If we're being honest I've sat in front of this blog for like 15 minutes trying to figure out how to start. How do you put into words what we have witnessed over the last 9 days? Remember how good life was back then? We woke up basically in a neck and neck race for the 2 seed, things were looking great after a nice 3-1 West Coast trip with the only loss being a prayer Lakers win. The Celts had won 14 of their last 17 with 9 of those wins coming against playoff opponents. Tatum was tearing up the league, this team found ways to win even without their star point guard, the defense got back to being legit, it was all great.
And then disaster struck.
In my opinion, this recent stretch of 1-5 play is far worse than the only other stretch we've seen be similar which was the 2-6 run in January. That was bad because the Celts were getting blown out left and right and losing to terrible teams like WSH. SA, DET, PHX. But this? This is far worse. You blow four straight games at home, games in which you had 17, 21, 11, and 18 point leads and I don't know how you could argue otherwise. When two of those losses are the result of not being able to inbound the ball cleanly in the final seconds of a game only to lose in gut wrenching fashion, it makes it even tougher. Now, we woke up this morning a full 3 games back of TOR for the 2 seed. You know why? Because they are taking care of business and showing up in clutch situations. The Celtics? Puking everywhere and pooping their pants every chance they get. The worst part is it's coming from the main guys, the stars on this team that we're supposed to rely on.
How bad has this been? Well, over these four losses at home the Celts are averaging 107 points a night while shooting 40/31% from the floor. Their Ortg of 103.1 and a Drtg of 107.5 gives them an overall net rating of -4.4. I mean.....what. Can't shoot and can't defend in your own building feels like it might be a problem.
- It was wasted, but it was nice to see Gordon Hayward come back from his knee issue and be aggressive pretty much from the jump. He was the best all around player on the roster and it wasn't particularly close
The combination of getting to his sweet spot from about 8-10 feet to how he attacked the basket and created for others, this was the version of Hayward we need to see. He was a starter best +13 and the frustrating part was Hayward was still 4th among starters in usage at just 21.6%. Call me crazy but on a night where he has it going, his teammates need to find him more. In no way in this game should Smart have had a higher usage. To me that's on Brad for not calling plays for him, but also everyone else for not realizing it was Gordon that had it going.
I think we can tell how healthy Gordon looks not just by his offense, but more important how he defends. Last night he was great on Gallo, holding him to 4 points on 2-6 shooting, and his 96.3 Drtg was one of the best on the entire team. Confident Hayward is a different player, and last night we saw what that looked like.
- It's hard for me to understand how you win the rebounding battle 46-39, win points in the paint 36-18, win 2nd chance points 13-10, win fast break points 20-16, have fewer turnovers, more 3PM, and more assists….yet still lose. The Celts basically checked off every box they needed to in order to win which was great, minus ya know the whole final score thing. Outrebounding a team like OKC is impressive, dominating them in the paint even more so, and yet they have nothing to show for it.
- On a night where things made you want to claw your eyeballs out, I think we can all agree we're continuing to see some intriguing things from Romeo.
A couple turnovers in his 19 minutes, but overall Romeo was a team best +17, played some very legit defense, and we're seeing Brad maybe understand that he needs to be getting the most minutes of any bench guy right now. He played 19:51 compared to others like Wanamaker (9:50) and Kanter (5:55), which is exactly what we all want right? His minutes with Timelord were much more impactful than the Wanamaker/Kanter pairing, and honestly at this point what reason does Brad have for not rolling more with that duo if they're going to be healthy.
- If you look at where things started to go wrong, it's hard not to point to the final minute or so of the second quarter. Similar to the UTA game where the Celts couldn't close the first quarter and it ultimately cost them the game, it was the same shit here. When Gordon Hayward made his transition pull up three it was 63-45 with 1:08 left. We then had a
Tatum missed 15 footer
Suddenly the lead was 11 heading into the break with OKC having all the momentum. I saw a lot of people screaming about the Celtics bench in this scenario, but I don't understand. This collapse was not really on the second unit. It came in a quarter where the Celts scored 37 points, and two of their most important players fucked up.
Then they come out in the third quarter flat as hell. Again, that's a starters issue. I fully understand the frustrating with the bench, but in this game it was basically the same type of bench production we've seen while this team was winning all the time. To me the much bigger issue here is the underachievement of their starting unit. It doesn't matter what the second unit looks like if their starters are going to continue to struggle like this
Jayson Tatum: 8-22
Marcus Smart: 7-17
Kemba Walker: 4-14
No buyout guys or whatever is going to make a difference if your best players cannot score. Period. If we're being honest the offense doesn't look as good when guys like Smart are looking for their shot instead of creating for others. Since the All Star break the Celts have played 9 games. Smart has taking 15+ shots in 7 of them and has been under 40% shooting in 6 of the 9. That's one of the things that has been killing this offense. It's not the role he should be in, even with injuries.
- And then there's Kemba. If this were any other player he'd be getting crushed for his play as of late so we have to be consistent. He's been hurting this team just as much as not having a bench, if not more. In the 3 games he's played since the All Star Break Kemba is shooting 31.9/25%. If you go back to the start of 2020 he's played in 19 games and is shooting 40/34%. He's shooting just 33% in the restricted area since his return and 26.9% on above the break 3s which are his bread and butter.
Add to it both of the BKN/OKC losses are a direct result of him fucking up the final seconds on an inbounds pass and there is no other way to say it. Kemba is killing them right now. He says his knee feels fine and I'm not sure what a knee injury has to do with the decision to dribble back towards your own basket in the closing seconds.
- As much as Smart impresses us with what he does defensively against bigger defenders, we have to be honest and admit his on ball defense against opposing guards stinks. He's getting torched pretty much every night and last night was no different. Schroder tore him up for 9 points on 3-3 shooting and if Smart can't be relied upon to defend opposing guards then we have big time problems. He's great in the post against bigger defenders, but quick and shifty offensive minded guards give him problems on a nightly basis.
- Alright let's talk about the fourth quarter. It was basically the starters plus Romeo that got any burn. Wanamaker played 1 minute, Kanter 0 minutes, Grant 0 minutes. Call me crazy, but in a tight game like we had, it was not the time for Smart to lead the Celts in shot attempts at 2-7. Not when Tatum was 2-4, Theis was 2-3 and Kemba and Hayward combine to take just 5 FGA. Defensively nobody could stop Schroder and it came down to one of the most frustrating parts of this entire game.
Missed layups and missed FTs.
You know why I freak out over missed fourth quarter FTs? You just saw it. When it's someone like Hayward who is one of your better FT shooters it makes it even worse. Like it so often does, that came back to bite them. At the same time, none of this is even happening if our two best players make their wide open layups. Kemba had a wide open lane and a look that he makes like 90% of the time, and then there was Tatum who missed another bunnie. To make matters worse on the third possession Smart turned it over trying to take a layup and he threw it over the backboard. This game is over if you make your FTs and make wide open layups, that's what makes me so sick about the whole thing.
We're at the point now where not only can we not relax when this team gets up by 17-21 points, but we also can't relax when they have a lead with under 15 seconds to go and the ball. What the fuck is that. These are games that every other team in the league wins. I'd say MAYBE they have one moment like this a season where they fuck up in tragic fashion. The Celts are doing it multiple times in a week. I don't get it. How is it possible to blow games like this? It's virtually impossible yet here we are, doing it time and time again.
- I don't even know what to say about this.
Playing at home, getting massive leads, playing OK defense and winning the battle on the glass and you can't pull out a win? Pathetic. Truly, truly pathetic.
So where do we go from here? Well, the last time we saw the Celts go on a slide like this they bounced back nicely, so there's that. They face TOR two more times so while the door isn't officially closed on the 2 seed, due to their ineptitude the Celts have certainly made things more difficult. Anyone who says this shit means they can't go on a deep postseason run is a moron. But what this stretch has done is make things potentially much more difficult, and that's the frustrating part. These self inflicted wounds have come at the worst time of the season. The Raptors aren't slowing down, the Heat are on a run, and the Celts can't win a game where they just have to inbound the basketball and wait to be fouled. Awesome.