The Celtics Cannot Stop Finding Ways To Lose Games In Frustrating Fashion

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That is how I feel as I begin this blog. For now the second time in three games, we've seen the Celts throw a game away. I mean literally throw it away. Yes, three starters were out in this game which is a factor, but the Nets were also missing Harden, Durant. Claxton etc. This wasn't a situation like the Suns game. At a time of the season when the Celts desperately need wins, how they are losing these games is extremely frustrating. It's one thing to handle playing well and still getting beat. It's another when you lose in large part because you cannot stop giving the ball to the other team. 

Given how the roster is constructed, when this Celtics team is missing key guys, they basically have to play mistake free basketball. Games like PHX where you beat a really good team despite the 19 turnovers is an anomaly. Last night was an example of needing to rely on so many guys that are not even remotely consistent offensive options that each and every turnover is magnified. With everything so tight in the 4-9 seeding, every one of these games down the stretch is extremely important. Obviously, we're not going to see the Celts go undefeated the rest of the way, but they have to find a way to stop shooting themselves in the foot like this. It's not January. In fact, it reminded me a whole lot of the MIA series in the bubble where they ultimately choked because they couldn't stop turning the ball over.

The one thing we cannot bank on is that this team will be at full strength the rest of the way. You could probably bet the mortgage that they won't be until the playoffs roll around. So that means they need to figure their shit out and stop making things harder on themselves and blowing games that are absolutely winnable.

As always, we do not run from these frustrating losses, we blog through them and turn the page. Let's do it.

The Good

- For a guy that desperately needed to snap out of his little recent shooting slump, it was great to see Jayson Tatum locked in right from the jump. He has a bit of an issue starting off games well, but that was not the case last night

Hard to complain about 38/10/4 on 14-27 (6-12) shooting. But like Papa Greenie always says that all means dick because of his 5 TOs. But listen, as the only legit offensive option that played last night, the work Tatum did as a scorer was why this team was even in the conversation of winning this game in the first place. He had his issues (which we'll get to), but I care more about him finding his shooting rhythm again than I do the result of this singular game. That's way more important. 

What has really stood out to me with Tatum recently is the commitment he has to the glass. This was now his fourth straight 10+ rebounding performance. In fact, he has 7 this month. Some are uncontested rebounds where he just stands there on the defensive glass, but there's no denying he's made a commitment to the glass and it's certainly welcomed. The downside is that this was also his third straight game with at least 5 TOs, not surprising the Celts have lost 2 of those 3.

- We very well might have a situation where Payton Pritchard is plowing through his rookie wall at the perfect time. He was really struggling at the beginning of the month, guy couldn't buy a bucket. But these last 5 games have been pretty fucking nails.

This run has now salvaged his month and brought his splits up to 43.6/43.5%. The biggest difference when you watch Pritchard during this stretch is how much more aggressive he is with the ball. That's the development I was hoping to see from him. He's fast as shit, we know he can shoot, but there's nothing wrong with him looking for other ways to be an aggressive scorer in his minutes. Being a threat to score in more ways than just spot up threes is a big deal for him and the second unit offense. Who cares if his shit gets blocked every once in a while, he has the talent to be an effective bench scorer in this more aggressive role. 

It feels like less and less we're seeing him drive hard to the paint, pick up his dribble, and just spin around for a few seconds looking for someone to pass it to that's 35 ft from the rim. He's playing with more purpose during this 5 game stretch which is probably why he was able to snap out of his slump. The more we see Pritchard play, the more clear it becomes that Danny Ainge absolutely nailed this pick. Payton Pritchard can play. Period.

- Heading into this game I think you were justified if you were a little nervous about Kyrie going nuts. I mean the dude was averaging 39 a game on over 60% shooting against the Celts this season. It was a great test for someone like Marcus Smart, who has been playing at an All NBA Defense level for about a month now. How'd he do? 

Well, he guarded Kyrie on 18 possessions and gave up just 4 points on 1-4 shooting. That means you can add him to this list

If this team is going to be successful, then we are going to have to see Smart be able to limit the opposing team's best players. He's back to doing that now on a consistent basis. Doesn't matter the position, Smart is back to being the lockdown defender we are used to seeing. That's huge.

His defense was great…the rest? Well let's just move on.

The Bad

- OK, where do we start. How about the production from both Semi and Romeo in the starting lineup. Where was it? This is one of the issues the Celts face while guys are out and Fournier makes his way back from Covid. When 40% of your starting 5 gives you absolutely nothing offensively it forces guys to change their role. We saw it pretty clearly in this game. With two non offensive threats out there, it forced Smart to become more of a shooter/scorer than a defender/facilitator. That never works out. Smart finished 7-17 (2-10) and had more turnovers than assists. 

It's just hard to expect to beat anyone good when you are getting basically nothing from so many main rotation guys. If anything this game was a great example of how much better the Nets depth is. Forget their stars, they won this game because of how their role players played. Bruce Brown, Blake, Mike James (who literally just got signed before the game), Joe Harris, Jeff Green, they were all better than any Celtics reserve we saw in this game. That's an issue. 

The thing that makes it worse is Semi/Romeo are out there mostly for defense, yet they weren't stopping anyone on that end. Romeo was a -26 in his 18 minutes. That's just tough to overcome.

- Speaking of role players, how much longer is Jeff Green going to ruin my life? Guy averages 10 points a game and hadn't made more than 1 3PM in any of his last like 6 games and he finishes with 19 points going 3-5 from deep. I believed in Jeff Green. I spinzoned for Jeff Green. The fact that this is how he is repaying me is very mean. First it was CLE, now shit like this last night. What the hell.

- He obviously gets a pass because this was his first game back from dealing with covid, but I have to put Fournier's 0-7 (0-3) somewhere. I think we're learning Fournier is either going to miss every shot he takes or make every shot he takes given what his Celtics career has looked like. There's no in between there. Luckily if history tells us anything, he's about to hit 10 threes in a row so I'm excited for that.

- This might have been one of the worst performances we've seen Grant have this season. To say it was painful doesn't really do it justice. Whether it was plays like this

or the fact that he could not stop repeatedly turning it over at brutal moments while also going 1-4 playing no defense and being a bench worst -11. He unfortunately played a huge role in why things went south in this game. The big issue was the 2nd quarter but it didn't really get all that much better at any point in this game. Neither he or Jabari Parker were all that good and that really hurt the Celts depth because outside of Pritchard, nobody else really did anything. We've seen Grant be fine, like his performance in DEN, but we also have moments like last night where he is essentially unplayable. It's why they went out and got Parker in the first place, but it's not fair to rely on him like that. He's been on the team for two seconds. 

If anything, this really made me miss Rob. Need him back immediately. 

- A 32-3 fast break point difference is laughably pathetic. I didn't even know that was possible. Combine that with a 24-11 FTM difference because the Celts couldn't stop fouling and that's just losing basketball.

- I saw it all the time, but this game was a prime example of why making your FTs is important. Tatum's two misses in the fourth quarter were BRUTAL. In fact, this was just the 3rd time all year he's missed at least 3 FTs in a game. He was shooting 91% in the month of April, so seeing him miss two crucial FTs in big moments was tough. 

- We saw this team go back into mostly isolation with the guys out, and it resulted in 21 assists and 19 turnovers. That's not very good. 

- It sure is annoying that the Celts actually made more total FGM and made 6 more 3PM and yet still lost. That's really hard to do I feel like. But that's what turnovers, no transition defense and a 28-16 FTA difference will do to you because you cannot defend without fouling. 

The Ugly

- So let's talk about the biggest reason the Celtics lost this game. It's their turnovers. Some truly bizarre plays that make you want to pull your hair out. Like the time Marcus Smart passed it to Grant who had his hand up, only Grant wasn't actually in the game

I mean come on. 

Then we have another fourth quarter where Tatum has nearly the same amount of TOs (3) as FGM (4). This cannot keep happening. In fact there were multiple times when the Celts were within striking distance only to then immediately turn it over and watch the Nets push the lead back up

The Nets finished with 20 points off Celtics turnovers. Over their last three games the Celts have had 19, 19, and 15 TOs. Tatum is turning the ball at an alarming rate at huge moments in the fourth quarter. His handle needs to get WAY tighter in the offseason. We then have Smart finishing with 5 of his own as well. When your two best players on the floor cannot stop turning the ball over, it's an issue. There's a reason Brad talked about it

Everyone on the planet knows that when you are careless with the basketball against a good team, you're cooked. The fact that time after time when the Celts would finally go on a run only to then immediately have multiple possessions in a row resulting in turnovers is what is so goddamn frustrating. A 3 point game with 3:32 left and it's all for nothing because you can't stop turning it over. So gross.

- I stayed up way too late last night thinking about this Fournier decision

There is simply no need to ever double Blake Griffin, and that's even more true when MARCUS SMART is defending him. Marcus does not need help and he certainly doesn't need you to leave the Nets best three point shooter wide open in a huge moment in the fourth quarter. That's just a mental lapse that cannot happen in those moments. Credit to Joe Harris, he made a huge impact on this game. I really love how he plays.

So while frustrating, big picture things are still OK. The Heat also lost last night so that's a relief and they have a B2B today. The issue is though the Celts are running out of games in the season to be dropping these winnable ones if they want to get into that 4/5 spot. You can't rely on other teams to lose, you need to take care of business yourself. Sadly, until they stop throwing these games away that won't happen.