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In A Surprising Twist, The Celtics Somehow Did Not Lose To The Worst Team In The NBA

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You can all take a deep breath. This morning I looked up the NBA rules and I have some good news. Beating the Houston Rockets actually does count in the win column as a real life NBA win. It's not a 0.5 win to your record or anything like that. You get a full win because they are treated as a real NBA team. Should it? That's not for me to decide.

Here's what we're not going to do though. We're not going to really put all that much stock into a majority of what we saw. What I mean is, remember the grand canyon sized gap between the Celts and the Nets we just witnessed? That is not suddenly smaller because you beat the dick off the Rockets. Everyone beats the Rockets. Your men's league is a +10.0 point favorite against them. All I know is you can't be then one team that loses to a team that has dropped their prior 15 in a row. Cannot do it. Last night was one of those games where you get no credit really for winning but losing it would have basically ended your season. 

That doesn't mean there weren't things that were awesome to see, but I'm talking mostly big picture. I look at last night as the first time since January 24th that we got to watch this team and not stress the fuck out (outside the first 6 minutes). Nothing more. Means nothing in the big picture in my opinion. Sure it was nice to see the Celts finally not lose to a bad team, but let's not get carried away. They've won 5 of 6, that's good. Leave it at that and let's move on.

But before we can do that, we should talk about what we saw

The Good

- I'll tell ya what, it was nice to see Jaylen look like the Jaylen we all remembered. I'm sure you probably said "man this would have been nice to get against BKN". I know, because I too said that to myself. That game could have used a nice 9-14 (2-3) performance from Jaylen where he looked aggressive right from the jump

He really exploded in the second quarter where the Celts started to pull away, and he did it in a way that fits the exact approach I want Jaylen to always have. The Rockets do not have a rim protector, that means I need to see the Jays do nothing but attack the paint/rim. In that quarter of Jaylen's 7 FGM, 6 of them came from under the FT line. That's the good stuff. 

I would say he looked more refreshed, so the two day break certainly did his body good which was great to see. This team needs Jaylen to get back to his efficient ways, and so far this month he's finished with at least 57% shooting in 2 of the 4 games the Celts have played. I really liked how it never felt like Jaylen was settling on offense either. Only 3 of his 14 FGA were threes and he led all Celtics with 6 FTA. It was great to see this version of Jaylen again.

- Want some more good news? We may be seeing Jayson Tatum shoot his way out of his slump as well. We all remember his February, it was tough. Just 39/31% shooting splits for the month. Well, so far in March we're seeing Tatum jump back to 51/43%. He's not had three straight performances shooting at least 52%. Last night it was more of the same

Thankfully Tatum showed up right from the start and was pretty much the only thing carrying the Celtics offensively early in this game. Aside from his improved shooting, it was also great to see Tatum get back to being a positive as a playmaker as well. While his efficient scoring is always going to be most important, as defenses continue to focus on him it's imperative that he makes plays as a passer. It's not often we'll see Tatum lead the team in assists, but I'll certainly take it.

You can really tell that Tatum is back to feeling confident in his jumper because of how he's stepping into his threes without a bit of hesitation. The form looks great, his lift is good, and he's not even touching the rim on his makes. Again, I sort of expect this from the Jays because this is the Houston Rockets we're talking about, but that doesn't mean it's not relieving to see.

- Did you know this was the first time we've seen the Jays both shoot over 50% in the same game since January 30th? By my math, that's a cool 20 games ago. In fact, it's only happened 4 times all year. FOUR! We're in game 38.

- Alright…it's time to talk about Rob. First, enjoy the highlights

Giphy Images.

It's happening folks. Rob is becoming an absolute force right before our eyes. Not only that, he's making some NBA history along the way

I would no longer call it a stretch to say that Rob is this team's best big. A little 16/13 with 3 blocks in under 20 minutes? That's not a fluke, it's not an accident. This is what Rob does. He dunks everything, he blocks everything, and he's starting to put things together on both ends of the floor. It's why you're going to hear people scream for him to start. For me, I don't really give a shit who starts. It's not like Theis doesn't work with the starters or anything. I just know that I need Rob to see the floor more. A 25 minute Rob experience is something he not only deserves, but it makes the team better. 

What we're seeing is the same trajectory as Lob City DeAndre Jordan. Go ahead and look at their first 3 years, they are identical. In Year 3 Jordan started to get around 20+ minutes a night and put up 7/7 with awesome dunks. That's basically where Rob is right now while playing fewer minutes. He's my comp. Lob City DeAndre Jordan was a force, and that's how I would describe Rob. You feel his impact when he's on the floor. I truly think he can be the center of the future with this team. They haven't really had this rim running athletic freak at center maybe ever, and we're at the point where Rob should universally be considered an Ainge draft hit.

- Who am I to complain about scoring 134 points on 55/48% splits with 18 3PM. If you're not playing an NBA caliber defense, I expect you to dominate offensively. Thankfully, that's what happened. No quarter under 28 points, when it came time to nut up and get stops we saw this team respond, it was all what we needed to see.

- Much better second half from Kemba and boy did he need it. The first half was gross, guy couldn't buy a bucket, but then as soon as the third quarter started I thought Kemba came out with great energy. He finished the half with 14/3 on 4-5 shooting and only 1 TO in his 10 second half minutes. It was only a 13 point lead at the half, but Kemba's third quarter explosion was basically what put this game out of reach for good. I can't lie, it feels great to see Kemba make that high screen three coming off the P&R. That's when I know his shot is feeling better. It's such an important part of this offense, it'd be nice if he can continue to make that shot at a respectable clip.

- I don't know what to make of these early shot clock Semi threes. They are bad shots I guess, but when he's making them like we saw last night, I feel myself start to believe in him. I know I shouldn't. I know he's streaky. But man it's hard to resist when he's not even touching the rim. 

- Is there a player in the NBA that has a greener light than Payton Pritchard?

I'm being semi-serious with that question. There is no logical reason that I should have no problem whatsoever with whatever three Payton wants to take, but that's where I'm at. Launch it from 30ft? Go for it. The dude can flat out stroke it.

- For the millionth time let me preface this by stating yes I know it was the Rockets, but it was still nice to see this team lock in and play some decent defense. It certainly wasn't there to start the game, but things tightened up just like you would hope they would. The Celts held the Rockets to just 38/32% and while I will concede that a large majority of that is due to the players being god awful, I'm also not ready to give a shit. I just need to see the Celts show they are capable of defending at an acceptable level. I don't care who it comes against and you shouldn't either. You have to start somewhere. 

The Bad

- Not sure where else I could put Kemba's first half. It was flat out bad. A cool 0-6 from the floor with a nice 0-4 start from deep, I just hated everything about his approach. There was no attacking. No getting into the paint to try and get some easy looks. He instead tried to shoot himself out of his cold start by taking nothing but threes. To make matters worse, there was no playmaking really. Just a gross first half all around. No surprise the Celts looked bad to start.

- I'm monitoring the Daniel Theis situation carefully. He played only 6 minutes which you can't really complain about because of how good Thompson and Rob looked. Here's the thing though. He's a UFA this summer. If he's not going to be happy with this type of rotation on any given night, there's a chance he leaves. For Ainge, you can't lose that asset for nothing. If he feels like Theis is a flight risk, you have to move him. He only makes $5M so it won't be hard to find a market, so it's just something to keep an eye on over these next few weeks. 

- Would it have killed anyone to give Aaron Nesmith more than 9 minutes? This game was pretty much over in the third quarter, and he did not see the floor once. Not until the fourth where he then played 9 minutes and hit his first three. This is the one thing this season that will never make sense to me. If we can't play Nesmith when the lead is like 30+, well then what are we even doing.

- Another 66% performance from the FT line. Sure it didn't hurt them in this game but that doesn't mean it's not bad. Why is this team so pathetic from the line? They were 23rd entering last night and can't stop having games where they miss at least 7 FTA (14-21). So goddamn annoying.

The Ugly

Everything about the first 6 minutes of this game. The Celts looked flat, their offense was gross, they weren't defending the perimeter and we ALL had the same thought. It looked like every game they've blown against dogshit teams all year. Dig yourself an early hole, let the opponent get confidence, and find yourself in a game you should never be in. Thankfully the tank is strong in HOU and they eventually fizzled out but man that start was the exact opposite of what you want to see. 

- Play Carsen more until you trade him or something. Give him all the Teague minutes. I've seen enough.

It's sad, but beating a team like the Rockets is progress for this Celts team considering how bad they are against teams under .500. Being the worst team in the NBA means nothing to the Celtics, they always play down. Last night they didn't, so I call that progress. The real test comes tomorrow night with the Jazz coming to town. You want to show me something? Win that game. That would be a win you can put stock into considering they are the best team in the NBA record wise right now. It's a great opportunity to show the second half might be trending in the right direction, and they certainly need it after dropping the BKN game.