 games in a row. And finally, Gordon Hayward is fucking back. Look all you want, you will not find a lie in any of those statements. While it's a little concerning that their last two games have seen them go down to the wire with the Knicks and the Cavs, at the end of the day if you win I don't give a shit how it happens. Would I have preferred nice and easy blowout wins over bottom of the league teams? Of course, but these are the Boston Celtics we're talking about here and since when have they ever made things easy for themselves? Not since I've been doing this blog and we are quickly approaching 5 years. 

Now just like I've said after their previous big wins, this is not something that should have you planning the parade just yet. We're still in the information gathering portion of the NBA season, where at this point all I want to see are positive trends and signs that guys are taking a step in the right direction. The wins are important don't get me wrong, you need every one you can get if you plan on hanging with MIL/PHI all year long, and good teams take care of business against dogshit teams, but remember this wasn't exactly the Celts strong suit last season. How many times did they lose a game like this to a team they had no business losing to? Way too many times. So to see the Celtics not poop their pants once CLE made it tight but rather punch back and respond with great late game execution, I don't care if it was the Cavs, that's exactly what I love to see.

But there was a whole lot more that I think you will find equally as enjoyable so we may as well get started.

The Good

- How on earth could we start with anyone else. You throw up the best performance of your NBA career, go 16-16 on 2pt FGs and do some shit that the league hasn't seen in 40 years, you start the blog. Those are the rules, I've been very clear about that

Like I said last night, I wanted to try so hard to be patient with Gordon Hayward. I did all I could to resist declaring him back, but my eyes and my heart can't hold it in any longer. He's back. You know it, I know it, Gordon knows it, Brad knows it, we all know it. Sure it took a full season of inconsistent play to get here, but we're here and it's just as awesome as I always thought. This is the version of Gordon Hayward I was excited for when they signed him. The playmaker, the guy who would flourish in Brad's system who you could give the ball to and let him create. That quickness that was lacking last season is back, Gordon is getting to his spots at will and he's finishing at a great clip. He's making decisions that we didn't see last season and he's been one of their most consistent players all season. 

You combine that with this level of defense that we didn't see last year and it's impossible to not be thrilled with this year's Gordon Hayward. He only gave up a total of 4 points to players he guarded last night and led the team with a +13.4 net rating. I said it to start the year and I'll say it again here:

Whatever version of Gordon we get this year ultimately dictates their ceiling. If it's UTA Hayward, this team fucks. If it's 2018-19 Hayward, this team won't make it out of the first round. So far, guess which one we're getting.

- One of the craziest parts of the Kemba Walker Era so far is you get the feeling he hasn't done much and then you look and he has 25 points. Some nights it's through FTs, last night his 25 came mostly from threes which is fine by me

Remember one of the concerns about Kemba was that he could only be that elite level of scorer because he took every shot in CHA? Well guess what, he is dominating all while not needing to take 25+ shots. He took 19 last night which is an acceptable number in my opinion, and we're starting to see maybe Kemba's success wasn't just because he was the only option in CHA's offense. This dude can just flat out score and now that his efficiency is getting back to normal it's even better.

I continue to be impressed with how he's able to keep showing up in fourth quarters, his threes late in that quarter in a tight game were gigantic and so far he has been nowhere near the defensive liability many said he would be due to his size. I'm not saying his start to the season has been perfect, but shit it's been pretty damn close. The one thing we haven't really seen is his playmaking for others, only 3 assists feels low for someone with the ball as much as Kemba but that's just nitpicking given how good he's been.

- I was worried once Al left that this team would no longer be able to find cutters. Losing such a great passer from the 4 spot like that was a huge blow. Well, call me crazy but I'm thinking Grant Williams may be able to fill like 60% of that role. I am in love with how this dude reads defenses and finds cutters from the top of the key. It's as close to Al as anyone has shown this season and it's the perfect role for him. Rebound, defend, find cutters. 

- For those who want to obsess over Jayson Tatum's FG%, I suppose you'll take his 9-16 performance last night. He didn't make any of his 5 threes which was weird, but everything else was what you want to see. Aggressive drives, finishing around the rim, rebounding, hell even protecting the rim with 2 blocks

it's a little concerned he once again took 0 FTs, so that's still the last infinity stone he needs to get, but what we're witnessing from Tatum on both ends is the leap I think we all hoped for last season. His approach is much better, his attitude seems to be better, and maybe that's because he's actually getting legit FGA. 

- Look you may think it's a joke when I talk about how important haircuts are to the shooting success of this team but I'm sorry. The science is irrefutable. It's worked for Smart, Kyrie, Jaylen and now Carsen Edwards. This dude couldn't throw a pea in the ocean, gets a cut and now look at him

back to getting buckets like we knew he could. I love how he shows no emotion whatsoever, just a stone cold killer who is not afraid to jack it from three. Considering the Celtics bench DESPERATELY needs any sort of offensive production, seeing Carsen finally have the ball go through the hoop was huge. You could tell it was getting him down, but when Brad tells you that you have the ultimate green light you don't question it you just let it fly. His +9.4 rating led the second unit and this was bar far the best he's looked all season.

- There's no denying he struggles with bigger, more physical bigs, but when Theis isn't matched up with the Drummond's or Embiid's of the world he kinda owns. 

I mean where did those 5 blocks come from? It begs to question, after their 12 block performance as a team last night, do the Celtics have TOO MANY rim protectors? I thought this was supposed to be a weakness. That's what all the talking heads told me and let's not act like Tristan Thompson and Kevin Love are bad either. You put up a 9 rebound 5 block performance I will forgive your 2-7 shooting every single time. 

- He only played 14 minutes but I continue to be impressed with Timelord's overall impact. I'll take 6/4/3/2 on 3-4 shooting and you should too. He's still super raw but he's athletic as fuck and as he starts to trim down the mental mistakes and bad positioning defensively he's going to find himself on the floor more often eventually. The potential is there and if he can stay healthy it would not shock me if he's eventually this team's starting center. 

- For a team that can't shoot, putting up 56.5/40% came out of nowhere. Part of that is CLE, but part of that is guys finally making open looks and I'll take it. Considering we watch this team shoot in the 30s basically every night, this was a nice surprise.

- Marcus Smart, a point guard, guarded Kevin Love (a PF/C) on 31 possessions and gave up 8 points including completely shutting him down in crunch time. What a fucking monster

the fact that he doesn't need a double team in the post reminds me of how Perk never needed it either, and hearing him talk about it postgame was maybe the quote of the year so far

The Bad

- Of course, it wasn't all good. Let's start with the defense because by my calculations the Celtics only played 12 minutes of good defense in this game and it was in the first quarter. Giving up 28, 31,30 points in the following three certainly is not going to cut it, and they really struggled guarding the three point line in the second half where CLE went 8-15. They were very fortunate that their offense bailed them out because giving ip 113 points to a team like this is bad. There's no spinzone there, this team has to be better defensively against the good teams if they want to continue to be one of the best teams in the conference. 

Semi's 123 rating in 7 minutes was gross, Timelord's was 143, and even Wanamker came in at 122. These are all key second unit guys and this team can't afford to have a defensive drop off like this anytime a reserve comes in.

- The Celts for the most part have done a good job limiting turnovers, but 8 coming from Tatum/Kemba is far too many. specially when they had a combined 4 assists. Felt like there were a lot of careless turnovers from both in this game and that of course needs to be cleaned up.

- One of these days Brad is going to figure out a way to make sure this team doesn't blow double digit leads. I don't know when, I don't know how, but I know he will.

- We knew going in Tristan Thompson was going to feast on the offensive glass, I predicted he would finish with 10. He ended up with 8 and he continues to be a thorn in this team's side whenever they play. 

- Are we just never going to see Vincent Poirier play orrrrrrrrrr? A DNP-CD on a night where you could have used big help seems weird.

The Ugly

- It is a long standing rule of this blog that once the Celts win at least 5 in a row they get the night off from this section of the blog. It's clearly what motivates them to have these sort of streaks so I have nothing for you here. No wait, that feels mean so do yourself a favor and watch Gordon dominate again

All in all, the start to the Celtics year has been about as good as you could ask for. The defense has been a billion times better than we thought, they are actually rebounding which is wild considering they don't have a true center, and everyone that was supposed to take a leap this season so far has. Oh, and they are doing this all without Jaylen Brown who is averaging 17 a game on 50% shooting. I know it's early and we have a long way to go, but you get the sense that those who maybe thought this team was dead and was going to be a 4-6 seed in the East are regretting those takes right now. They didn't expect Gordon Hayward to look like this, many Celtics fans didn't either. My mentions were filled with trade ideas to get him out of town for someone like Steven Adams. You fools. 

With CHA up next the Celts have a nice opportunity to keep this rolling, and if they win that and then somehow win in SA a place they never win, I may not know how to control myself.