It Feels Great To Finally See The Celtics Play Like The Team We Know And Love

Brian Babineau. Getty Images.

So this is what positive momentum feels like. What a world. You know the last time we all woke up feeling the joy of a 3 game winning streak? January 9th. Right after beating the Wizards and the last game Tatum would play before sitting out with Covid. It's now March 3rd. That's embarrassing but at the same time, I don't really care right now. It's just great to be back in this headspace after the month or so we've all had to live through. We all hoped that after the brutal loss in Atlanta that this team would find a way to turn things around and gain some momentum heading into the break. For other teams that may not seem all that hard, but for this team, it was practically asking for the moon. We just hadn't seen them be able to do it for a lonnnnnng stretch. 

And look, perspective is still important. The Celts are 18-17. That stinks. That's embarrassing. All of that is true. But there's also no denying that they've looked a whole lot better in each of these last three wins. Not perfect, still frustrating at times, but they are closing out games that we've seen them lose all year. All three wins were by 6 points or less. For a team that has like 9 losses this year in games decided by 6 or less, I would call that a nice pleasant surprise. 

Oh, and if you think I give two shits that the Clippers didn't have Kawhi and then lost Mook to a concussion, you clicked on the wrong blog. It never matters when the Celts lose games to good teams with main guys out, so you can't then turn around and call this a fake win. The Clippers even without those guys are good. The win counts, deal with it.

The Good

- I tried. I really did. I didn't want to say it. I wanted to be patient and let the sample size grow. But I can't hold it in any longer. Say it with me….

KEMBA. IS. BACK.

Boy did that feel great to type. You know what, it feels even better to watch

If you're someone who still is refusing to acknowledge what we are seeing with Kemba, then you're just dug in on being a troll. We now basically have the exact same sample size of when people called this man washed. That he would never return to form. That was his first 10 games. Here we are after his latest 9

He's not only playing at this level consistently, but he's also doing it against good, playoff caliber teams. That's what everyone wanted right? Well, now he's doing it. Almost like he just needed to get his legs under him and his rhythm in check. What a weird concept. Kemba doesn't just pass the box score test, he passes the eye test. He's moving like the Kemba of old. He's scoring just like he always has. Hearing this quote

has me over the moon. Why? Because a healthy and productive Kemba is what raises the ceiling of this team. That's a fact. If you add in All Star Kemba to the two Jays we are getting this year, this team can compete with anyone. If they had to deal with the first 10 Game Kemba…well they'd be fucked. He's that important. It was great to see him knock down open threes, he looks to have great lift and confidence in his jump shot, and it's no surprise that this little mini turn around is happening at the same time Kemba is rounding into form. I say it all the time but this team goes as Kemba goes and right now Kemba is playing some great basketball. What a relief.

- If not for Kemba's great performance, you know where we would be starting. What else can we say about Rob. Watching him flourish and put it all together this season has me feeling like a proud parent

During this winning streak he's giving this team 11/8.3/3.3 with 1.7 blocks a night. He's shooting an insane 72% from the floor because all you have to do is lob it to him and he dunks it. It's fantastic. Tell me this isn't early DeAndre Jordan Lob City type shit. That's exactly what we're watching. 

Finally we saw Brad reward Rob with closing minutes, and guess what he did. He made an impact. A HUGE offensive rebound late in the fourth, and then an even bigger defensive rebound to close it out. He's showing Brad that he can trust him in big moments. That's a huge development. I know people want Rob to start, but who gives a shit about that. Let Theis/Thompson start, they are playing well. I just need Rob to live in the 25-30 minute range on a consistent basis and in my opinion he is now your closing big in any game where you run one big man and you do not need Theis' spacing/shooting. Rob has shown us he's ready so it's time to take the training wheels off.

I know I'm still a little drunk off Celts Kool Aid, but I can't help but think Rob is the center we've been looking for all this time. There is not another big on this roster that makes the type of impact Rob does. You feel when Rob is on the floor. Just look at last night. In his first two seconds on the floor he blocks a driving Lou Williams. We see him guard dudes on the perimeter and somehow block their jumpers. He passes, he rebounds, he protects the rim and he finishes at the rim. Isn't that exactly what this team needs? 

- Speaking of end of the first round draft picks, how about that Payton Pritchard fella

Is it maybe a little weird that I trust and have no issue with whatever three FastPP wants to take? Launch it from 35 feet like you're Steph? Fine by me! He's shown me he can make it. We're at the point now where his efficiency isn't a fluke. This is just who he is I think. Another 5-8 (4-7) performance, he's now shooting 45/39% on the season. That feels sustainable to me. Especially when all he has to do is just knock down open looks. 

For a guy who everyone tells me can't draft, seems like hitting on Rob at like 27 and Pritchard at 26 is pretty fucking good. What do I know though.

- You can't beat good teams if you don't take care of the ball, so it was great to see the Celts only turn it over 8 times. Jaylen and Kemba were under control, and for something that has been a bit of a problem recently, that was a nice surprise. 

- It was nice to see Jaylen come back in the lineup and look rested and effective

He carried this team early and frankly they needed it. After two days of this weird narrative existing that he was intentionally sitting games so he'd be ready for the All Star Game and he didn't care about championships (this was a real take), it was nice to see him remind everyone that he's playing in the All Star game because he's really fucking good and has earned it. 

What's insane is that 14 of his 18 came in that first quarter. I'll have more on this later but moving forward let's try and not forget that Jaylen exists. Especially when he was playing so well to start. 

- Admit it, you also were surprised to see this Celtics team strap up in the fourth quarter and actually play with some balls. There was no fourth quarter collapse! Well, kind of, but for the most part it was great! They held the Clippers to just 23 points on 36/36% shooting. The two Jays had Paul George in absolute jail

and as a team they only had 2 TOs while shooting 47/50%. Now granted the Clippers are legit one of the only teams in the league worse than the Celtics in clutch moments, but again…I do not care. I just need wins. Part of evaluating this turnaround is if we see this team actually nut up and come through in clutch fourth quarter moments. Last night, they finally did and man was it everything I hoped it would be and more. I had forgotten what that looked like to be honest with you. 

The Bad

- Listen all I can be is fair. Right now, Jayson Tatum continues to be pretty bad offensively. I don't know if he needs a break or what, but the efficiency and shot selection hasn't been there for over a month. Another 5-16 (1-5) performance in this game, we have to find a way to get him out of this funk. 

In this game, we saw a lot of one legged fadeaways. Here's the thing with that shot. I know he can make it. Tatum knows he can make it. But there's a time and place for it. That's a shot I want him going to when he's already feeling great. When have we seen Tatum start 3-10, go to go that shot and make it, then snap out of his funk. Pretty much never. What we get is what we saw last night. He starts 3-10, he goes to that shot, misses, then drives and turns it over or misses the layup and things snowball. This is where I need Brad to help him ou. Run him some sets that get him easier looks at the basket because right now Tatum is fighting it. We all know he can score, but for this team to reach their potential, we can't have Tatum living in the 30%s when it comes to shooting the basketball. He's their best player, they need him.

- I truly do not understand how Aaron Nesmith can have a run of 6 straight games playing 25 mintues a night, actually play well in those games and minutes, and then be back to back DNP-CD. Someone explain that to me. I simply do not understand what happened. He was showing us everything we wanted to see. Good defense, great hustle and energy, but now he can't get off the bench? What the hell is going on.

- While I love how active Tristan Thompson is on the offensive glass, what do I have to do to get him to kick it out to a teammate rather than try and score over 3 defenders. Name your price Tristan. What's it going to take. Love that you get the rebound, don't love that you then try and force it up. I get that sometime it works, but I need him to have less tunnel vision in those situations. 

- While they didn't blow it, we did see a little bit of that home run offense in the fourth that I absolutely despise. This is what I'm talking about when I mentioned Jaylen never touching the ball in the fourth quarter. That was unacceptable. He did not attempt a single shot in the fourth! Meanwhile Kemba/Tatum were 2-8. I don't get why they couldn't run the offense through Jaylen. Let him be a primary ball handler in those situations when both guys were mostly ineffective offensively. We can't have a world where Jaylen spends the entire fourth quarter in a close game just standing in the corner watching Kemba and Tatum iso. That's on Brad. I hope they recognize that in their film session and make sure it doesn't happen again.

The Ugly

- That missed Semi rotation on Paul George that allowed him to take this shot

Was very bad. You see how mad Brad got after that play? Love the passion. The Celts switch everything, that's not a new concept. Unfortunately Semi had a brain fart and it came at the worst possible time. If he's on the floor for defense, well then I need him to ya know….defend their best player.

- I also didn't appreciate getting worked by Reggie goddamn Jackson and Nic Batum. I didn't even know Batum was still a thing. Meanwhile they basically never missed and were a huge reason this game was close. That wasn't exactly the greatest.

So here we go. Close out the first half with a game against a depleted Raptors team. No excuse to not win that game and enter the break on a 4 game winning streak. As of right now they are just 3 behind in the loss column of the 3 seed. For all those who thought the world was ending and the season was over, take a breath. The Celts are very much alive, but only if they continue to play like this moving forward. It was nice to see them finally not take a step back after a couple wins, but we still have a LONG way to go before we can truly trust them again. This is a good first step.