There are few constants in life that we know of. There's death, nobody avoids that. Then there's taxes, which you technically could avoid but they're always going to show up year after year. And now I can say with certainty that the Celtics blowing huge double digit leads is now as much of a lock as those other two. For those who may have blocked the last 10+ days out of your brain, here is what we are working with. In the last 6 games the Celtics have had a double digit point lead in 5 of them. There was the 17 point lead against HOU, the 21 point lead against BKN, the 11 point lead against UTA, the 18 point lead against OKC, and then last night the 19 point lead against IND. We have seen these Celtics blow every single one. In 4 of those 5, they lost the game in tragic fashion. It's a stretch of play that is so bizarre and so inexplicable I won't even try to justify it. I just know there is now no avoiding the fact that this team cannot and will not maintain a big lead against anyone, it doesn't matter who it is. For a long time this angered me, kept me up at night and I couldn't eat. But after they did it again last night and actually won, suddenly my mindset changed.
It truly is amazing that a team this good, one on pace for 55 wins can be so fucking pathetic as soon as they build a big lead. Every other team that's competing for a top 2 seed gets leads like this and ya know….holds onto them. Not our Celtics. Oh no, that would be too easy. At this point it's a reality we all know and accept, but every time it happens and this team shits their pants in epic fashion all I can do is shake my head. I know it's coming, I know to never feel comfortable no matter what the lead is, but every time it stresses me the fuck out. This is no way to live and is certainly not an encouraging time as we approach the playoffs. At this point of the year you're looking to be playing your best basketball and get as much momentum as you can heading into the postseason. This team is instead using these games to torture their fans and make life 100000x times harder for themselves which frankly I do not care for.
But in the end, we were spared the heartbreak of another collapse resulting in a loss. We still got the collapse, but this team made enough plays down the stretch to hold onto the win. A win they desperately needed given the shenanigans we've seen since the HOU collapse. It's not an ideal situation by any means, but this team needs all the wins they can get and at this point I don't care how they get them. Sure I'd like them to stop kicking me directly in the dick on multiple occasions to pull them out, but whatever as long as they win.
Alright, with that said let's dive into what we saw
- There are a lot of teams in the NBA that would give their left nut to have a 4th option like Gordon Hayward, especially a healthy Gordon Hayward like what we are seeing right now. The hate he's received this year is one of the most confusing things I've ever witnessed considering he's basically doing the exact thing we all hoped he would when he first signed his deal. The production is basically the same as his All Star season, he's having a career year in terms of efficiency, and he's doing it on a consistent basis. He was really solid for the second straight game since coming back from his knee thing, and watching him play you see how perfect he is for this system
27/10/5 to go along with 1 block and 2 steals while shooting 52/43% in his 36 minutes. Hayward finally was among the top 2 in usage (27.1%) and look what happened. It's great to see everyone realize that Hayward had it going and finally played through him. I know the haters don't want to hear it but I think Gordon Hayward might actually be pretty good at this whole basketball thing. He carried this team early and was a huge reason they got off to their great start, and there is no denying the pairing of him and Tatum is a legit problem for defenses. They bring the best out in each other and we see it pretty much every game. It's why I never understood wanting to move Hayward to the bench, all of Tatum's numbers are drastically better when Hayward is on the court, and I would argue they are your two most important players. Tatum is the #1 option stud and Hayward is the All Star caliber 4th option that ultimately is the wild card that can get this team over the hump.
Did you know the Tatum/Hayward pairing has played 937 minutes together (most on team) and has a 114 Ortg / 103 Drtg / +11.9 net rating? That's the best net rating of any duo to play at least 900 minutes together. No surprise they both were nails in this game and combined for 57 points.
- Which brings us to Tatum. I find it funny that his "slump" lasted about two games. He had 37 points over those two games but the efficiency wasn't all that great. Twitter was quick to discredit his awesome run as "just a good two weeks" because they don't want to live with the reality of what Tatum is becoming and that's just sad. Well, he got back to scoring an efficient 30 last night and looked about as unstoppable as ever
How rare is what we're seeing from Tatum? Well….
Call me crazy but that seems good. We know Tatum can score, that's pretty much a given, but watching him in this game and seeing his growth as a defender and a passer is what has me even more excited. The 30 pieces are great, but him consistently showing to be a more complete two way player is what is going to elevate him up a level in the coming years. For those wondering, here are Tatum's numbers post All Star Break
29.9/7.9/3.1/1.6 on 47/46.8% splits.
- We're at the point where I will be shocked if Daniel Theis doesn't at least get some votes for Most Improved Player. He's had one of the most underrated seasons in the East of any big man, and all he does is outplay opposing centers. As huge as Tatum/Hayward may have been in this win, Daniel Theis was right there with a massive 20/6/3 with 2 blocks
To say he's the perfect big man for this system would be a massive understatement. He does it all. Defends at a high level both in terms of bigs and guards, can protect the rim as well as any big name center, he makes his FTs, he never complains about his role, basically what I'm saying here is Daniel Theis is perfect. That BIG BALLS three he made with the game on the line? That's why being able to stretch the floor is so important for a big in Brad's offense. This isn't just a one off random Theis performance either, he does this shit pretty much every single night.
- It was nice to see this team come out of the half and actually play with energy in the third quarter. That's where so many of these collapses happen, because they aren't ready to go and get punched in the mouth early. The Celts threw up a 35 point third on 54/50% shooting and just 1 TO. They needed every bucket given what would eventually happen, but it was another case of aggressive Hayward leading the way and when that happens things usually work out.
- I thought Brad was MUCH better with his timeouts in this game. Every time it felt like momentum was starting to swing he called a timeout. Granted they still blew the lead, but this wasn't a case where Brad was just holding his dick in his hand and refused to stop the bleeding. He tried, the players didn't hold up their end of the bargain but at least we saw that Stevens was actually capable of calling timeouts during massive runs. Any sort of improvement in that area can only help.
- The Marcus Smart Experience is not for the faint of heart
He gave them a little bit of everything in his 16/5/5 performance, heart attacks included. On one end his passing was fantastic in this game and was a huge reason why they won, and on the other hand he had a little case of tunnel vision in that fourth quarter and nearly shot this team out of a win, only to make one of the biggest baskets in the final moments. By now we all accept the ups and downs but fuck man it's taking it's toll on my 32 year old heart.
- Stop me if you've heard this before but the Celtics bench was nowhere to be found offensively. Just 10 total points on 3-14 shooting with 3 TOs, that's pretty bad. Semi and Romeo combined for a sweet 1-9 and both were pretty bad defensively, Romeo definitely had his struggles almost immediately as soon as he checked into the game. He was losing guys on backdoor cuts, was getting beat in transition losing his man, and it's why he only played 9 minutes. We know that if Brad is going to play young guys they have to defend first, and they didn't get that from either Romeo or Grant, which is why they barely played.
Rotations will be figured out once Jaylen is back and the playoffs roll around, but there is no way to spin what we are seeing offensively from that group at the moment. It's bad, real bad.
- We need to talk about Kemba. He says he's healthy and the knee feels fine, I look at his game log and I do not see the same Kemba Walker
To put it simply, this team is going to have an early playoff exit if Kemba is going to shoot the ball like this. But honestly it's more than his shooting, he can't even get by people off the dribble at the moment. He's not attacking the paint, he couldn't even shake Sabonis in a big possession late in the fourth, and it changes everything about the ceiling of this team. I mean this isn't just poor shooting, it's inept shooting. I get he can be a streaky shooter, but this team needs him to find his way out of this slump and it needs to happen fairly quickly.
Which is why we all need to do our part. Kemba came in and made such a huge impact changing the culture of this team, we need to do the same for him. All this negativity around him clearly isn't helping. We need to stand by and support him to help get him through this drought, it's the only way. There's no denying he's been BRUTAL during this stretch, but I trust him and I believe in him.
If he doesn't snap out of it though, this team is big time screwed.
- Celts got absolutely demolished in the paint 64-40, allowed 19 second chance points and allowed 10 OREB. This is something to keep an eye on in the event these two match up in the playoffs, and I found it weird that we didn't see any Timelord in this game to try and help in that area since he was active,
- I don't want to pile on, but we have a Marcus Smart vs Opposing Guards problem. We saw him shut down Sabonis on the block by himself with no help which was awesome, but when it came time to guard Oladipo, well Victor gave Marcus the business and then some. Smart was matched up with Oladipo the most on the team, a total of 18 possessions and he allowed 12 points on 5-7 shooting. This is what, the fourth straight guard that has torched the Celts that Smart has guarded? That's an issue no matter how you want to slice it.
- OK, we may as well talk about it. Pretty pathetic that we saw another 19 point lead, and a 15 point 4th quarter lead evaporate in about 10 seconds. It's just getting comical at this point. That fourth quarter was once again a nightmare, the Celts offense stalled and turned into nothing but terrible isolation. They shot 33/11% while also playing no defense, Smart/Tatum/Kemba combined to go 5-19 and once again this team decided to not let Hayward touch the ball. That's so goddamn annoying that your best player on the night only took 2 FGA. A lot of Smart/Kemba hero ball that didn't come close to working and instead all it did was give IND momentum.
Then, even with them surviving the collapse and having a 1 point lead with under 10 seconds left, the torture wasn't over. This team had to inbound the ball and well…we know how that's gone lately. This is what happened
I mean that's as close to turning it over as you can get without actually turning it over. I ask you, what the hell is going on and honestly why can't this team just inbound the basketball with ease. Every other goddamn team can do it, yet here the Celtics are having issues for a 3rd time in 4 games or some shit. It's honestly inexplicable how bad they are in this situation. You would think they've had enough practice at it to not be so bad yet here we are. Teams know if you get the Celts in a tight spot late and they have to inbound the ball there's a great chance they fuck it up. Absolutely incredible in all the worst ways.
- Finishing this game with only 19 assists on 41 FGM is not going to get it done. This team is at its best when the ball is moving and they force defenses to actually rotate. When they go away from that and defenses can just camp out, the offense struggles. Pretty simple.
In the end, they survived. That's really all that matters at this point of the season. We'll see who is active on Thursday against MIL, I'm just assuming everyone on the Bucks side will play now that their lead over the Lakers is shrinking, and hopefully Jaylen is back by then. After MIL things ease up a bit with WSH/CHI/NYK before the super important showdown @TOR, so hopefully snapping this losing bullshit will get this team back on track. That is, until the next game where they'll blow another double digit lead because that's just our life now.