Consistently inconsistent. That's really the best way to describe the 2020-21 Boston Celtics. It's maddening, but 47 games into a 72 game season, this is who they are. At their best, they can compete with any team in the league. At their worst, they can't even beat the worst teams in the league. When you think they might zig, they zag. They are now an NBA worst 11-20 in "clutch" time games, with last night being their 11th loss by 6 points or less. Just how bizarre is that? With mostly the same players on their roster last season, the Celts had the 6th most clutch wins in the entire league. Now last night is a little fluky because it only became a "clutch" game with like 2 minutes left due to a late push, but the point remains.
This team repeatedly finds brutal ways to lose games they desperately need to win.
Returning home for the first time with fans in over a year, with their prized trade deadline acquisition finally active, I think we were all hoping this would be the spark of a nice little run. Instead, it was more of the same.
That's just under half their losses to a group that is a combined 112-163. Imagine how different of a feel this season would have if you cut that in half? Talk about frustrating. That's the mark of a team that is straight up bad. What's almost funny at this point is with each of those loses we see something new that we didn't think was possible. Keep reading and you'll see what I mean.
- Jayson Tatum had a weird game. To start, he looked unstoppable.
Then he sort of disappeared for about two quarters, then in the fourth, he woke up again with 14 points on 5-11 shooting. It's hard to really complain about a mostly efficient 34/9/5 with a couple steals and only 1 turnover, and I think we can all agree that if this is the version of Tatum we get moving forward then things should be OK. Remember his efficiency issues in February? Well in the month of March he got back to normal and is putting up 25 a night on 48/42% splits with 3.2 3PM a night. That's a huge jump from his 39/31% splits last month. If this team is ever going to turn things around, they are going to need this version of Tatum the rest of the way.
The one thing I do wish we saw more from Tatum is his willingness to play into contact. We're still seeing him go to the fadeaway once he gets into the paint rather than just going strong to the rim. His 6 FTA did lead the team, but it felt like he left a couple out there because he was playing away from contact.
- I also thought Kemba continues to look more like the Kemba of old, and last night he looked like a player that had his quickness that is the key to everything he does offensively.
Over his last 19 games, Kemba is basically back to normal. People wanted a larger sample size, well we have it
19.9 points / 3.5 rebounds / 4.8 assists / 42% FG% / 37.9% 3P% with 3.2 3PM
It's very frustrating that resting him is costing them B2Bs, and that his playing well is still coming in losses, but this entire plan has been for Kemba to be healthy for the playoffs. That appears to be working. Remember, 10 games in a lot of people were talking about how Kemba would never return to the player he was last year, which was wrong. As a #3 option, that production is fine. The Celts are dropping these games for a laundry list of reasons, but the play of Kemba hasn't really been one of them.
- It continues to bring me so much joy watching Rob continue to flourish in his new starting role. To say he's been everything we could have dreamed up might be underselling it
Since becoming a full time starter, Rob is holding his own
7.7 points / 11.0 rebounds / 4.3 assists / 1.3 steals / 3.3 blocks / 55% FG% / 77% FT%
Defensively, he's not making nearly as many mistakes, you can feel his impact on the floor, and when you add in his passing and improvement on the glass this past month, there's really no excuse for him to not remain the starter even once Tristan Thompson is back. He's just going to have to suck it up. I could understand if Rob wasn't seizing his opportunity, but that's exactly what he's doing so that cannot change. In what has mostly been a dogshit season, the development of Rob into a legit starting center has to be one of the few bright spots. Again, this isn't a 3 game sample either. This is what Rob has been doing for an entire month.
If he's also going to make his FTs at an acceptable clip? Oh boy, my heart is going to burst.
- Look don't ask me to explain it, but Luke Kornet has come out guns blazing
Who knows what his future is on this team, but I suggest you spend less time worrying about that and more time just enjoying the ride. He even did a decent job of defending Zion at the rim for stretches! Now once Zion adjusted and got Kornet in space it was BBQ chicken, but that's pretty much expected. Nobody is saying Kornet is going to be a huge piece moving forward, nobody is saying he's the future, but what he's giving this team is fun as hell at the moment for a team that desperately needs fun.
The more important thing is you can see how a stretch big fits so well with the core of this team. That's why once we get to the offseason Ainge needs to look at that skillset. Theis brought it and you don't really have it on the roster outside of Grant and Kornet. He doesn't have to be the guy to do it moving forward, but that skillset is absolutely needed.
- Remember when the Celts got down by 25 to the Bucks and it was nice to see them not quit and actually fight back? That showed us that they haven't quit. Well, it was just as nice to see it last night. Down like 17 with half a quarter left, this team didn't quit and fought back. Obviously, I think we would all like them to stop getting down by so much, but there's something to be said about their willingness and ability to claw their way back. Once things started to go to shit in the fourth we could have seen this team hang their head and say fuck this and quit. But instead, they dug in and nearly pulled it out. Frustrating, but encouraging at the same time if that makes any sense.
- I really like this more aggressive version of Payton Pritchard. It really does feel like ever since he's known he's getting that consistent run with Teague gone that he's stepped up. I'll take 11/5 off the bench on 4-6 (3-4) shooting every day of the week and twice on Sundays. When I watch him play I see a guy that is much more aggressive and proactive when it comes to scoring. Before he looked hesitant, and unless he got a wide open catch and shoot look, he never really did anything. I hope he keeps this approach the rest of the way because when he plays like this he can help.
I also love that he's diving on the floor every chance he gets. That's the shit that helps turn momentum.
- I've said it in basically every blog, and it continues to be true. Until this team defends on a consistent basis, nothing will change. The fact that they are now 21st in team defense is beyond pathetic. Same roster, same system, same everything that was the 4th best defense last season. When it comes to defending the three point line, the Celts have taken a giant step back, coming in at 18th on the year. If you look at their last two months it's even worse, coming in at 23rd.
Last night is a perfect example of why their defense has regressed. The Pelicans are pretty terrible at shooting threes. They are 23rd in the league, make 11.3 a night on 35% shooting. Naturally, that explains why they went 16-30 last night. Why? Because they were all wide open. Overhelping, slow rotations, these are things that the Celts continue to do and NBA teams are going to make you pay every single time. You can certainly tip your cap to NO for actually knocking them down, but this is a concerning trend.
In the month of March, the Celtics are 30th in the league in opponents 3PM at 15.5 a game. Teams are shooting 40% from three. For this team, it will always start on the defensive end. Their offense is not good enough to overcome this inconsistency on the other end. They have to be a team that defends first, and scores second. With the perimeter defense being so bad, it's not really surprising that they've never been able to turn things around and remain inconsistent. Good teams defend, bad ones are under .500 47 games into a season.
- I would put this in the upcoming section, but we know who is going to own that so I'll put it here. Let's just say it's honestly hilarious that someone can be an efficient 20 point scorer for a team not named the Boston Celtics, then he becomes a Celtic and he instantly has one of the worst debuts both the franchise and the NBA has ever seen. That's not even me trying to be funny. That's literally what happened
I don't even know how to explain it. I'm sure he was a little nervous, I don't really buy the whole "learning the system" thing because there's nothing about a system you need to know to make wide open layups, and it's just the perfect summary of this season that Fournier would come in and have basically the worst game of his career. You honestly can't even make that shit up. It's so annoying that if he goes like 3-10 instead of 0-10 the Celts probably win this game. That's where my bar is. Go 3-10.
Fortunately for you, I already have my spinzone fully baked. Remember how good Jeff Teague looked in his Celtics debut? Then look what happened. He became a player who looked like someone that couldn't even dribble. In fact, Fournier going 0-10 in his debut makes me feel even better about what he'll be as a Celtic. It certainly cannot look any worse!
- Once again we see this team with a winnable game entertain the fourth quarter, only for them to immediately shit their pants in that fourth quarter. The Pelicans shot 53/57%, Celts went back to the early homerun threes which didn't drop, they turned it over, and offensively shot 40/37%., It's baffling to me how they've become the worst fourth quarter team in league history, but that's the reality. It's one thing to show up against a OKC team that barely has NBA players, here we saw them face a team with actual talent and nothing changed.
- OK, let's talk about Marcus Smart. What a wild night it was for him. He's now the proud owner of one of the most dumbfounding moments I've ever seen an NBA player have. I'm talking about a first ballot Shaqtin-a-fool moment
I don't even know what to say. Not only was that a brutal mental mistake, but he then doubled and tripled down on it to make things even worse. The next time down he took a homerun ill advised three, it missed. Then a few possessions later he got beat really bad by a backdoor cut from Ingram which led to a dunk. In about a 2 minute span we saw a 4 point deficit with possession turn into a 9 point lead. From there, it was a wrap. All momentum gone.
Then late in the comeback in the fourth, he gets tossed. Maybe that tech didn't matter, but it certainly didn't help. This was one of those games where Smart did more harm than good. He's done a lot of that since coming back from injury, and it's unacceptable. His overall shot selection wasn't great, but when that's like the 50th thing on the list of things he did to negatively impact this team, that's not great. I need winning plays from him, not this shit.
At the same time, he had a huge role in that fourth quarter comeback. The problem is, that shit was too little too late. The damage was done. I just cannot believe that heave. All the momentum swung in an instant.
- Really there were two instances of this. The first was the 8 points wiped away from offensive fouls in that third quarter, then Tatum's flagrant. That was a huge swing. Then you add in the heave. It just adds another example of how inexplicable this season is and how this team finds new lows every time they play. Who does this? When has that ever happened before? I can't make any sense of it so don't ask me.
Now with 6 games left in this homestand, the Celts need to figure out how to not let this snowball. It's a huge turning point opportunity in their season, and after their first challenge nothing at all looks different. That's concerning. The good news is we all woke up today just 1 game back of the 4 seed, but until this team gets their head out of their asses I'm not sure that matters.