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From The Jays To The Murder Kornet The Celtics Thankfully Avoided Disaster In OKC

Zach Beeker. Getty Images.

Heading into last night, I think we were all just looking for the Celts to show us that they were able to continue to take steps in the right direction and build momentum. For basically every other team in the league, they don't have to worry about playing someone like the Thunder. That is most certainly not the case when it comes to the Boston Celtics. The reality is they had lost 6 straight games on the second night of a back to back, and the competition isn't exactly what I would call great. Dating back to February 3rd, here's how they've done on B2Bs

Loss to SAC

Loss to DET

Loss to ATL

Loss to ATL

Loss to CLE

Loss to MEM

It's one of the more frustrating parts of this season really. The team made an organizational decision to sit Kemba on the second night of back to backs, and as a result, they've also sacrificed some wins. Four of those six losses have come by 7 or less. So you can understand why there were maybe some nerves as the Celts ended their four game trip in OKC. Even with the Thunder not even having their good players like SGA or Horford available, if you've watched the Celts this season you knew it was not going to be a layup game.

So while I'm sure there will be some comments on this blog like "big deal, it was a G League team"…yeah, it is kind of a big deal. The Celts need all the wins they can get. Who am I to thumb my nose up at beating the Thunder? Especially in a game where they didn't take control until the fourth quarter and actually had to find a way to gut out a win? That's progress in my book if you just look at how they've done all season in this exact situation.

We finally didn't see this team take two steps backwards after a big win over a good team. I'm certainly not going to complain about that. Now they return home for a huge 7 game homestand with a real chance at securing up a top 4 seed. The vibe around this team is starting to change, which is something we were all hoping for. They certainly have to follow through with that, but it does look like we might be finally headed in the right direciton. 

Let's dive in.

The Good

- Unlike the game against MIL, this was not the more efficient game for the two Jays, but when it came time to step up and win this game, they both delivered. 

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Finally, we saw this team get back to winning a game in which the Jays combine for 50. That seems like it should be an automatic win but ya know, this season has been fucked up. The Celts couldn't stop blowing those opportunities. And while I thought both Jays were stubborn early and refused to be aggressive, in the second half that all changed. Jaylen carried everyone with a huge third quarter, finishing with 13 points on 5-6 shooting. You could see Tatum start to heat up as well (3-3), and then in the fourth it was the Tatum show. In those 12 minutes, it was his turn to score 13 points on 5-10 shooting. 

The annoying part was it became very clear that no player on the Thunder was able to stay in front of either player, so watching them settle for threes and play outside/in was frustrating. I'm not really surprised that their nights turned around when they decided to attack the basket and make scoring in the paint a priority. Then Tatum's outside shot started to fall, and the rest is history.

- Rob did more awesome Rob things and finished with 9/14/2/2/2, Smart got back to being more of a facilitator (8 assists 1 TOs), so what I like about that is the Jays got the support they needed from the other starters by guys staying true to their role. That stood out to me because given how this game started and the fact that they were climbing uphill most of the night, I never felt like anyone tried to more than their role required. It's not like we had a night where Smart took 15 FGA, all threes, trying to get the team over the hump. That's notable.

- Then there's the play of the bench. Pritchard talked after the game about how he feels more comfortable in his role now that Jeff Teague is out of our lives, and it showed

This is what I want to see from Fastpp. Be a threat to score. Too many times this year we see him come in and unless he has a wide open catch and shoot opportunity, we don't really see him score. Whenever he gets into the paint, instead of just continuing to the rim, he stops and spins and tries to pass. I like this version so much more. It's not like there were All NBA defenders out there, and I thought his aggressiveness early is what helped prevent this from truly getting out of hand.

The same is true for Carsen. I do wonder if in these non Kemba games if we're going to see him get more of an opportunity. I don't see why not, he was 5-8 with 12 points off the bench. He's a microwave scorer, and on a night where you can't throw a pea in the ocean, why not give him some run and see if he can make a couple threes, just like he did last night.

- But make no mistake. As good as the Jays were. As solid as some of the role players were at times. The reason the Celtics won this game was because of Luke Kornet. How that is even a sentence that I really typed is beyond me, but it's the absolute truth

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His fourth quarter performance on both ends changed everything, and that's not even remotely a joke. It wasn't just the made threes, which were huge, but I thought he looked pretty good on the defensive end as well. He moves pretty well for a 7'2 giant, and there's no denying his +21 in 13 minutes. It helped change the entire vibe of the game. 

We now need to collectively decide what we are going with in terms of his nickname. I saw Murder Kornet and Green Kornet float around, and both are good with me. I'm leaning more towards Murder Kornet personally, but both play.

I'm intrigued to see what he can do as a floor spacer and P&R defender against some better competition, but it's hard to have a better Celtics debut than what we witnessed. Nobody is suggesting he's a world beater, but could he provide some much needed big man depth? If he shoots and defends like this I don't see why not.

- The Celtics won a real life fourth quarter 35-14. There was a 19-0 run in there I believe, which makes little to no sense if you've seen this team play in the fourth quarter before. I don't care who it's against, that's just not something this team has shown the ability to do. 

The Bad

- Hard to start this game off shooting any worse. A brutal 1-10 start, it definitely had the feel of another one of these games against a bad team where the Celts were playing down to their competition. There was no energy. They settled for threes, and on the defensive end it was almost like the entire roster was disinterested. That's a very dangerous way to play, and the confusing part was the fact that we just watched them play with great energy and effort the night before. We should know by now that they are not good enough to play with such an inconsistent approach. They need to bring it every, single, night. 

- For the majority of this game the flow basically went like this. The Thunder would get up around 8. Celts then go on a run to cut it to 2-3. We all think finally this is where they will turn things around, only then we see someone take an ill advised early shot clock three, and the lead balloons again. Over and over and over it was the same thing. For whatever reason through the first three quarters, we never saw this team get that big momentum defensive stop and then follow it up with a solid offensive possession. 

Where this really stood out was late in the third quarter, when you really have to start getting your shit together. We saw Smart take this three

He wasn't the only one who did shit like this, but I remember this one really making me mad because you were running out of time. This may as well be a turnover. 

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- Only the Celtics could trade for a guy and then that player immediately finds himself in the health and safety protocols for the foreseeable future. What is going on? Evan Fournier played Wednesday, flew private to Boston, and now who the hell knows when we'll see him. There's basically no explanation of what's going on, half the roster is in health and safety protocols, I just don't get it. Is everyone testing positive? Is this contact tracing and if so, why is contact tracing taking like 2 weeks for some and like 3 days for others? Considering how important of a stretch the Celts are about to have, I kind of would like to see Fournier in the mix.

The Ugly

- I don't know what was going on, but somehow the Celts made Moses Brown look like Wilt in that first half. I'm not ruling out that there's a Moses/Passover situation, but even still it was pretty pathetic how they let him dominate the way he did to the tune of a 17/19 first half on 6-6 shooting. He was just playing harder than every big on the roster, feasted on the offensive glass, and thankfully the team made an adjustment in the second half or else he probably finishes with 30/30.

- Part of his success is due to something we've seen the Celts struggle with for a while now, which is offensive rebounds. The Thunder had 10 more last night which led to 14 second chance points. Sooner or later that's going to be a real problem and I'd say the Celts are getting a little lucky in that regard playing with fire like that. Tatum, Smart, and Jaylen all had 5 or fewer rebounds which to me is not nearly enough. Especially with guys like Thompson out. Tacko is a giant, but he can't really rebound. It needs to be a more collective effort on the defensive glass in my opinion. Rob can't do it all.

So look, it's great that the Celts avoided disaster for the first time in like two months when it comes to B2Bs. But we still need to see them put together a more consistent stretch of basketball before we start declaring things turned around. Take care of business at home and you put yourself in a great position. Continue to be inconsistent, and you're almost guaranteeing a spot in the play in tournament, which nobody wants.