I know if I say last night's win over the Denver Nuggets could have potentially saved the Celtics season that would come off as extremely dramatic, but it's also kind of true. We were all on edge last night. When you're 5-10 over your last 15, can't even beat the worst teams in your conference, and generally have been playing a quality of basketball that has been a hot pile of garbage for the last month, that's just the reality. It was a tipping point game if you will. I think we were all interested to see how the Celtics would respond to what many people called "rock bottom" for this team. I don't exactly disagree, I mean it's hard to be as terrible as the Celts have been since Tatum first went out with Covid.
What we saw was a team that punched back. They showed us a complete 48 minute effort and look at what a difference it made. They weren't perfect, but that's OK. And yes, I am fully aware that the Nuggets were missing starters and rotation players. So were the Celtics. You think I give a shit? I need wins, I don't care how they get em.
Now what we as fans can't do is just flat out assume that everything is fixed and it's only smooth sailing from here. Keep everything in perspective. This was a good win, but it doesn't prove they've fixed their fatal flaw. We've seen this team respond to bad losses before with big wins. It's building off those big wins and not taking two steps back that the Celts have struggled with. No more of this one step forward two steps backwards bullshit. I don't think this win sheds their inconsistent label. That comes with time.
I just know I desperately needed to see this team win a basketball game, mostly for my own sanity. We got one, so we may as well relive it.
- I don't know about you, but I am ready to get extremely mad online if Jaylen not only doesn't start the All Star Game, but also doesn't make an All NBA team this year. That's a real sentence that I don't think I'm crazy for typing. The man is playing on a different level this year compared to any previous Jaylen version we've seen
At the beginning of the year, I called Jaylen their most important player. Not their best player, but their most important. The reality? He's been both this season. The consistency, the efficiency, the development of his game into being a legit 27/5/5 guy night in and night out, it's been beautiful to watch.
It was Jaylen that helped this team get off to a good start offensively with an efficient 11 first half points, but he went up a level over the final 24 minutes. When it came time to put this game away, Jaylen was there. He didn't miss a shot in the fourth quarter, he had 16 points on 6-10 (4-4) shooting, and he did it in a variety of ways. There were the big momentum threes, attacking the basket, scoring off the dribble, we saw the whole bag.
This is exactly what we needed to see against a team that most definitely did not have a wing defender that had a chance against Jaylen. He looked a little warn down at times this past weekend, but I saw a fresh and lethal Jaylen Brown in this game and it came at the perfect time.
- When we talk about how playing with energy can make all the difference in the world, that's not bullshit. That's how basketball works. You get rewarded for your effort and good things tend to happen. The Celts were quick to the ball in this game, they dove on loose balls, they were connected defensively when it came to their rotations, you could just tell after 5 seconds that they were playing with much more energy and effort than they did over the weekend.
Who embodied that the most? Easy. Aaron Nesmith
This kid plays hard man. He can be a little out of control at times, but that's OK. His energy is contagious. Brad said this is his 2nd good game in a row, I'd really put it as his 4th straight solid game when given real minutes. With so much talk about his defense not being ready, I dunno, seems ready to me. It's not a coincidence that in these games where Nesmith is getting actual run that his shot is starting to fall. That's HUGE. It's also why there should be no reason Nesmith doesn't get 15 minutes a night at a minimum with Smart out. He can play.
The spot up corner three is one thing. But that three to end the quarter? Where has that been hiding. In terms of his defense, he matched up with RJ Hampton on 18 possessions and allowed 2 points. If that doesn't earn you another opportunity tonight, well then what will.
- You know who else plays with great energy? Robert Williams. To me, this was one of his best all around performances of the season and is why you see so many fans remain high on his potential. He did a little bit of everything
8/8/2 with 5 steals on 4-4 shooting? That's an impact player right there folks. On a night where nobody could stop Jokic, I actually thought Rob did the best job. He at least consistently made it tough for Jokic on the offensive end. His chemistry with FastPP is beautiful to watch in the P&R and I felt like his defensive mistakes were limited. I don't think it's a surprise as to why we saw Rob play 20 minutes and someone like Grant be a DNP-CD. With Theis being out, Rob more than picked up the slack.
- The same can be said for Pritchard. Back to his old reliable self as the first guard off the bench with 8/7 on 3-5 shooting
nice to see him snap out of his little mini funk. The only critique I really have for Pritchard is when he drives into the paint and does that little stop and spin, maybe look for the turnaround jumper a few times. He only stops to turn and pass. Keep the defense honest and take the 15 footer. We all want you to shoot it.
Defensively, it was more of the same. Nails. He gave up only 2 points on the night, his primary matchup didn't score, and you got a good showing of how important solid backup point guard play is for this team. Also another non shocker that Pritchard played 22 minutes and Teague was a DNP-CD
- Which brings me to Brad's rotations. It's maybe his biggest flaw this season, but you could tell he wanted this win. There was no fucking around. Maybe part of that is the B2B tonight, but he really only had an 8 guy main rotation with a little Javonte sprinkled in. No Carsen, no Teague, no Grant. Even against a team that wasn't really going all that big outside of Jokic. I didn't even know Brad was capable of that.
- Ball movement has been a big topic of late with this team, mostly because they haven't really had any lately. Well I am happy to report they had 26 assists on 39 FGM. Not amazing, but better than what we've seen lately. It's not just about the assist numbers though because that's results oriented. You can have great ball movement and miss a shot, which is what we saw at times. I'm just happy that this group looked to be more willing passers. There wasn't a reliance on isolation so much, which was refreshing.
- OK, let's talk Kemba. Why? Because he's starting to snap out of his funk. Fact, not opinion.
His last three games:
21.0 points / 4.3 rebounds / 3.0 assists / 1.0 steal / 44% FG / 55% 3P / 92.3% FT
That's the normal Kemba we remember. Now, it is JUST a three game sample, let's keep perspective, but you have to start somewhere. Him maintaining this production for a longer stretch is how we'll know he's truly back, but this is a great sign. He's trending in the right direction rather than continuing to struggle. You know, just like I told you he would. We've seen bad 10 game stretches from Kemba before. But he's healthy, he's moving great, and now his shot (especially threes) is starting to come back around. That's a difference maker.
In this game, he filled his #3 role to perfection. He didn't really force things offensively, he allowed the Jays to be the main focus, and he was efficient in his opportunities. If this is the version of Kemba this team can get moving forward, they are going to be just fine.
- Another strong showing from Jayson Tatum as a playmaker. His shot is still all sorts of fucked up right now, but I'll take 21/6/8. He looks so much more comfortable passing out of double teams, I think we can all agree that his jump as a passer this season is real. Defenses are going to key in on him, send delayed doubles, all that shit. His ability to counter that by making the right basketball play on the fly is pretty important.
- This team didn't collapse. I know, it's crazy. It doesn't sound possible. But it's true. The Nuggets went on a run, got things close, and instead of folding this team responded. They punched back. They held their lead for the entire second half. When things got dicey at times, they locked in and got stops. I don't care who that comes against, just seeing this team not wilt under pressure was refreshing as shit.
- I don't know if it's covid related or what, but Tatum is down bad right now when it comes to shooting the basketball. What else would you call this
While I'm sure there is some sort of physical component, last night I felt like Tatum settled too much. Especially in the fourth quarter. He's putting himself in situations where he has to take these FGA that have an extremely high degree of difficulty. We saw late in the fourth that he could get to the rim whenever he wanted. It's the 17 footer contested fallaways that he needs to stop doing for a while. At least until his shot comes back. Those are looks I know he can make, but I also know he's in a big time slump so I'd prefer he attacked the basket and did himself some favors.
Maybe he needs a game off or something. He is carrying a huge load and the rest did seem to help Jaylen when he got it for two games.
- I didn't exactly love how the Celts started this game. We went the first 6 minutes with about 4 points and we lived in a world where the only shot we could get was an end of shot clock desperation three. It was gross. The Jays didn't take a shot for the first 7 minutes. That's an issue. They were lucky it didn't dig themselves too deep a hole, but man was that a tough start to watch.
- This one's easy. I don't think we've seen a game where the Celts were this careless and sloppy with the basketball. Remember those 26 assists? Those were fun. But when you pair them with 20 TOs, that's pretty terrible. Jaylen had 7 (!!!!) and was mostly throwing terrible passes out of bounds, Tatum had 4, Kemba 3. It's the Jaylen part that kind of worries me. He's had at least 5 TOs in 3 of the last 4 games. That is waaaaaaaaayyyyyyyyyyy too many, even with his high usage rate. He needs to cut that shit in half basically.
So look, was this a nice win? Of course. Any win right now is a nice win. It was a game they had to have. But now that they won it, I need to see this team build off it. Back to back games against the Hawks is a good opportunity to do just that. The Celts woke up this morning and trail the 2 seed by just 1 game in the loss column. Despite playing like dogshit for a month, they are right there. If they can build some momentum and close this first half of the season strong, I think we'll all feel a whole lot better about what they can turn into once the playoffs roll around.