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For The First Time In Forever, The Celtics Finally Didn't Make Us Sad

Brian Babineau. Getty Images.

When I saw the clock hit 0.0 and I realized that we actually got to live in a world where the Celtics not only finally won a basketball game, but they did it while coming through in a cluch situation. I don't need to remind you what life has been like these past few weeks. But I will, because it helps explain what a relief last night was. Big picture I fully understand that winning a game against a .500 or whatever Pacers team isn't all that impressive. But I also understand the Celtics have been playing like the worst team in the entire league for about a month now and neither they nor us as fans have any right to look down on any other team in the league right now. I hate to tell you, but that's how it's going to be for a while. I need to see a consistent stretch of this type of effort and play for me to think this hell is over. 

But I cannot stress how good that exhale felt at the end of this game. We just needed to see this team win. If it comes against a feisty Pacers team, fine by me. I just needed to see it. As long as we're in the trust tree and we can be honest with each other, deep down I didn't know if they were going to win again. Can you blame me? I was convinced they were going to find new ways to painfully rip my heart out. Shit, it almost fucking happened again last night. Thankfully, it didn't. We can finally blog happy again and it feels fantastic.

You deserve this. We've been through some of the worst displays of basketball in the history of the sport these last few weeks. We all deserve this quick moment not wanting to put our heads in the oven.

The Good

- So um….

Giphy Images.

You saw it too right? The quickness. The ability to get into the paint and finish at the rim around elite shot blockers. The midrange fade in the paint. As we continue down the road of Kemba's return to form, these are the performances that give you hope. This is the version of Kemba that changes the Celts ceiling. Right now, it comes and goes. But remember, we're just trying to build consistency here. You can't play well for 10 games until you play well for 5 you know what I mean? Here's Kemba's last 7

vs TOR: 21/5/3 on 41/62%

vs WSH: 25/7/2 on 50/57%

vs DEN: 17/1/4 on 38/37%

vs ATL: 28/5/6 on 62/62%

vs NOP: 14/1/4 on 23/8%

vs DAL: 21/4/3 on 42/36%

vs IND: 32/3/6 on 52/40%

7 Games Played: 22.2/3.7/4.0 on 44/40% shooting

He's starting to build a better sample size. It wasn't perfect, there were two absolute stinkers that were huge contributions to those losses, but overall? It looks like Kemba is starting to turn a corner in terms of his consistency. He hasn't had a 7 game stretch like this all year. We're looking at a 7 game stretch out of his 17 games played which is just 41% of his season. Kemba has a long way to go, but you see this

and that's old Kemba. There were two things that stood out for me for the most part when it came to Kemba's night offensively. First, he showed great patience getting into the paint for his little midrange fallaway. That was always an unguardable shot for him, but a huge part of it is shooting with touch. This was the first time in a while I felt like Kemba had his touch back.

The second thing that made me feel great was watching him repeatedly hunt Myles Turner. He actively looked for him, got the mismatch and destroyed him. The burst was back. We saw Kemba be able to get Turner on his hip and finish at the rim. That's the NBA's leading shot blocker I'm pretty sure. 

Not only that, but Kemba was the one that brought this team back from the dead in the first quarter when it was 18-4. Without his offense, this team gets blown out. He then also showed up in the fourth, with 8 huge points on 3-6 shooting. Easily his best performance of the season and I think we can all agree that from a health standpoint, whatever the team is doing to keep his knee right is working. Now it's just about the basketball stuff coming back, and it looks like we might be well on our way.

- We need to talk about Rob. 

We're witnessing a leap. Just like we saw with Jaylen and Jayson, we're seeing it with Rob. It's the leap we've all been hoping he would take since he got drafted and first showed his potential. He's figuring it out. I keep saying it, but the best way I can describe Rob is he's an impact player. When he's on the floor, shit happens. He challenges everything and actually impacts shooters, he rebounds, he blocks shots, he catches every lob, he passes, you just feel him when he's on the floor. There are going to be mistakes, he's a young player who hasn't really played, but we're at the point now where it has become undeniable. I know people will yell for him to start and I don't really give a shit who starts. I just want him at a consistent 25 minutes a night. He's exactly what this team needs on the defensive end, and on the other end of the floor in a panic you can always just lob it to him.

When I watch Rob play and play well, I feel like a proud parent. I think we all do. You see, it was @Riffs_Man who got him drafted on the Celts through posting in the first place. He is a WCT creation. When Rob thrives we thrive. Everything he does is cool. He might just be the best thing WCT ever created. He embodies everything that is cool about posting online. That's why the success of Rob is so important to this team. Not only for what it can do for the actual basketball team, but because of what he means to the rest of us.

- I know the Pacers scored 112, but this was the first time we've seen this team actually play anything that resembled defense. They finally didn't allow a 30 point scorer for the first time in like 8 games, the Pacers shot just 39/32%, and more importantly we saw this team hunker down in the fourth quarter.

You know the story there. The Celts suck ass in the fourth quarter. Especially on the defensive end. Last night they showed up, holding the Pacers to 34/16% shooting. Some of that was a bit lucky, both Brogdon and Holiday missed two wide open threes, but you think I give a shit? I need anything positive at this point.

- I have a theory. We all see Jeff Teague's box score. I'm going to treat this like a no hitter. I'm not talking about it. I don't want to jinx it. Don't even ask me. Keep reading. 

- How about Payton Pritchard playing 30 minutes? Not only that, but getting back to his efficient 9 points on 4-6 shooting off the bench. In fact, the entire bench played well. They were a huge part of why the Celts even won this game. Boy does that feel weird to type but it is true. The second unit definitely bailed them out.

- The Celts also don't win without the night from Daniel Theis

I still don't know how that corner three went in. It looked so off as soon as it left his hands. This is the thing with Theis. We know what he is, but performances like this are why I don't mind him starting. He gives them variety when it comes to the offensive end. You can put him on the FT line if someone goes zone, you can run him in P&R both as a roll man and a pick and pop option. He plays well off the Jays. He protects the rim. 

Theis had 20 possessions against Myles Turner and held him to 2-5 shooting. Sabonis was 0-2 against Theis. I'm not sure you could ask for more than that.

- It was basically the only good thing he did, but I did enjoy this no look from Tatum

Would you look at that, cutting without the ball works!

The Bad

- So how did everyone feel when this team started the game down 18-4? Pretty awesome right. Not only that, but just like the Hawks game it was nothing but threes right in your eyeball. I just don't get it. How is it possible that this team keeps finding ways to get down by double digits within the first 2 minutes of every game? I get the NBA is a game of runs, but I also know this team is so streaky offensively you cannot rely on always coming back from being down 14. For once can I just see a team not start a game on a 12-2 run. Is that so hard? Am I asking too much? 

Yes, we saw Kemba drag this team back, but it's about getting into that situation in the first place. After the stretch they've had, I just don't get how guys aren't coming out guns blazing. Instead, it feels like the opposite to start these games.

- It really bothers me how this team continues to commit off ball fouls while in the bonus in the fourth quarter. They can't help themselves. Do they not know the rules? Maybe lose focus? What's the deal because we are seeing that way too often. It's bad enough that this team can't defend without fouling in the fourth. Did you know the Celts are 28th in the NBA in opponents FTA in the fourth quarter at 7.8? In terms of fourth quarter fouls they are 29th at 6.6. The Wizards are last at 6.7. So basically, the Celts are the worst team in the league at this.

So what happens last night. A 10 point lead blown because they start the fourth with turnovers and fouls. The Pacers were in the bonus with 8 minutes left and took 10 FTA in the quarter. Enough already.

The Ugly

- What else is there to say, the two best players on this team right now are going through it. They look exhausted and their production shows it. Tatum a 4-18 night, Jaylen a little better at 5-12 but the point remains that 24 combined points is not going to cut it.

I will say this, Tatum was much better on the glass and defensively last night which was nice to see, but his shot is really struggling. The brutal month of February continues

Only 1 game this month over 50%. Back to back games in the 20s, the man was blocked by the rim on a wide open dunk, it's clear his legs are shot. Despite that though, he needs to be better. Part of that inefficiency is his shot selection. Tatum is settling a little bit for high degree of difficulty contested fadeaways. That's what tells me he's tired. You've been there before while playing pickup. Sometimes you're so tired you say fuck it and do the same thing. The 0 FTA confirms it. Sure maybe there were some no calls here and there, but I wouldn't say Tatum was aggressive in this game.

With Jaylen, his issues are a little different. When I watch him recently I don't get the sense that he's ever truly set when going into his jumper. He's always leaning one way, or his legs are all fucked up and swinging as he's shooting. That's what has plagued his efficiency as of late. Like Tatum, he's taking some tough looks that right now are not falling, partly because he doesn't have his legs either. While Jaylen was better at attacking the rim yesterday, he felt more out of control which is probably why he didn't get calls.

It's not a hot take to suggest that for this team to win, they need their All Stars to play like All Stars. All the time. It's not fair, but that's the responsibility and the burden of being in their role. 

The reality is this team is still under .500. There is a long way to go before things are fixed. Let's see how they look against a red hot Wizards team. They haven't been able to build on good wins all goddamn year, so I'll believe it when I see it. But after being down so bad this past week?