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The Same Old Shit Keeps Costing The Celtics Wins And Frankly It's Inexcusable

MediaNews Group/Boston Herald via Getty Images. Getty Images.

One step forwards, two steps back. That's basically been the story of this team for over a year now. The Celts are 47-47 over their last 94 games. That's the reality. I know the calendar says we are in 2021, but what I watched last night was the 2020 Boston Celtics and I feel like I'm not alone when I say nobody ever wants to see that version of this team again. Personally, I thought we were done with it. The players brought in the coach they wanted. Brad added more established NBA caliber depth. The players said all the right things. Yet here we are waking up being frustrated with a performance that looked all too familiar. I don't want to say nothing's changed because that wouldn't be true. But what I will say is what we are watching through 5 games is nowhere near good enough. 

Look, everyone knows it's "early". They've played 5 games. I just don't really think that's an excuse for what we saw last night. When it comes to energy and effort, being just 5 games into the season isn't really a good justification for not showing up. If anything, those two things shouldn't be an issue early in a season. Other teams seem to have no problem with energy and effort at this point of the year. So while there may be plenty of time to fix this shit, it's also possible that these early season trends form season long habits. You want to talk about rotations, scheme, shit like that being impacted by the newness of the season, fine. I'll accept that. But coming ready to play has nothing to do with what part of the season you're in. Given the year this team just had, absolutely nobody at any point of the season should think they don't need to play hard to win. That's insulting. It may be "early" in the year right now, but in a blink of an eye we're going to be at Thanksgiving. That excuse just doesn't fly with me when it comes to this stuff. 

Coming off their big OT win against Charlotte, I talked about how this was another opportunity for this Celts team to show us what they could do with it. Would they ride the momentum and take care of business at home, or would they shoot themselves in the foot against the Wizards and take a step back, just like we saw them do last year against the exact same team. Well, there were no steps forward last night. No riding of momentum. In fact, it was the exact opposite.

The Good

- You know who is absolved of any slander today? Al Horford. He gets it. Not only does he play hard, but he continues to look fantastic to start the season. Honestly it was one of the few bright spots of this shit sandwich of a game. You say he's 35, I say he looks 29 at the most

Everything we hoped Al would bring he's done from a basketball perspective. He's hitting the glass better than I ever remember, the passing is still awesome and now his threes are starting to drop. Defensively he continues to show he can stay with quicker players off the dribble and is providing legit rim protection at the same time. If a 35 year old Horford can play hard from from the jump, what's the excuse for everyone else? I almost feel bad for him that he's playing this well yet his teammates have not been able to help him out. 

- To be honest, Rob was just as solid as well. The double bigs idea has shown to be effective so far, especially defensively, but Rob continues to show great progress as he plays legit minutes. Another 30 last night and it was more of the same when it came to his production

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13/11 with 4 blocks on 6-8 shooting and 5 OREB in 30 minutes is just who Rob is at this point. I come to expect these type of performances from him at this point. He leads the NBA in blocks, he seems to have figured out how to play and defend without fouling, so I'd say his season has lived up to the hype.

The one thing I will say with Rob is it does feel like he's trying to overpass a little too much, especially around the rim. Just go up with it Rob, we all want you to dunk it. I love the unselfish thought process, but I'm also fine with Rob taking point blank shots off offensive rebounds. He's earned those.

- For stretches, I feared that Dennis Schroder might be this year's Jeff Teague when he started the season shooting 30/16%. Since then, he has quickly shut my ass up. In the 3 games since, Dennis is putting up 21.0/4.0/6.3 on 44/47% splits. He looks awesome on both ends

Now we have to be careful here because you look close and he's still not that that efficient from the floor, with the last two games coming in at 42% and 40%. A lot of this production comes from his hot three point shooting, which we know is streaky. He's 8 for his last 15 from three which will obviously come back down to earth, but I love how he's playing. He guards 94 feet, he pushes the pace, he's facilitating just like we hoped he would, it's all been solid. 

As you can expect, there is a loud demand from fans for Dennis to start. I'm not sure I agree, mostly because he seems pretty comfortable in this role. He was second on the team with 34 minutes and third on the team in FGA last night with 15. This looks almost exactly like the super sub Schroder was in OKC when he nearly won 6MOY. See for yourself

2019 OKC: 30.8 minutes / 18.9 points / 3.6 rebounds / 4.0 assists / 46/38% splits with 1.9 3PM

2021 BOS: 31.8 minutes / 15.8 points / 3.8 rebounds / 6.2 assists / 39/40% splits with 2.0 3PM

I think his role is suiting him perfectly and he seems to really be responding to it. The last thing I think this team needs to be doing is adjusting things that are clearly working. Schroder is out there to close which is more important anyway.

- That's it. That's all this team is getting in terms of positive spin. Let's get to the real stuff now if you don't mind.

The Bad

- I put it in my Marcus Smart blog yesterday, and it once again showed up last night. His offense is a problem to start the year. It's not just the shooting splits which are so bad you'll claw your eyes out when you see them. Weirdly, Smart's offensive woes are not due to a shooting volume issue. He took just 7 FGA which were the lowest of the top 6 rotation guys. His issue continues to be an approach thing. In that blog I talked about how Smart is taking way too many above the break threes and not using his size nearly enough to get into the paint as a way to score more efficiently. Last night was more of the same. Of his 7 FGA, 5 of them were 3PA. The one place he's been fine from is the corners, well look at his shot distribution last night

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Nothing at the rim. Nothing from the corners. All the threes from mostly above the break where he was shooting like 16% coming into this game. This approach is clearly not working. I'm not sure if Marcus doesn't realize this, or Ime hasn't figured it out but nothing is going to change if his approach doesn't change. Of his 47 FGA on the season, 72% of his shots have been 3PA. That's way too tilted. The issue with this is defenses know they don't have to guard Smart so they are sagging in which clogs up driving lanes. 

What I don't get is how nobody has figured this out yet. Is Ime telling him to do something different and he's just not listening? Has Ime realized this at all? I think those are fair questions because we're seeing the same thing in terms of an approach night after night.

- I'm all for having a tight rotation once you get into the playoffs. That's fine, your best players should be the ones getting the majority of the minutes. We're 5 games into the season and we're seeing both Payton Pritchard and Aaron Nesmith get DNP-CDs. That makes no goddamn sense to me. Not when I watched Josh Richardson run up and down the floor for 15 minutes without doing a goddamn thing. What confuses me is it's so obvious this team needs spacing, and yet two of their better shooters can't even see the floor? What the hell is that about Ime.

What good is having depth if you're not using that depth early in the season? Especially when it's so obvious that both guys are rhythm players. Now is the time they should be getting confidence. How can anyone expect guys like that to never play yet also be ready if for some reason they're called upon to play? The other thing to consider here is burnout. We're seeing the starters play big minutes early. That scares me a little bit given this teams health history. It just seems so unnecessary to have such a short rotation this early in the season. You want to say Nesmith isn't ready, fine. But we know Pritchard is. 

- I find it pretty pathetic that of the entire second unit, they somehow only managed to grab 2 rebounds. Two. They let Montrezl Harrell completely dominate them inside with a cool 25/11. Grant had 0 rebounds in his 15 minutes. The problem with this is if the Celts are going to switch everything and bring a big out to the perimeter, everyone has to collectively rebound. That continues to not be the case so far this season. Teams are feasting on the offensive glass against this team, and that's the risk you run with this switch everything defense.

- It was pretty frustrating that in a close game at home, shit like this kept happening

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Between that and the out of bounds call that wasn't, you simply cannot be this wrong in a close game late. That shit directly impacts the outcome of the game. That Horford play was a momentum builder that could have trimmed things to 5. This was NOT why the Celtics lost, but man was it frustrating to watch in real time.

- For the second time in five games, Ime has ripped this team a new asshole

On one hand, I like that he's calling people out and holding them accountable. That's very different from what Brad did and is what everyone said they wanted. Cool, so he's going to keep it real and call shit out when he sees it. That's fine. But I'm also a little concerned when I hear what he says. If we're being told that Ime addressed this effort issue with the team and they still came out like shit, are we sure he's actually getting through to them? Considering this is who all the players wanted, is it possible they're already tuning him out? That might be a little extreme, but it was something that popped into my head after hearing all these quotes. 

Before we were wondering if Brad ever said anything. Now we know the coach is saying stuff yet the results are the same. Make of that what you will.

- It's pretty simple, when the ball moves the offense looks great. When it doesn't, the Celtics are not going to beat anyone. So when you look at see they had just 4 assists in the second half, you pretty much know how things went. It was back to selfish iso ball, no movement on offense, the ball stuck way too often and guys were forced to take inefficient shots. That's been the recipe for disaster for years, yet we keep seeing it time and time again. 

I was told this was a Brad system issue. Well we have a new coach and a new system yet that second half looked pretty familiar.

- Heading into the fourth quarter with all the momentum in the world after cutting the lead to 1, this is what they did

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That's choking. Absolutely no resistance defensively, and then on the offensive end you score 21 points on 30/16% shooting. That's going to kill you every single time. Sure Dinwiddie hit some tough prayers, but don't let that excuse you from what we watched over those final 12 minutes. Finishing strong at home should not be an issue, and we're yet to see it this season. They collapsed in the second half at home against the Raptors, and they collapsed in the fourth quarter last night. That's gross.

The Ugly

- This team is going to go as the Jays go. Period. So while I know the popular thing will be to put a loss like this on someone like Marcus Smart, we have to tell the truth. The Jays stunk out loud. Both from an energy and effort standpoint as well as actual basketball production standpoint. I don't care what else happens, the Celts are not going to win when they shoot a combined 14-38 (2-12). I would argue that almost no team in the NBA is going to win when their two best players throw up no shows like that. Jaylen didn't look right from the start, Tatum got back to letting the officials completely dominate him mentally, and we're at the point where as the two best players on this team, it's on them to show up every single night.

This does not mean I think they should be split up or that they can't be main pieces or any of that hot take shit. It just means they played like absolute dogshit last night and deserve to be called out on it. They wanted the responsibility of being THE GUYS, well part of that is showing up every night. Too often to start the year they've been inconsistent and that's why you see a team take one step forward and two steps back so often. When the Jays show up, this team can beat anyone. When they don't, you get last night.

- The defense is an issue. Some guys look fine individually, but as a collective this is worse than last year. We've seen the Celtics hold an opponent to under 115 points just ONCE this year. 115. They are 29th in the NBA in points allowed at 119 a night. That's so bad. It's pretty obvious that this switch defense isn't working quite like we'd hope. My fear is that Ime is getting too stubborn with it and that's an issue. I think switching is fine in doses, but they aren't really guarding the three point line and they are getting killed on the glass. There's no real resistance. Smart will show flashes at times, Schroder is a pest which is nice, but as a collective unit this team is nowhere close to where they need to be defensively.

If this team doesn't defend at a high level consistently and doesn't move the ball, nothing will change. That's not all that different from what we saw last year, which is a little scary. 

Look, nobody should be jumping off a bridge or anything like that after 5 games. Keeping perspective is important. But at the same time the product we've seen in both home games to start the year is nowhere near acceptable. We can be told things are different, but until we see it on the floor actually be different, I think it's fair to be a little annoyed.