For all the talk I had to hear before the season about how bad the Celtics were going to be, we woke up today with the Celts currently tied for the second most wins in the Eastern Conference. Through 8 games this season, they've played 5 against playoff teams from last season. That is not exactly the same situation as the teams ahead of them. This most recent win came against a team that I was told was another one in the East that got better this offseason while the Celtics and Danny Ainge did nothing to improve. Interesting.
The beauty of all this? The Celtics still aren't even playing that well yet. Their defense still stinks out loud. Yesterday they were without Jeff Teague and Marcus Smart in addition to all the guys who were already out, and yet the Hospital Celtics continue to find ways to win. Not just win either, but beat the shit out of people. Don't let the final score fool you, things were only that close because the second unit pooped their pants in the fourth quarter, this thing was pretty much a blowout from the second quarter on.
This is an important week on the Celts schedule with TOR, and MIA twice so it's great to see them kick things off with a nice win. Now it's time to take this and build some momentum. I now want to see this team move forward and not do what they usually do which is take one step forward and two steps back.
But before we look ahead, we first much look back at what was one of the better performances from this team in this young season. Given how competitive their series with the Raptors was last year, it wasn't just any other game. Let's dive in.
- What, your favorite team doesn't have two players under 25 who can score at least 38 points in three quarters? How pathetic.
This my friends is the beauty of Fire & Ice (also a great restaurant I loved as a kid but let's stay focused here). One day you have Jaylen Brown scoring 26 at half and at least 38 through three quarters. Well then like two days later you have Jayson Tatum scoring 26 at the half and finishing with 38 through three quarters. Most teams are lucky to have ONE player capable of that, and they are usually in their late 20s. The Celtics currently have two and one of them can barely buy beer. That seems good
Just a quick question. Are Larry Bird and Kevin McHale any good? Oh they are HOF players and some of the best to ever do it? That's interesting.
When I look at Tatum's performance last night, not only was he efficient at 11-19 (5-8), but it was his approach that I loved most. He was hunting fouls and was finally rewarded. Heading into this game he had taken around 16 FTs on the season. He finished this game 13-13. All I know is do not let this man start to get the star whistle he has earned like every other All NBA player. Dropping 40 is going to be a breeze if he's getting 8-10 FTA a night.
But as we know, the key to Tatum's rise to stardom comes with him being a two way monster. Well, his three most guarded Raptors were Kyle Lowry, OG Anunonby, and Fred Vanvleet. Arguably their best three players. Tatum held them to a total of 2 points on 1-6 shooting. That feels good.
- But you know what feels really good? Watching Payton Pritchard play basketball. Rough start to the Danny Ainge can't draft crowd considering all Danny Ainge draft picks are currently carrying this team and making HUGE impacts. We're at the point where this love for Payton Pritchard isn't a bit. He can flat out play. You may not want to accept that, you may still want to doubt what your eyes and the numbers are telling you, but there's no point in resisting. Payton Pritchard is playing as well as ANY rookie from this year's class and it has been incredible to watch
All I know is he's the first rookie this year to score at least 23 points. This includes everyone taken high who plays starter minutes. How rare was his 23/8 performance in terms of Celtics history? I dunno, you tell me if this is good
Here's what I also know. Fast PP is currently 4th in total points among rookies. Of those top 4, his 54/42% shooting splits are the best. His 25 assists are good for the second most among rookies, only trailing LaMelo Ball. He's also 2nd in steals. Here's what I also know. A total of 7 point guards were taken ahead of Payton Pritchard while none of them have been better than Payton Pritchard.
What was that people were saying about how Danny Ainge didn't improve the bench that people loved to tell me this offseason? He arguably added the early favorite for ROY. That's not my homerism talking, that's the production.
- This was a "quiet" night for Jaylen I suppose, and he still finished with 19/5/3. What a luxury that is
The way he and Tatum erupted in the third quarter (22 points) was a huge reason they dropped 39 points in the frame and really extended their lead to 23. It's just such a joy watching Jaylen play this year, I don't really know how else to say it. He shows up on both ends, he's efficient, his offensive bag increases by the game, it's all been close to perfection.
- But back to the bench for a second. This was without a doubt the best we've seen this group collectively play so far this season. I almost didn't know who the hell I was watching. Mostly because when they shot the ball, it went in! That's a new experience for me. A total of four players finished in double figures, as a unit they put up 60 points. I'm not kidding. Fast PP had 23, then Grant had the best game of his season with 14
then Rob came in and continued to ruin the lives of the Toronto Raptors dating back to the bubble with a cool 11/15 with 2 blocks in his 19 minutes
but the most surprising performance had to be from Semi.
I'm not kidding when I say that I have no idea who this Semi is. Where did he come from? How do we get this version to stay? I mean, he looked not just serviceable….but actually good? It's all very confusing but also changes a whole lot when it comes to this bench unit if this is what he's going to give them. This isn't a first time thing either. He's shooting 45/44% on the season! I think this is the Semi we all were hoping he would turn into, it maybe just took a little longer. Maybe Semi is just a late bloomer, you don't know.
- I really liked how the Celts did not panic to start this game. The Raptors could not miss, hit 6 of their first 7 threes and this team very easily could have decided to fold. They were injured, the Raptors were more desperate to start, we've seen those games balloon into blowouts. Instead? They nutted up, strapped in defensively and turned this into a blowout, only in their favor. That's the type of mental toughness I want to see and I don't care who is in the lineup.
- I'm also pretty sure it's now a fact that Jaylen Brown ruined Pascal Siakam. He destroyed him in the bubble and he's never been the same since. Was anyone afraid of Siakam last night? I don't really care that he had 22, he was basically a non factor and was a starter worst -13. Guy has one move, that's it. Couldn't be my max player.
- The Celtics second quarter was by far the best we've seen them play on both ends of the floor at any point this season. Not only were they clicking offensively to the tune of 38 points in the quarter, but they held the Raptors to just 14 points on 20/0% shooting. I'm pretty sure I came in my pants at least 3 times watching this team defend like that. If they can find a way to bring that type of intensity over the course of a full game, they are going to win a whole bunch.
- While we all feel good about this win, I can't sit here and tell you it was all good. Outside of that second quarter defense, I didn't really love how this team defended. In three of the four quarters they allowed at least 32 points. That's not going to cut it, sorry. This team's defense is still ways too inconsistent and not nearly good enough to be a true contender yet. Luckily, it's only 8 games in. I thought we would have more issues offensively and would have to rely on our defense, but it's been the exact opposite. I get not having Smart will impact things, but I still need a better effort from everyone involved for a full 48.
- I wouldn't exactly say Aaron Nesmith's appearance in a game that mattered while getting minutes at real parts of the game was all that good. His first stint was pretty terrible, and while it did get slightly better over the course of the game, it still wasn't good. He missed every shot he took and had 4 fouls in 10 minutes.
Obviously, adjusting to the NBA isn't easy. Just because Fast PP is able to do it doesn't mean that Nesmith stinks because he didn't step right in and look like a monster. We can't beg for him to get more minutes and then call him a bust when he doesn't immediately produce, but he certainly didn't look great.
- Can we finally say goodbye to the two big lineup? I know their issues of these slow starts aren't exactly directly related to the two bigs, but at the same time what has Brad seen from that lineup that's been good enough to keep trying it? Especially when you look SO GOOD without it? Is it a respect thing because Theis and Thompson are vets? No surprise he started Semi in the third and look what happened. It's time for this team to go back to how it was last year, when they had a top 5 offense and defense and it wasn't because they started two bigs.
- I feel bad for Aron Baynes. He deserves better than this stinky Raptors team.
- I think we've seen the end of the Tremont Waters experiment. He just hasn't shown the ability to score at the NBA level in any of his career appearances. He had 4 TOs last night while going 1-8. I get trying to see different things and keeping Fast PP in his role where he is thriving, but playing Tremont isn't it. At least now we know. It's why I think if Smart/Teague are out tomorrow Brad should give those minutes to Carsen. Maybe not start him, but he should get the 24 minutes that Tremont got last night. We just have to see with Carsen just like we had to see with Tremont.
This is important because if Ainge is going to use the TPE this season and not the offseason, one of those two roster spots are going to be needed. Right now, I think Tremont might be on the hot seat.
- Another disgusting 19 turnover performance which the Celts are very lucky did not come back to bite them. Jaylen needs to figure his shit out because he is turning the ball over at an alarming rate. He has 18 TOs in his last 4 games, which is far too many for a player with his type of usage.
- Then there was the fourth quarter. You know, where the Celts turned it over 7 times and almost blew their 20+ point lead. Anytime the coach has to go back to his starters in the final two minutes because the bench can't hold a lead, that's a tough look. Brad might never play any of these guys again after that. It was turnover after turnover, lazy defense, no intensity, basically everything we see anytime this Celtics team collapses. This time it was just the bench guys doing it. Not great!
So here we sit. At 5-3 and right in the conversation as one of the top seeds in the East. Just like I told you they would be and they aren't even healthy yet. In fact, they couldn't be more injured. I dare any other contending East team to lose their top 3 rotation guards and still win. But that's the beauty of the Hospital Celtics. They thrive on being the underdog and it's only going to get better from here.