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The Celtics Avoided Disaster In Detroit Thanks To Their Two Young Studs

Chris Schwegler. Getty Images.

What, you're surprised the Celtics played another nail biter that took additional years off your life against a team they had no business being in a close game with? Welcome to the 2020-21 Celtics season, it's nice to have you. I tried warning you the other day, this is just how things go this season I guess. We are now 7 games in, and 5 of them have come down to the final possessions. That's pretty fucking wild. It doesn't matter who it's against, or how big a lead the Celts may have had at one point during the game, you can pretty much bank on the fact that they are going to have a highly stressful ending.

Now there are two ways you can look at this. On one hand, stop having so many close games with bad teams. Get your shit together and give my heart the night off. There's no reason this should be happening so frequently against poor competition. That's not great. On the other hand, it is important that we see this team continue to come out of these things victorious. Coming through in the clutch was a big time issue for this team last year, so it is good to see them actually pull some of these out. Did you know the Celts have a 90 Drtg in clutch time minutes? That's good! 

Call it an early season thing, call it a warning sign that this team may stink, call it a sign that they have two legit end of game options in the Jays, all I know is don't ask me to explain it. We're just at the point where we cannot trust any type of lead against any type of team under any circumstances. That's certainly no way to live, but if we keep getting Jayson Tatum game winners then who gives a shit.

Let's dive in.

The Good

- Sorry if I keep repeating myself in every one of these blogs but what do you want me to do. Jaylen Brown has been that unstoppable. He's been their most consistent player from the jump, and he is at a level right now that I don't think any of us ever thought he would get to. It's not only that he reached this level either, but that he's building an entire house there

Another 31 points, this time on 13-16 shooting, Jaylen Brown is now tied for 5th in scoring in the entire NBA. He's shooting 59/42% with 2.4 3PM a night. Now I'm not crazy, I understand that his efficiency is going to come back down to earth a little bit. As a high volume wing shooter, I'll be shocked if he shoots 59% for the entire year, but holy shit what a run this dude is on right now

What this isn't, is a fluke. It's not like Jaylen is randomly hot and this will fizzle out. This might just be who he is now. The efficiency will change, but the production? It looks like that's here to stay. I say that because look at how he's scoring. What about that isn't sustainable? Getting to the paint? No problem. Hitting your open threes? Yup, he'll still do that. The man hasn't even really gotten to the FT line either! This was a perfect example of what makes the Jays so goddamn tough. Jaylen is there to get them off to a great start, then in the middle, you get a whole bunch of Tatum, then at the end in big moments, both are there to hit GIGANTIC shots. Jaylen's three late in this game was beautiful not just because of the shot, but also the pass Tatum made to get him the ball. They are looking for each other. They want each other to succeed and it is a beautiful thing.

I'll remind you, Jaylen is 24 years old. Remember when people on Twitter DRAGGED Ainge for Jaylen's extension saying how much of an overpay it was? Weird how you don't hear that anymore. Maybe because it might be the biggest steal in the entire goddamn NBA.

- Of course, you can't have one Jay without the other

And before we get into Tatum's night, I need to rant about something real quick. Fuck anyone who is trying to pit these two young studs against each other on sports talk radio/TV shows/Twitter/whatever about "who is better". They both rule. End of discussion. I have no interest in having a "who is really the #1 option" or "who is better" debates. You can all go to hell. I'm going to sit here and enjoy both of my young franchise cornerstones while I watch them dominate the entire league. Thank you. 

Now onto Tatum. It's hard to pick my favorite part of his night. Sure the total line of 24/8/12 looks great. The game winner sure was sweet, but how about the 12 assists and 0 TOs. That's the thing that shows me real growth. We got back to the Tatum that we saw in the bubble who had taken a big time leap as a playmaker. The way he was able to read defenses and make the correct reads on the fly is the exact thing this offense is going to need him to do. It's not just about the late game scoring. It's about being a threat as a passer just as much as a scorer. 

But that game winner? Well first it was great that Brad actually drew up a play. Very good Brad. But what was even better was you could see Tatum had learned from his IND game winner and was aggressive the entire way. Catching the ball in a three point stance, his decision to take a quick backstep is what drew Blake in, then once he had him on his hip it was game over. There was nobody to prevent Tatum from getting to his spot, and it was cash money. Tatum is shooting 52% on the season from 10-16ft, and that thing was as pure as it gets.

- It's the Pistons, but I also don't give a shit. I'll take any performance in which the offense looks good. Finishing the night with 56/45% splits and 15 3PM is more than enough for me. They never had a quarter under 30 points. Did you know the Celts currently have a top 10 offense? I'm not kidding. As bad as they've looked at times, they are still top 10. Just imagine what they look like once they get their shit together. 

- I thought this was another rock solid performance from Marcus Smart. No two ways about it

He finished with 17/10 on 5-10 from the field with only 2 TOs, so for me he checked all the boxes. He was there as an efficient secondary scorer, he thrived as a primary playmaker, and his decision making was once again so much better. I counted at least 3 times where there was a bad three to be had and Marcus passed it up to make the correct basketball play. That should be no big deal, but with Smart it is a big deal. it shows his growth and that everything he said about improving his shot selection wasn't bullshit. 

Add in that he was nails defensively in this game, and I'd say it was one of his most complete performances of the year.

- This feels very weird to type, but it's the truth. The Celtics lose this game without the performance of…………Semi Ojeleye. That's not a joke

His 9 fourth quarter points were HUGE, I don't really know how else to say it. It's what bough Jaylen some additional time to get rest, and I'm not sure what version of Semi this is, but I know that it's the best I've ever seen him play. It's not just yesterday either. Semi is showing us things that we've never seen before. He's attacking closeouts, he's finishing in transition, and he's making his open threes. The man had TWICE the fourth quarter points as Jayson Tatum. Just let that marinate for a minute.

- I can't stop watching Payton Pritchard play defense. He was back on it again and then some

I said the other day that Pritchard gets all up in that ass defensively, and that may be an understatement. He gets so far up that ass that he comes out your nose. I love it. The best part? It works

We're at the point where it is a real thing that Payton Pritchard is playing as well as any rookie in the entire league. Reminder, Ainge took him 26th. If this is the worst he's ever going to be, I don't know how that doesn't excite you.

- This was easily the best Daniel Theis has looked offensively all year, and you combine that with Thompson's double double and  you can maybe see what Brad is thinking when he trots out this lineup

The Bad

- As surprising as it may be to see the Celts have a top 10 offense, I'm not sure that's as big of a surprise as how pathetic their defense is. I mean this has to stop. Currently, they rank 24th, but it looks worse than that. They can't stop anyone. The Pistons of all people came out and shot 47/44% with 16 3PM. And this was after the team was supposed to be motivated after their embarrassing loss to start this trip. It's not exactly ideal when you see the Celts give up 30+ points in 3 of the 4 quarters to the 18th best offense in basketball. Someone has to stop this. The thing is, they didn't even lose their best defenders! If anything, the addition of Tristan Thompson was supposed to help! 

The two big lineup keeps getting shredded. In this game it had a 132 Drtg and it looked every bit as ugly as you think. I will say, that group was nails in their fourth quarter minutes together, but this is more about the starts. They aren't able to stop a nosebleed to begin these games, and if you are going to play two bigs and get no defense, well it's time to put Rob in as one of the bigs and see what happens.

- I dunno how severe Jeff Teague's ankle sprain is, but I do know that it certainly throws a wrench in things. He had finally started to look like a guy getting out of his slump too so that's awesome. 

- I'm not really sure how this team still can't get to the FT line. It's not like they only took threes in this game, just 33 of their 87 shots were threes. They took less than DET, who also got to the line 25 times. The Celts were just 9-13, and Tatum and Brown combined for just 2 FTA. That feels odd.

You would think eventually water would find its level, but through 7 games this team is 28th in FTA.

The Ugly

- While Jaylen was pretty much perfect, he did have one major issue. Turnovers. He couldn't stop throwing the ball away, finishing the night with 6. That is farrrrrrr too many. As a team, the Celts had 16 which is still too many for my liking, and it led to 22 Pistons points. So you see, the fact that the Celts are in these close games against bad teams is mostly due to the fact that they can't stop shooting themselves in the foot.

Think back to the bubble and all those blown leads. What caused them? Turning the ball over. When this team is careless with the basketball, it ALWAYS comes back to bite them. Shit, they had 7 TOs alone in the third quarter! Of course in a game they finally show up in the third it means nothing because they turn it over so much and end up losing the quarter by 1 point. So goddamn frustrating.

With a quick turnaround in a big matchup tonight against TOR, there's no time to catch your breath. This team needs to start stacking wins and building momentum. Enough of this look good and then follow it up with a pathetic performance. Especially when teams like BKN/MIA/TOR are all struggling to start the year. This is where you need to start adding some separation. It doesn't matter if the season is still young, all these games matter. Especially when you consider seeding and H2H matchups in a shortened schedule.

So hopefully the Celts will be able to use the momentum from this game winner and get something started, but at least they avoided disaster by dropping both in Detroit. That would have been beyond embarrassing.