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Everyone Can Relax A Little Bit Now, The Celtics Finally Won A Game!

Logan Riely. Getty Images.

Finally, the Boston Celtics are on the board. After a heartbreaking double OT loss to start the season and then an absolutely pathetic home opener that was mostly a disgrace to the sport of basketball, I think we all needed to see this team win last night. The fans, the players, the coaches, Brad, everyone. So while nobody is throwing a parade for beating the rebuilding Rockets, I don't really care. A win is a win. Look around the East and you'll see teams have been loading up on these bad teams. The three wins by the Bulls are against the Pistons (2x) and Pelicans. The Sixers two wins came against the Pelicans and Thunder. The Knicks won that OT game and then beat the Magic while also losing to Orlando at home last night. We're also at the point where under no circumstances should the Celts be assumed to beat any team. I don't care if it's a title contender or a team destined for the lottery. They need to show us. At some point who you have to start winning these games not just for our own sanity, but to keep pace with everyone else. 

Even shorthanded with no Jaylen and Romeo, this team still had enough available talent to beat the Rockets, and while they didn't always make it easy on themselves, we saw plenty of things to be encouraged by. At this point you should just be taking stock of things that might become a real factor as the season goes along. There were parts of this game that should excite you with what it might mean for the future, and also some areas of concern as well. I'm just happy I didn't have to wake up and try and blog through a loss to the Rockets. They are fun as hell to watch, but you shouldn't lose to that team. Awesome individual talents, I love Daniel Theis, but they are not going to win a lot of games. That's one you need to handle your business, especially being the front end of a back to back.

The Celtics did that. Thankfully. So let's talk about it.

The Good

- You may have been thinking to yourself that after the game Jayson Tatum had essentially carrying this offense on his back that he would be rewarded with the top spot today. 

Giphy Images.

I'm sorry, but the top spot for me is going to Al Horford. How could it not? He looks incredible. They tell me he's 35 but I refuse to believe it. I could not be more appreciative that the Thunder shut him down last year to keep him fresh. I mean look at the guy!

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It's like he's 30 all over again. The shooting was pretty rough, I won't deny that. His 4-12 (1-6) wasn't exactly great, but everything else? Awesome. I continue to be so pleasantly surprised with how Horford is moving defensively. He's staying with quicker guards off the dribble on the regular, he's blocking EVERYTHING, he's deflecting passes that turn into steals, he's rebounding, the list goes on and on. Al was a team best +18 in his 29 minutes, he also led the team in rebounding, FTA, blocks, and was tied for the lead in steals. How could that not start us out?

Now I'm not crazy. There will most likely be some regression here over the course of the year because again, Al is 35*. At the same time he looks better now than he did in his 2016 run and I don't think any of us saw this coming. I think we all expected Al to be a steady vet who filled a need based on his skillset, but this? This start to his year is beyond what even I thought he could do and I am inherently positive.

- And then there was Tatum. With no Jaylen, it was on Tatum to not only carry the scoring load, but he had to do it in an efficient manner. We couldn't have another 7-30 performance on our hands. So what does he do? He comes out of the gates on fire and never looked back

31/9 on 12-24 shooting (4-11 from three) was exactly what the doctor ordered. I'm sure there will be some out there who cry about his assist numbers, but that just tells me you didn't watch the game. This was a night where they needed Tatum to be the scorer, not the facilitator. Coming off his 57/50% performance against the Raptors, I think we can all agree that the opener looks more like the outlier right now. Since that game he's now 20-38 from the floor. He's shooting 53/40%. Almost like there was no need to overreact to one game! 

I still would like to see him find a way to get to the line more (4 FTA), it did feel like he was relying a lot on that fall away, but at the same time he kept making it so who am I to judge. I just hope that in a game where that shot is not dropping he has the awareness to adjust and attack the rim. 

- There are a lottttttttttt of people who look like they owe Grant an apology. I never really got the Grant hate. Well that's not true, let me rephrase that. I know he was horrific last season, but this notion that Grant was not an NBA player was something I never understood. Especially since he showed us as a rookie he was. For whatever reason entering this year, Grant has been the scapegoat for every doom and gloom Celtics fan out there. Well I don't think it's crazy to suggest that he's been one of their most consistent and best players to start the season. That's not hyperbole either, just watch!

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What we're watching is a much more confident player. He worked on his body this offseason, slimmed down and transformed into a version of Grant that we all hoped to see one day. His defense has been mostly solid to start the season, he barely makes any boneheaded mistakes anymore, and the shooting. Dear lord the shooting is so goddamn beautiful. It's not just the fact that he made 5 3PM last night, but it's when he's making his threes. For the second time in three games Grant is making big time fourth quarter threes. Teams are leaving him open and he's hitting everything. It's now no longer a fluke, Grant can shoot. I feel as confident in Grant taking a three as I do anyone on the roster.

Grant is shooting 100% on the season from the corners. He's 5-9 on above the break threes. On wide open threes, Grant is shooting 75%. He leads the team in 3PM while shooting 69% on the season. Not a single one of us could have seen that coming through three games. Is this due for a massive regression? Almost assuredly. But I'm going to enjoy this ride while we have it because it makes no goddamn sense.

- There was also a lot of talk this offseason that Marcus Smart was incapable of accepting his new role. People still talk about him like his shot selection is a problem. Well, all he's done this season is show us that he can in fact play this pass first/defend first role. His defense is getting back to what we expect from him, and while the offense has struggled in terms of his shooting, it's not a volume issue. Smart continues to play within himself and we have not seen him go crazy in terms of FGA. Take last night for example. He took just 8 FGA and finished with 8/6/5/3 with just 1 turnover in his 35 minutes and was a +12. Tatum, Al, and Schroder all took more FGA. 

I ask, isn't this exactly what people said they wanted? Last year everyone complained that all they wanted was for Smart to take 7-8 shots a night and focus on passing and defending. He's done exactly that to start the season and I still have people in my mentions complaining. It's almost like they don't know what they want they just want to complain about something. 

- I cannot stop watching this set. Ime ran it coming out of a review and it might be the best set we've seen this team run all year

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I just love everything about it. The play itself, the passing, the movement, the result, all of it. Great call by Ime.

- It's been a rocky start for Dennis Schroder to say the least. I've enjoyed his defense and his playmaking for the most part, but I've been waiting for that offense to come around. Watching him at times I become terrified that he's just this year's version of Jeff Teague which would be a big time disaster. Fortunately, he gave them his best game as a Celtic last night

I know his outside shot is going to be inconsistent. But what I want to see from Schroder is this guy who is aggressive and actually uses his speed to finish at the rim. I've seen enough from his pull up midrange game to actually want him taking that shot more often than not. I imagine this is more a comfort thing for him and he'll continue to get better as he gets more comfortable, but at the end of the day this is the version the roster needs. An efficient 18/5/5 with pain in the ass defense is perfect.

- How about the Celts not turning it over a billion times? Crazy that can actually lead to wins when you don't hand the ball to the other team 25 times. A wild concept I know, but something to keep in mind.

- Look at this pass from Rob. This is the center by the way. What can't this man do

- Another game, another solid night in terms of assists to made baskets. In this one it was 22 assists on 38 baskets. Al makes a couple of his wide open looks those numbers look even stronger. Point is, the ball continues to move well to start the year and I think we're at the point where we can believe in this trend.

- Finally, congrats to Ime on his first win. He did it quicker than Brad and I love the fact that after celebrating he immediately talked shit to his team for taking too long to get it. I can guarantee you Brad did no such thing back in 2013

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The Bad

- Maybe it's just me, but at times I feel like the Celts are so focused on ball movement they forget it's actually OK to shoot. The guards pass up layup after layup only so they can kick it to an open guy that's 30 ft away. When Rob gets an OREB, he's not even looking to dunk it on someone's head, instead he immediately looks to pass it out.

I like where their heads are at for the most part, but I'm OK with Smart/Schroder taking layups when they are right there in front of them. We saw this a little in the preseason where at times it felt like the Celts were over passing. That's trickled into the regular season at times and while it's not the worst problem to have for a team that goes on offensive droughts at times, just take the layups.

- Yeah, nobody had any answer for Jalen Green in this game. I didn't know he had a shot like that going 8-10 from three, but man is he exciting to watch. I suppose this is where not having either Jaylen or Romeo to throw at him probably had an impact, but the Celts have this weird obsession with getting torched from deep by rookies. Who could forget the Saddiq Bey 7 3PM performance last year. 

- I don't think the Celts defense was all that good to start this game. They allowed 62/57% shooting to start, didn't guard the three point line, and had real issues figuring out how to handle Christian Wood as a roll man. I think we all watched the Rockets get out to that 30-22 start and got a little nervous. To me this is playing with fire. Sure things leveled out, but you can't expect that to always be the case, especially when you play better teams. 

- How do I get Josh Richardson to do what he's good at (attacking the basket, scoring midrange) and less of what he stinks at (3 point shooting)? Of his 8 FGA, 5 were threes. Some were open which I get, but that's not where Richardson is at his best and it felt like he settled too often. No shock that he attacked the rim in the fourth quarter and actually provided some offense.

The Ugly

- I don't know what the deal is with Aaron Nesmith. Nothing is translating for him so far. His shot looks nowhere close, he's not even really trying to score off the dribble like he did in the preseason and over the summer. The defense still isn't great either. Is it a rhythm thing? In a game where Ime was missing two rotation wings, Nesmith played just 11 minutes and I don't think he really showed anything that suggested he get more. It's early of course, but that's something that has stood out to me especially since Pritchard/Romeo/Grant all look to be carrying over their strong offseason play. It hasn't clicked yet for Nesmith.

- Of course blowing a 20 point lead and making us sweat the fourth quarter for a second there was classic Celtics. Why let everyone get an easy night off with a B2B the next night when you can instead blow your lead and force Ime to play the regulars. That was awesome and by awesome I mean terrible.

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Like I said, beating the Rockets is whatever. I'm interested to see what they now do tonight, going on the road against a red hot Charlotte team. The Hornets just waxed the Nets yesterday and are 3-0 for the first time in franchise history. It's also the first game Hayward will play against his former team. You take care of business in this game it will tell me a whole lot more than beating the lowly Rockets.