Every once in a while you need a good slump buster. Nothing to really get all excited about, but you need something to help get the poison out and remind yourself that you aren't a complete piece of shit. Most people go through their own version of a slump, where you just haven't been able to close the deal for some reason. But then you find that person, unclog the pipes, and things start to get back to normal for you. Maybe they aren't the most attractive, but that's not the point. We all do it. Guys do it, girls most definitely do it, it's what I feel like keeps us sane as a society. The role of the slump buster might be the most important job in human history.
Well, the same can be said of the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Boston Celtics. All season we'd seen this team pretty much run through everyone. By all metrics they've been one of the best teams all season. But suddenly shit wasn't so hot. Back to back OT losses at home while blowing a 17 and 21 point lead? Their confidence was clearly shot. As fans we now didn't know what the fuck to believe. The team that had been 35-1 when getting up by 11 points now couldn't even win a game up 5 with 10 seconds left because they couldn't inbound the basketball.
Enter the Cavs.
The slump buster of all slump busters. Even shorthanded, the simple fact of winning this game goes a long way. They stopped the bleeding for the moment, got some HUGE performances form bench guys that will only help their confidence, and while it may have been an ugly win, that's the whole point. Sometimes you have to win ugly to get your groove back. We all know the Cavs stink, they were just as injured as the Celts were in this game, this one win doesn't solve all the problems, but sometimes
Obviously the next stretch of UTA/OKC/IND/MIL will be a much more accurate look of if this team has truly shaken off whatever the hell has gone on over the last week, but sometimes beating a bad team can be the thing that helps you get back on track.
With that said, let's dive in
- Huge upset to start the blog. I mean huge. Those that have been reading this blog for the last 5 years know how important this top spot is. Many players use this at motivation, it practically fueled Isaiah's 2016 season. Which is why I can't start anywhere else in this section other than the night of Semi Ojeleye.
I'm not being dramatic when I say this was the best we've seen Semi play in his entire Celtics career. Not just a career high 22 points on 8-11 shooting with 5 3PM, I mean that was awesome don't get me wrong but for me it went beyond that.
The one thing we know about Semi is this dude gets the ball and it instantly goes up. He comes in games, goes to the corner and as soon as he touches it he grips it and rips it. The thing is he's actually really improved his three point shooting this season, he's shooting a career best 38% from deep. That's up from 31% last year on basically the same amount of attempts. When you look at just his corner three numbers he's shooting 55% from the left corner and 36% from the right. He's turned that into a consistent weapon and a role.
But in this game we saw the evolution of Semi's development. How many times was he comfortable putting the ball on the floor and attacking and finishing at the rim? Not only that, but we even saw him facilitate off the dribble which is something I feel like we haven't seen him be able to do at any point in his Celtics career. This team needed someone to step up with all the injuries and Semi came in, had the game of his life, and is basically the biggest reason the Celtics won this game. That's awesome for a guy who doesn't complain, just gets super jacked and stays ready for his opportunity. So happy for Semi. Oh and defensively? How about no Cavs player scoring more than 3 points against him, he held Kevin Love scoreless on 10 possessions which was his most guarded opponent. Not bad.
- In almost any other circumstance, we'd be starting with Jayson Tatum because guess what. He had another 30 point outing
30/9/6/2/1 with 3 3PM of his own. We're at the point where this isn't even surprising, it's expected. That's insane considering it's taken only two months to get here. For a guy who had what, one 30 point game before this season or something Tatum now has 5 straight games with at least 30 and 8 of his last 11. This is just our life now and it fucking rules
But what if I told you his scoring was not my favorite part of Tatum's night? I know he can score. Doesn't matter who the defender is, Tatum is giving that man buckets. Instead, I was way happier about what Tatum showed us as a passer. The Cavs sent the trap at him all night and not once did Tatum panic. He calmly passed out of the double with confidence which ultimately broke the Cavs defense. That is extremely important for Tatum to be comfortable doing because you can bet your ass this is how teams are going to defend him in the playoffs. He had issues with it earlier in the year, but now he's ready for it. If you're telling me that Tatum isn't going to have a problem beating this trapping approach because now he can read the defense well then good fucking luck. How do you defend him? This will look even better when he's able to pass it to Kemba in space instead of the roster we saw last night. I cannot stress enough, as awesome and beautiful as the scoring is and will be needed this Spring, this is the more important development.
- Marcus Smart had a really weird night. For about 90% of it you could argue he was doing more harm than good. He started the game 1-10, his defense seemed lazy as Collin Sexton tore this team up, and he was at times careless with the basketball. But when it came time to get his shit together and pull this win out, Smart showed up
In the first through third quarter Smart was 2-12 with 2 assists 3 TOs and was a -7. Over the final 12 minutes in a 4 point game? Smart was huge with 12 points, 3-3 shooting (6-6 FTs) and a +7. That's the Marcus Smart Experience in a nutshell. He's going to drive you crazy, he's going to make boneheaded mistakes. But he's a man that more often than not rises to the occasion when it gets to nut cutting time.
There are still areas I'm not thrilled with which we'll get to, but his fourth quarter last night was a billion times better than what we saw against the Nets.
- Finally a productive night for Kanter off the bench
Defensively there are still issues, there always will be, but if you can give me 10/11 with 5 OREB on 50% shooting that's really all I want. I'll live with the rest if you can do that for me consistently.
- I also thought Timelord looked a lot better this time around. He's blocking everything per usual, he actually moved his feet on defense while looking much more comfortable, and he did his job on the glass in his limited 14 minutes. He's truly the wild card for this team because if he can give them good minutes defensively he allows Brad to do so much with his lineups. The good news is his hip is reacting fine after playing, and we need to get him as many minutes as possible so he can be in shape by the postseason.
- It's pathetic that I even have to say this, but good job not blowing a 7 point lead with 48.9 seconds left. You would think that's a weird thing to say but for this team it's honestly a legit concern. There were multiple opportunities for the Celts to inbound the ball and they didn't mess up a single one. Some might call that progress!
- First it was Semi
then Marcus got punched in the dick by Kevin Love late. What is going on? Why does it feel like this season everyone on this roster keeps getting hit in the dick? I feel like it's happened to Marcus no fewer than 5 times already this season. Not exactly what you want to see keep happening when you're already shorthanded.
- Call me crazy, but this doesn't seem all that great
which brings me to my bigger issue. What the hell is going on with the perimeter defense on this team right now? I thought that was supposed to be a strength yet every single night someone is having a monster game from the guard position. That shit has to stop, period. Let's take a look at how everyone did last night while Collin Sexton had the best game of his career, a night after Caris LeVert had the best game of his career.
vs Marcus Smart: 7 points on 3-4 shooting
vs Grant Williams: 6 points on 3-3 shooting
vs Tremont Waters: 5 points on 2-4 shooting
vs Brad Wanamaker: 4 points on 1-3 shooting
the concerning thing for me is Marcus. In the BKN game he got torched for 9 points on 2-3 shooting, and then last night 7 points on 3-4 shooting. That's not DPOY type shit. He's actually better at guarding big men than he seems to be at stopping guards which honestly is a little concerning. Players are attacking him off the dribble and getting to the rim at will, and we learned that Grant can't really stick with quicker guards either. Maybe this is just a bad stretch, but if this team is going to lock in defensively and stop some of these guards in the playoffs, they need Smart to not be a liability on that end. Right now he's giving up way too many buckets as the primary defender.
- It was pretty annoying how the Celts could never really put this Cavs team away. I'm no saying they needed to blow them out, but they had enough talent to where I didn't need to be sweating a fourth quarter. You can't let bad teams hang around at home like that. I need to see this team get back to stepping on throats when they get a lead, not getting complacent and allowing them to creep back in. That's how BKN losses happen.
- I'm starting to think Carsen might be in the dog house. That's unfortunate.
- A night after allowing like 22 OREB against the Nets, the Celts came out and allowed 17 to the Cavs. Here's a crazy idea, but maybe try boxing the hell out. It didn't cost them as the Cavs only had 14 second chance points but that's not the point. A better team will make you pay and this is now the third game in a row where a team has feasted on the offensive glass. The Celts all year were a top 10 team on the defensive glass, and now they're sliding. Tatum is doing his best to help, but only 3 rebounds for Theis and 2 for Smart sure didn't.
- There's no denying Collin Sexton has been really good offensively since the Jordan Clarkson trade, his offense is legit but not 41/6 on 17-30 legit. Considering they all felt mostly like layups that was pretty pathetic on behalf of the Celtics defense.
I think we can say that by now whenever this team has everyone injured and is forced to be the Hospital Celtics, they find a way to not only win, but to cover. They've been doing it all year which is great but also stinks because all I want is to see what this team looks like healthy for a prolonged stretch. We know Jaylen is out for a week, I'm hoping Gordon and Kemba are back tomorrow, because this team needs every win they can get. The Raptors aren't going away, the Heat have won 4 straight are are starting to close the gap for the 3 seed, so hopefully now that the Celts finally didn't blow a game we can get back to the type of basketball we've seen all season.
Slump busters are never ideal, you never seek them out, but sometimes they come around at the perfect time for you to get your mojo back. Let's see if that's the case here.