You know I thought that after spending an entire night doing nothing but staring at my ceiling that when I sat down to write this morning's blog that maybe I would be less mad/frustrated/embarrassed/annoyed/depressed/etc but nope! Still here! I guess that's what losing to a team that had lost 14 in a row and 17 of 18 will do to a man. I mean haven't we suffered enough? There's no need for this team to explore how low they can go. That's what the first 61 games were for. These last 11 are not a time to fuck around and play like assholes. Especially when you need every single win you can get and are playing teams actively trying to lose. Those are the ones you have to win. Just like I said in the instant reaction blog, I don't want to hear a word about who was out. This is not one of those losses where that even matters. This was the Thunder. The Celts couldn't even beat a team with fringe NBA players who are trying to do everything they can to lose basketball games. Is that because outside of their main guys the Celts are filled with fringe NBA players themselves? Perhaps. But that doesn't make this any more acceptable. Especially given what just fucked happened against the Hornets on Sunday.
I'd say this is rock bottom, but I fear it might not be. It would be premature to think the Celts can't get any worse or won't do something even more embarrassing. That seems impossible after losing to a team that had lost 14 in a row but if there's a will there's a way with this team. That will isn't being used to ya know…win basketball games at the moment but I do know if there is possibly a chance to go even lower, this team will find a way. It's so maddening. At some point you need to stop talking about it in postgame press conferences and actually do it. Do the Celts think things will get easier? No no. The exact opposite. That's why throwing away these type of games hurts twice as much. You had every opportunity to turn this shit season around and ride their momentum into the 4 spot and instead over the last 8 days they have lost 3 in a row, 4 of their last 5 with 3 of those teams being under .500. That is fucking pathetic.
So just like we always do, we will blog through the frustrating. Been doing that a lot this season which I don't really appreciate, but we do not run when things get bad. I'm not sure it can get worse than last night so let's just get it over with.
- I really wanted to skip this section today. I mean you lose to OKC at home in what wasn't really a must win but was kind of a must win, you don't deserve any sort of praise. But then I realized I needed something to keep me from putting my head in the oven and I will say that there are two players who I have no problems with.
The first is Jaylen. He showed up. He played how pretty much everyone needs to play.
39/11/3 on 13-26 (4-11) and 9-9 fromt he FT line, I thought Jaylen more than held up his end of the bargain despite being the only real offensive option. It's not easy being able to produce while being matched up against Lu Dort for 40 possessions, but Jaylen found a way to produce. Jaylen was a huge part of that 3rd quarter run to actually wake this team up and he had 10 points in the 4th quarter. I have no problems with Jaylen's performance. This was not a case of their star laying an egg against a bad team and showing no effort.
The other is Payton Pritchard. It was a career night for him and it's great to see him plow right through that rookie wall
I'm at the point with Pritchard right now where if he's ever on the floor with one of the Jays and then Smart+bench guys, that he needs to be the #2 scoring option during those stretches. His shooting is legit, and we already knew that. The thing that impresses me is how much more aggressive he has been these last few weeks, especially around the rim. Pritchard's speed is a real weapon and he's finally starting to use it to find ways for him to get to the rim and more importantly finish. Over his last 7 games we're seeing him put up 14.6 points on 50/48/93 splits. That is legit as hell. He's another guy where you never have to question his energy and effort.
Did you know he has the 2nd highest TS% among all rookie guards? He's 13th in scoring while playing the fewest minutes of anyone in the top 13. His 41.5% 3P% is the higher than 12 of those 13. No matter how you want to slice it, Pritchard has proven he can be a legit point guard in this league. Without him last night, this team loses to the Thunder by like 30. That's a fact.
- OK but that's it. No more good shit. Mostly because it didn't exist. Let's move on.
- In basketball, the goal is to find a way to get the ball through the hoop. You need to do that in order to win basketball games. That might seem like something everyone knows, but watching the Celts play "basketball I'm not sure they do. Let's begin with another beautiful first quarter effort of 37/25% shooting. It's only that good because Pritchard went on a little run to close the quarter. Before you could even blink the Celts were down 15-8, playing no defense and shooting 25/0%. It was the CHA game all over again. Time after time after time did we see the Celts allow the Thunder to drive into the paint and either kick it out to shooters, or because the Celts cannot defend without fouling, they ended up at the line. Add in some careless turnovers and you have yourself a standard shitty Celtics start.
What really concerns me is now for the second game in a row the Celts are showing no resistance in keeping guys out of the paint. Every team knows they can just put their head down and drive into the middle of the floor. We saw that happen against Fournier I'd say about 6 times in this game. As I always say, for this team to be successful it all starts on the defensive end. They are not imposing their will defensively during this slide and it clearly shows.
- The Celtics biggest lead against an actively tanking team was 3 points. 3.
- All things considered, this might have been one of the worst Smart performances of the year. A very weird night where he had 6 assists and 5 steals, yet it felt like he did more harm than good. The real issue with guys being out is it forces Smart into a role which he cannot be in. His 4-17 (1-10) was a glaring issue. At the same time, I get why he's taking that many shots. Evan Fournier starting was supposed to allow him to be that secondary scorer, but he went 4-14 (2-9). With him, I'm not really mad. We all know by now what returning from covid can do to a guy. But if you're going to play 35 minutes, I have to evaluate it and his performance on both ends was pretty shitty.
So when you have Fournier struggling, it's going to force Smart to have to find a way to score. What was annoying was how much he settled for threes. There was no one on the Thunder that could handle Smart when he went to the post, but instead, we saw him launch it from deep time and time again. Some were fine, some were open looks within the flow of the offense, but we also got a heavy dose of those early shot clock threes that might as well be turnovers.
Then there was this decision
So there are two options here, neither of which are good. Either Smart made the boneheaded decision himself to foul down 3 in a situation where they did not need to foul, or Brad told him to foul. Both are not smart given the situation. We see Brad pull down his mask, but we can't hear what he said. If this was a decision that Smart made himself, well I can't find an excuse for that. He's their best defender right? He has to know the situation better. If it was Brad that called for that foul, well that's about as braindead as you can get. You don't need to foul!
- It's absolutely concerning that against a fringe NBA team, none of your role players could do a goddamn thing on the offensive end. That's a pretty massive issue for a team that can't seem to stay healthy. We already talked about Fournier, but he has an excuse. Let's talk about the combination of Semi/Grant/Romeo/Nesmith/Thompson/Parker. That's 6 rotation players we saw in last night's game. Here was their combined production
13 points / 6-17 shooting / 10 rebounds / 70ish minutes
In other words, they did jack shit. I don't care who you are playing, you are not going to beat anyone when half of your rotation does absolutely nothing. The problem is this is what forces Smart into shooting too much. No other players outside of Jaylen/Pritchard were even close to being offensive threats. When you combine that with those players doing nothing defensively for the most part, it's a death wish.
Right after making their run in the 3rd, Grant comes in and immediately things start to go south. They aren't getting stops, they can't buy a bucket, and things begin to snowball. We have Romeo taking big moment corner threes, as someone who is not a shooter. The shooter they did draft Aaron Nesmith, takes 2 FGA. Tristan Thompson can't do dick against Moses Brown or really any OKC big. 11 players played in this game and more than half of them gave this team nothing. That's pathetic.
- Where else can you put an 11-49 performance from three? Do you know how annoying it is that if the Celts shot lets say…27% from three they probably avoid this disaster loss? I mean it's truly remarkable how poorly they shot the ball…at home. The worst part is a lot of these were wide open!
The Celts were 4-20 on "wide open" threes in this game. They were 5-21 on "open" threes. Not surprisingly, they were just 2-8 on "tight" threes. So we witnessed a team go 9-41 on clean looks. That is comically bad.
- How about this. You're tied entering the fourth quarter against a team that most definitely does not want wins. What do you do? You give up 41 points on 61/62% shooting in the final 12 minutes. Not only that, but because you once again couldn't defend without fouling, you also allowed 13 FTA.
When people talk about how this team plays with no heart, that's what they are referring to. You have momentum, you finally got your shit together, and then you put up that type of effort in the biggest quarter of the game. That's shit a soft team does. Good teams find ways to win a game like this. The Celtics did the exact opposite.
- That's why it's totally fair to call this team gutless right now. Coming off what happened in CHA, if this was any other team in the league that had a performance like we saw against the Thunder, we would call them soft. We would say they have no balls. That cannot change just because it's now the Celtics who are playing that way. It's the truth. Rather than stop the bleeding after the Bulls loss, they've allowed things to snowball. That is the play of a team without a spine. And when you have that approach, you find yourself losing in the most embarrassing way possible.
Which brings us to tonight. A back to back against the Hornets, who are also on a back to back. We know Kemba is out. Rob and Tatum will probably be back which is nice. But given how they look right now it's fair to wonder if it will even make a difference. You can only have so many wakeup calls. At some point you actually have to stop this shit, and the Celts look like they have no intention of doing so.