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The Boston Celtics Love Blowing Their Opportunities More Than You Love Anything In Your Life

Jonathan Daniel. Getty Images.

If there's one thing we can absolutely say with certainty about the 2020-21 Boston Celtics, it's that they refuse to do anything whatsoever that might make their life easier. Blown opportunity after blown opportunity no matter what part of the season we're at. Now, with every game basically being as close to a must win as possible as they try and avoid the play in and maybe even get into the 4/5 slot, thingd took another massive hit by getting their dicks blown off to a bad team. Just like what happened a few weeks ago against the same bad Bulls team only without their best player. All the schedule help in the world will not make a difference if you can't take care of your own shit, and last night the Celts did not come anywhere close to doing just that. You know who did? The Heat. Which is why they've now leapfrogged the Celts into the 6th seed. Now, instead of being somewhat OK with a split in the two game set with MIA, the Celts basically need to win them both. I'm not sure how likely that is, which is what makes another loss like last night so goddamn infuriating.

I know they were without Jaylen and Rob, who are two important rotation pieces. I also don't care. There is enough talent with Kemba/Tatum/Fournier/Smart/Thompson/Pritchard/Nesmith etc to win that game. But when Tatum and Marcus have disaster performances, the defense is atrocious the entire night and this team does not play with the proper energy and effort, you get a score like 121-99. It's a formula we've seen all too often. When this team is missing players, their margin for error is smaller than razor thin. When they fuck around and don't play a consistent 48 minutes, only bad things happen.

This most recent embarrassing loss was just the latest example of why you can't trust this team on any given night. Who knows what version you'll get. At their peak, they run with any team in the league. But when they're bad? Holy shit is it brutal to watch. They can't beat anybody. From the tanking Thunder to the struggling Bulls. You would think that where we are in the season and what these games mean for their seeding and situation that we shouldn't have to worry about them laying eggs against bad teams, but here we are. That's not shit good teams do. The Celts are now 20-14 against teams under .500. That is tied for the most losses of any team in the top 10 seeds, and 4 more losses than any team in the top 6. That's been the difference in their season, and that's pretty pathetic.

So now things get even tighter. The two biggest games of the season are on deck, and you could tell me the Celts take both or lose both and I wouldn't rule either out. 

But before we look ahead, we first have to talk about the shit sandwhich that was last night.

The Good

- If you're looking for something positive to distract you from another inexcusable and rather pathetic loss, may I present the play of Kemba Walker. No matter what you are seeing during the regular season, it still remains true that the version of Kemba they get in the playoffs will ultimately determine this team's ceiling. Call me crazy, but he looks great

And it hasn't just been a random game here or there either. He's been really good for a long time. Just look at his production since the deadline for example

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Pretty good! 30+ in 3 of his last 4 games on great splits, I'll take that every day of the week from Kemba. It's clear that his health management plan has worked, as he looks as good as he has all year at just the right time. It certainly makes things tough when performances like last night are wasted, but if we're just talking about the level that Kemba is playing at, it's been great. 

- We're also seeing Evan Fournier round more and more into shape as he works his way back from covid, and boy is that great to see.

This was his third straight very solid offensive performance (7-11, 3-4), and so far this month in his 3 starts he's averaging 18.7/5.3/3.3 on 65/62%. I'm starting to wonder if the move is to make him a full time starter once Jaylen is back. He seems very comfortable in that role and gives that starting five 4 legit shooting options to surround their big. It probably won't happen, but I think it's clear that Fournier should get some heavy run with the starting group over the course of a game. He's looking more and more like the player we all hoped we were getting at the trade deadline, and that's encouraging moving forward.

He brings a skillset outside of just shooting threes too. We're seeing Fournier put the ball on the floor and find ways to score through that little midrange/paint game which we had to play against for years. That tells me he's feeling better.

- I really like what I'm seeing from Aaron Nesmith in terms of making plays off the dribble. As he continues to get more confidence we're seeing him catch the ball on the perimeter and actually put the ball on the floor. Sometimes he scores, but he has way better playmaking vision than I thought initially. I think part of is was before anytime he would catch the ball on the perimeter if he didn't have a clean look he immediately passed it back. Now, we're seeing him find ways to attack and find teammates closer to the basket. That's certainly not something I expected.

- This was a pretty solid night for Grant, and he probably should have gotten the early Jabari minutes. Those were killer (which we'll talk about). He was without a doubt the best reserve player to play last night, and while that's not exactly a good thing, it should still be mentioned that he was really solid in that fourth quarter before everything went to shit. 

The Bad

- What do I always say. If this team does not defend, I don't care who is active, they won't win. Well, you go into Chicago and allow 30, 30, 30, and 27 points, you are not going to win. There was no ball pressure which is always an issue, and then we saw this team repeatedly double Vucevic which did nothing but force rotations and lead the Bulls into wide open threes, which they made. They finished 18-40 as a team and Coby White went 7-12. That was his 2nd highest 3PM total in a game this season. 

Which brings me back to when this game started to turn in the 2nd quarter. It was mostly the breakdowns defensively, like this one from Jabari

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those are the mental mistakes that cannot happen. I wouldn't even say it's Jabari's fault, maybe it's a scheme thing, but this is why I think you have to live with Grant's mistakes right now while Rob is out. Grant knows the defensive system. LaVine had just hit a 14' step back the possession before, you have to be up on him. This is what sparked the Bulls starting to pull away, then came the Coby White threes, and when things were all said and done it was a 30-18 quarter and the Celts were down double digits.

In that second quarter it wasn't painful enough to watch the Celts finished 34/20% with 4 TOs, it was also painful that in that frame the Bulls made 10 FGM, but 7 of them were threes. I'd say at least 5 of them were wide open.

- Given the Rob turf toe situation, the Daniel Theis salary dump feels worse and worse. For the second matchup in a row the Celts had no answer for Vucevic. Tristan Thompson ain't the answer there, and I think we can bank on Rob missing both Heat games, so that's a little concerning with Bam up next. I get why they did it, but with a guy who has issues staying healthy, it's starting to bite this roster in the ass.

- In the battle of second units, this shit wasn't even close. Just see it for yourself

On a night when Jaylen didn't play and Tatum/Smart were no where to be found offensively, it's not exactlya great time to also get jack shit from your entire bench. 

The Ugly

- Look, where else can we put Tatum's 3-15 (0-7)? Horrible time to have one of his worst shooting performances of the season. He just didn't have it. The frustrating part is we really didn't see him change his approach and be aggressive in an effort to snap out of this funk. He took only 4 FTAs. Add in his careless turnovers late, it's virtually impossible to win if you also get nothing from Jayson Tatum. 

I'm not like some on Twitter last night that went the extra mile and said shit like he sucks or needs to be traded or isn't a #1 guy blah blah blah. It was an off shooting night. The dude just had 60 a week ago. It's not exactly a hot take to suggest that if he plays like this, they won't win shit. But let's not pretend like the last month or so didn't exist. It's really unfortunate that in what was a huge game their best player was dogshit. That's pretty much it.

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- The same can be said for Smart. While I thought he was good on the glass and as a passer early, his -19 wasn't all that much better than Tatum's -22. Not to mention his killer late turnovers as well. Celts cut it down to 8 in the fourth with 5 minutes left, Smart immediately turns it over. He finished just 2-7, and didn't really do anything defensively. Just like with Tatum, on nights where Jaylen isn't playing they need Smart to make a real positive impact. It didn't feel like he ever got to that level.

- Only the Celts can be within 8 and then in a blink of an eye be back down 20. A stellar 35/28% fourth quarter while allowing 50/50% splits. Oh, not to mention that when they were making their comeback, they missed 4 gigantic fourth quarter FTs. Because of course they did. 

When you don't take care of business against bad teams, you have no one to blame but yourself when you are in a position of potentially playing in the play in tournament. The Celtics had every opportunity in the world to not only be out of that spot, but also in the top 4 conversation and they repeatedly find ways to fuck their own shit up. You get what you deserve when you play like how we saw them play last night and that is never going to change. The injuries are what they are, it doesn't excuse not being able to handle your business when you had the talent available to get it done. Period.