While most of the world probably only cares about the sporting event that took place last night, I am not most people. I care more about what happened during the afternoon if we're being honest. Sure it was awesome to see Tom Brady win his 7th Super Bowl, but unlike previous years it really doesn't impact my life. The Celtics losing to the Suns in an afternoon matinee does. It's basically become tradition when Brady makes the Super Bowl that we start our day with a Celtics game, and as we come down the home stretch of this tough West Coast trip we're getting an idea of how this team stacks up against some of the better teams out West. A trip that I had many Celtics fans tell me would be 1-4 after the GS win and SAC loss, suddeny stands at 2-2. That Kings loss doesn't even look so bad considering they've just beaten the Nuggets and Clippers and have won 6 of their last 7. You knew things would be an uphill battle with Jaylen getting another night off to rest his knee, and sometimes you just have to tip your cap.
The Suns were the better team yesterday from the opening tip. They played great, especially to start and down the stretch of the fourth quarter. There's no shame in losing to this team without your second best player. That's why I didn't get the "sky is falling" mentality in my mentions. People know the Celts are going to lose games again right? It's OK. This is a long season. Was it annoying how they lost? Sure, but this wasn't a situation where they threw a game away. The Suns, a current top 4 seed in the West, were better.
They still have a chance to end this trip at 3-2, which is a record that every single Celtics fan would have taken when this thing started. Everyone take a deep breath. There are a whole bunch of things we need to see them be better at if they want to beat the Jazz, but before we look ahead let's first look back at what we saw yesterday.
- In terms of individual performances, there's not really a lot to choose from. Even Tatum's team leading 23 points came on 8-22 shooting which isn't all that great. What was great though were his 7 assists and 0 turnovers. Playmaking Tatum continues to make strides which we all can agree is a very important part of his development
Unfortunately, they needed a performance closer to what he gave against the Clippers. As was the case not just with Tatum but with pretty much everyone, the man missed a lot of bunnies. It's not like he wasn't able to get to his spots offensively. He just missed. Am I going to freak out because Jayson Tatum had an off night shooting against a good team? No. Do I acknowledge that as the leader of this team he needs to be better? Of course.
But after we saw him commit 4 TOs as a primary ball handler the other night, I continue to be intrigued with Tatum's potential as a passer, especially if he can keep his turnovers in check. That's especially true with no Smart, Jaylen in and out of the lineup and Kemba on load management. That's an area of Tatum's game that has really taken a leap this year. Much better at making the right reads and remaining a threat even if he doesn't shoot.
- I wouldn't say you were crazy if you thought the best player for the Celts yesterday came off the bench and only played 22 minutes. That man was Payton Pritchard
It's not just the outside shooting (which rules), but pretty much every single time we see Pritchard play he gives us some defensive possessions like this
That's Chris Paul. Only one of the best point guards the NBA has ever seen and Pritchard locked his ass up. While he may be undersized when it comes to challenging shots, Pritchard has proved that he can get in that ass defensively and actually stay in front of bigger guards. That's very very very very important if we want to see him on the floor for his shooting. You have to be able to defend your position and Pritchard does it at a high level. It's probably the biggest surprise for me when it comes to the start of his career. I did not expect him to look so good on that end so early.
- Really, the entire bench showed up. That's not a sentence I get to type very often so please give me at least 15 seconds to enjoy it. Usually it's the bench that makes us all want to claw our eyes out, but that was not the case yesterday. They finished with 36 points on 13-29 (8-16) shooting. How do I get that all the time. Shit, even Jeff Teague had 10 points on 4-8 shooting and I have to be consistent here. That's really all I ever ask of him. Give me an efficient 10 points off the bench.
I will say the confusing part was only playing Rob 10 minutes. It's tough becaue guys like Grant/Thompson/Theis have all been really really good on this trip and it's not like the Suns play super big. I think the Jazz will be a matchup we see a lot more Timelord in.
- Speaking of Daniel Theis
- Tristan Thompson continues to have himself a great trip. Yesterday he only had 6 points, but I didn't think he defense was all that bad and his 12 rebounds (6 OREB) were exactly what I want to see from him. He's more confident going into that small jump hook which is nice to see, and it's going to be a challenge to Brad to rotate all the bigs, especially when they are all playing well.
- In their game against the Clippers when they came out and gave up a billion points on incredible shooting splits, it was annoying but then you say "OK whatever, it's the Clippers". Well, they did the exact same shit against the Suns. Another 64/57% first quarter. Why is their first quarter defense so bad all of the sudden? Did you know over the course of this road trip the Celts have a
95.7 Ortg / 121.9 Drtg / -26.1 Net Rating
They are shooting themselves in the foot before they even break a sweat. Normally we're used to fourth quarter issues, but so far it's been how this team is starting that has made things maybe tougher than they should be. The offense is whatever, you should be used to slow shooting starts by now, but the concerning part is the defensive end of the floor. They are providing no resistence to start these games and they're doing it against teams that you cannot fuck around with. That needs to change ASAP.
- As great as Carsen was against the Clippers, he was pretty brutal last night in his first career start. It began with Devin Booker taking him into the midrange and continuously shooting over him, and he finished just 1-6 and a team worst -21 in his 17 minutes. That was rough. He's one of those players where if his shot isn't falling early, he isn't used in a way to really help you anywhere else offensively, and defensively he was just as poor. Guy was probably a little nervous in his first start, who could blame him, but with no Jaylen they needed him to be better.
- This is now the second game we've seen both Jayson Tatum and Kemba Walker lose their mental focus due to non calls. That just cannot happen. Not only because it's a bad look, but it's only going to make things worse. It's not going to buy them calls. Were some missed? Probably. Does it matter? No. You can't let that shit impact your play and I got the sense that it absolutely did for both of those guys. That's an issue seeing as though they were your best players. Is it sad that Tatum only took 4 FTA and Kemba only 2 despite being aggressive? Yes. But bitching about it and losing your mental focus is not going to help this team. Both talked about it after the game about needing to be better about no calls. Uhhhhhhhh ya think?
- Semi's shot is all kinds of fucked up right now. I could understand him getting consistent minutes early in the year because he was knocking down his corner threes. Well, he's shooting just 28/18% so far this trip and what's confusing is why he's getting minuts over someone like Nesmith. Especially if this team isn't going to defend. Why not just see if Nesmith can get hot? Especially since he showed signs of coming around before the trip started? Now he's getting DNP-CDs while Semi can't buy a bucket. Can I just see what Nesmith does with these same looks? How could it be worse?
- They say it's a make or miss league and it's hard to argue with that after watching this game. Sometimes it's just not your night. There aren't many NBA teams that will beat anyone good shooting 35/38%. I mean this was basically a wire to wire beat down. The Celts had 2 leads and it was by 1 point. Shit like this was part of it
but also because this team couldn't make a fucking shot. They finished 16-49 from two point range. That's laughable and probably not something that will happen too often. Just one of those nights I guess.
Hard to win when your starting backcourt goes 5-26, and then your best player goes 8-22. All while nobody is really getting to the line. This was mostly just one of those gross shooting performances that you quickly move on from. They were great against the Clippers, shots didn't fall last night. It happens.
- Then there's Kemba Walker. Naturally, when it comes to Kemba, there are a lot of Celtics fans that are ready to ship him out of town. There's no real perspective when he shoots poorly and the Celtics lose. For example, you can't be happy with the 2-2 record so far and then just ignore that a big part of why you have two wins on this trip….is partly due to Kemba. His 19/7/5 against the Warriors and his great night against the Clippers were great. Physically, he looks like the Kemba of old. He's quick, he's shifty, he's not showing any signs of that knee injury.
Now while that is true, it's also true that he fucking sucked yesterday. Like really really sucked. Going 4-20 just cannot happen. He's missing open looks that we need him to make. Add in his 2 assists and 3 TOs (which came at brutal moments) and this was not a great Kemba performance by any means. But like I said, perspective is important. It means more that he looks fine physically. Trust in the quality of shots he's able to create. We just saw the game before that he can knock that shit down.
Of course, people will point to his contract and salary as evidence of why he sucks. I don't get why this happens. Who fucking care what he makes? This happened with Horford and Hayward too. The Celts had to pay market price for these players, it hasn't stopped them from adding pieces. I just think it's annoying how nobody has a problem with him after he beats the Clippers but now everyone wants him traded after a loss to a good Suns team. He's working his way back, this team is shorthanded which impacts everyone offensively. Everyone just relax.
Both can be true. You can say he fucking sucked in a game and needs to be 100000x better for this team to win, while also thinking you sound like a moron if you're going on Twitter demanding Kemba be traded. There's nothing great about his 35/30% shooting start to his season. But the man hasn't even played 10 fucking games yet. The same people who are overreacting now will be cheering for him once he figures it out. It's exhausting.
So the TLDR:
Kemba yesterday = fucking pathetic
Kemba as a basketball player = looks healthy, is still good
Now comes the biggest challenge of the trip. There might not be a better team in the entire NBA right now than the Jazz. Maybe that's why Jaylen got some extra rest. If you win that game on the road and have wins over GS/LAC/UTA on this trip, I don't know how anyone could say this wasn't a smashing success. They'll have to be a whole lot better than what we saw yesterday afternoon, but that's basically the celtics formula. Lose games you should win, win games you should lose. It's what this team does.