It had been over two weeks since we've been able to watch Jayson Tatum play basketball. The last time we saw him on the floor he put up a casual 32/5 on 14-27 shooting against the Wizards on January 8th. After three postponed games the Celts returned and went 2-3 in games without Tatum. They were OK I guess, mostly bad. That makes sense, I mean take the best player off any team in the league right now and they probably won't look quite as good. Now on the second night of a back to back against a presky Bulls team, I think we were all excited to see how Tatum looked in his return and if they could get back to looking like the team that was 7-3 and winners of four straight before Tatum went out.
The early returns suggest that is exactly what happened.
When you woke up this morning you may have noticed that almost a quarter of the way through the season the Boston Celtics are currently a 2 seed and trail the Sixers by just 1 game. Those same Sixers that just lost to the 3-13 Pistons. Joel Embiid didn't play, so you see what I mean when I say teams without their best player don't really look that good?
I was interested in seeing if this Celts team could continue to take steps in the right direction or if it would be the classic one step forward then two steps back with a frustrating loss against a team they had no business losing to. I was pleasantly surprised, I can't lie. I saw a team last night that competed, that defended, and that has two franchise cornerstones under 25 that are dominating the entire fucking league.
- You may think this top spot, the most coveted spot in any postgame blog on the entire internet would be going to the player we all saw return from a two week absence all while not missing a beat. Sorry, maybe in other places that aren't nearly as awesome and important as this website. But here, we tell the truth, and the truth is Jaylen Brown continues to play the best basketball on this roster. He doesn't simply slide into second place just because Tatum is back. He's not a #2. He's a #1 and the haters are absolutely sick over it
I said it last night, but we are at the point with Jaylen where I now trust him to do whatever he wants with the ball. Not only do I trust this version of Jaylen will make the right decision, but he's also going to be efficient as shit while he does it. You want to take a pull up three? Cool. You want to put the ball on the floor and attack the paint/midrange for an easy jumper? Beautiful. You want to use your size and strength to get all the way to the rim where you are basically the best in the NBA? Fantastic
Take a second and read that shit again. Then remember you're reading about Jaylen Brown. Remember early in his career when he couldn't make a goddamn layup? That feels like a century ago. Last night was yet another example of Jaylen setting the tone early getting off to a good start, then coming out of halftime dropping 14 points in the third on 6-9 shooting to really help build their lead. He's defending too, couple more steals in this one, Jaylen vowed to do more after the Sixers loss and he has backed it up no matter how you want to slice it. That my friends, is a leader.
- And then there's Tatum. What a cheat code this duo is. People won't want to admit it, but we know. They are the best duo in the league 25 and under. I'll maintain some perspective, I won't call them the best duo in the NBA…..yet. But holy shit what do you do? We've never had this version of Jaylen paired with the All NBA version of Tatum that we are currently seeing. They are literally a nightmare
Was there supposed to be rust? If so, I didn't see it. That looked like the same old Tatum to me and boy did I forget how much I loved watched that man play. Another pick your poison type scorer. I didn't expect his outside shot to be so good this early mostly because I thought his conditioning and legs would need to get back into shape, but nope. Same Tatum.
Now I will concede that the Bulls roster isn't really built with any wing defenders that are good enough to handle either Jay, but then I remember that I don't give a shit. Not my problem. A combined 50 points on basically 50% shooting and they barely broke a sweat. I don't even know what else to say other than we're seeing why Ainge never broke these two up. Sounds like maybe some people out there owe him an apology.
- One of the weirdest thing I see in my mentions all the time is how Daniel Theis sucks. I don't get it. Is it a bit? Oh so a 6'9 PF can't handle Joel Embiid on the block. OK. What living human can? They don't exist. Meanwhile, all Daniel Theis does is exactly what we want a big to do on this team. He defends at a high level and protects the rim (3 blocks), he hits jumpers, and now he's starting to hit threes
A huge part of why the two big lineup with Theis and Thompson struggled so much to start the season was because in my opinion, Daniel Theis was not replicating the level we saw last year. Now he is and look at how much better it looks. This is the Theis I remember and the version they are going to need on a consistent basis. I'll never understand the Daniel Theis hate. He is what he is, and you need to adjust your expectations. He's not going to be able to handle a monster big by himself, but what he can do is everything else. He fits this system perfectly. He fits seamlessly with the two Jays. If he can be that reliable option when defenses cave in on the Jays, he's going to be just fine.
- Sometimes I want to sit Marcus Smart down, show him this tape
and beg him to always play like this. This is the version of Marcus Smart I want all the time. I don't want to say it was perfect but it was damn close. The way he used his size to get his defender onto his hip and into the painted area for an easy bucket?
Did you know Marcus is shooting 48% on the season from midrange? That's a real stat. He's also shooting 35% at the rim so you make fucking sense of that. Not only that, but we got Playmaking Marcus in this one and that guy rules. You know, the unselfish one who makes great basketball decisions and creates for others rather than himself. Like I said, I want this Marcus all the time, especially with Tatum back. It wasn't an accident that now Smart slid back into a role he's more comfortable and successful in. He only took 6 shots while finishing with 11 assists. Tell me that isn't what you want to see.
- So, maybe everyone was a little too quick in calling Aaron Nesmith a bust? I don't know why Celtics fans do this when a lottery wing doesn't play right away. They did it with Jaylen, they did it with Romeo, and they are doing it with Nesmith. Just taking a goddamn breath and realize that not every situation around the league is the same. If Nesmith was on the Pistons, he'd play a lot more. Well now he's starting to get some run in this weird stretch and look who is getting more and more confident every time he steps on the floor
Back to back games with at least 3 3PM off the bench, looks to me like Nesmith is starting to find his shot. Oh, so now he's not a bust? Interesting how that works! What I love about Nesmith aside from his pure stroke is the fact that he plays with fantastic energy. He's always around the ball. The effort plays are there, and his defense is getting a WHOLE lot better. No surprise Brad is rewarding that with minutes. He doesn't look as lost on that end which is a great sign, of course that'll continue to get better as he gets more minutes.
I think of Nesmith as the freshman who made varsity. When he comes in he basically runs to the corner, he shooters it every time because that's why he's on the team, then he's going to make all the high energy plays to help impress the upperclassmen. So far in these last two appearances, he's been great.
- I also was impressed with Carsen's minutes. I said it the other night, but while Pritchard is out I want Carsen to get all the second reserve guard minutes. He's outplayed both Jeff Teague and Tremont and I'm not even sure it's close. I'm still all the way in on what Carsen can bring and it feels like Brad is coming around too. He can shoot, he has a great burst, and if he just slows down a little bit things will work out for him. It reminds me of Jaylen's early career when he went 10000000 MPH at all times. Carsen will figure that out.
- Another 50/51% with 15 3PM shooting performance. I don't know who this team is but for them to do it in back to back games was weird to see. Doesn't matter who it's coming against, it's weird to see the Celts shoot well in back to back games.
- Goes without saying that if you were up 22 at one point and we did not get to see Tacko at any point, you fucked up.
- Who has more of a fouling problem, Daniel Theis or Grant? I feel like Grant is still getting his rookie whistle which makes sense because all he ever does is complain about fouling. Grant, my guy, it's clearly not working. In fact, I argue it's working against you. So maybe stop worrying about the call and focus more on actually not fouling. I swear he comes in and 3 seconds into his minutes he picks up a foul. It's remarkable.
- Very weird night for Tristan Thompson. I guess he did what his role requires him to do, he rebounded well and played OK defense at times. But he also didn't score. In fact, he didn't even take a shot. My question is, are we seeing anything from Tristan that Rob can't do? I say no. Is that a bit of a concern? I say yes. But hey, if he's happy just rebounding and then not even touching the ball on offense, fine by me I guess.
- I dunno, maybe try to guard Zach LaVine just a little bit. Maybe don't go under screens in the P&R so many times. I didn't exactly love their approach to containing LaVine because it in no way shape or form worked. You may call them empty stats in a game the Bulls were never going to win, I call it establishing good habits defensively against elite scorers, and that did not happen.
- Thad Young audition? Just think about it.
- Because this is the Celtics and we couldn't possibly have back to back stress free nights watching this team play, of course they blew their 22 point lead and this was a 9 point game in the fourth quarter. Not really in risk of losing it, but absolutely causing me to sweat it out. So unnecessary and frankly a little rude. On what planet should you lose a lead in a half where you shoot 53/58%? Again, I can't explain it I just know it was annoying as shit.
- 9 OREB led to 19 second chance points for the Bulls. I'm sensing a trend here and I don't like it one bit. Look if Brad doesn't want to teach these guys how to rebound, I will. No need to thank me
From here, the schedule gets a little tougher. Who knows if the Spurs game happens tomorrow, then we have LAL/GS/SAC/LAC/PHX/UTA/TOR. This is a big stretch where we will learn a lot about what this team is if they are able to play all these games. All I know is with the two Jays back together again, anything is possible.