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The Celtics Continue To Find New Ways To Lose Games In The Most Pathetic Way Possible

Adam Glanzman. Getty Images.

We've had soul crushing double OT losses. We've had complete no shows where we see the Celts get completely blown out at home. We've seen games with an inexcusable amount of effort lead to losses. What we hadn't had in this horrific start to the Celtics season was a highly embarrassing performance where we see them blow a massive lead at home. Enter last night. This was like the last remaining square in this bingo game from hell. If you thought maybe there were no other ways this team could not only embarrass themselves but any of us who root for them, boy were you mistaken. If there's one thing the Celts is good at, and right now it's not winning games, it's that you can always seem to rely on this team to put us through emotional torture. That's really what this is. Well it's also a pathetic display of basketball, but that goes without saying.

I don't know if you can hit "rock bottom" just 7 games into a season but this sure as shit feels like whatever that might be. It's the first time in the Celtics entire history they've started 0-3 at home. That shit didn't even happen in the dark days of the franchise aka my entire childhood of the 90s. They were 42-2 when leading by 19 points over the last two years and in a game where they desperately needed a win to calm everyone the fuck down, they choke. You can't defend blowing a 19 points lead with 15 minutes to play, you just can't and I won't. The double OT losses are whatever, those could go either way. A loss like last night is was derails a season if it's allowed to fester. I don't want to sound dramatic but it's becoming clear that this Celtics team has no idea how to close games. From the coach down to the players. That's a problem. 

Personally, this shit bothered me all night. Couldn't sleep a wink. I don't expect much really. All I ask is that you don't blow 19 point leads at home. You tell me if that's being unrealistic but I feel like it's pretty fair. I don't need you to be perfect, I just need you to not blow 19 point leads and suddenly forget how to play basketball as soon as a game enters the fourth quarter. Sadly, we can't even trust that at this point. Let us begin.

The Good

- You know what really sucks? This Celtics team continues to waste an incredible Al Horford start to the season. Watching him on a nightly basis has been one of the only bright spots to his shit sandwich of a start

I'm going to continue to say it as long as it's true. This is the best version of Al Horford the Celtics have ever had. Even dating back to 2016. He's an animal to start the year and has really been the only consistent player who has shown up every night he's played. If you told us we were going to get this version of Al there's no way any of us would think this team was 2-5. What he's doing on both ends of the floor at his age is being taken for granted and that's so annoying. Who knows how long this level of play is going to last because at the end of the day Horford is human, so to see the team blow these games and waste what Horford is giving them is unfortunate.

If that's not enough reason to love Al, how about him diving on all the grenades last night

I get what Al is doing here, but we all know he's covering. If there was one person who shouldn't have to have any blame for that collapse it's Al. 

- The good news is it looks like Jaylen is starting to get back to normal in terms of his recovery and dealing with covid because ever since Ime called his performance mind boggling he's been back to being as dominant as ever

Jaylen carried this team in that second quarter and brought them back to life. Lonzo Ball had no answers whatsoever defensively and I thought the team did a good job of feeding Jaylen during that run. He finished 10-18 (5-8) and was the only starter and main rotation player to not have a negative +/- when everything was said and done. 

I thought he had a good mix of scoring at all three levels, he was second on the team in rebounds and it didn't look like he had any fatigue issues. Big picture, that's important.

- The frustrating part of this game was we saw what it looks like when this team plays to their potential and is firing on all cylinders. This was not a game where the Bulls came right in and dominated. Where it looked like the Celts weren't capable of hanging with them. They dominated 75% of this game. As a team they shot 44/45%. They didn't score under 32 points in a quarter until the fourth against one of the NBA's best defenses. We saw the flashes of why some believe in this team because when they play well they can truly hang with anyone. That's not the issue, but it's what makes these type of losses so unbearable. At their ceiling, they can play with anyone. The issue is their floor is one of the worst teams in the history of basketball, and too often do we see them drop to that level.

- OK, is everyone cool if we move on now? I feel like it's time

The Bad

- Man, where to begin. I suppose it makes sense to start with the biggest issue. No, it's not the offense. No, it's not falling into isolation at the worst times. It's the defense, plain and simple. We've said it for years and it remains true to this day. If the Celtics do not defend, nothing else matters. We woke up today with the Celts currently owning the 27th ranked defense in the NBA. In terms of opponents points, they are dead fucking last at 119.7 a night. When it comes to allowing transition points, the Celts are 27th. How many times did we see the Bulls score on easy transition baskets last night? I'm pretty sure they got a wide open fastbreak dunk off a fucking FT. That's pathetic.

Last night it wasn't the same issues we've seen so far where the switch everything defense is killing them. They actually changed that up and didn't switch 1-5 on every possession. Didn't matter. DeMar DeRozan got whatever he wanted. He absolutely torched their best defenders, and the same was true of LaVine down the stretch. Until this team figures out how to not be the worst defensive team in the league, things will never get better. We are 7 games into the season and the Celtics have held an opponent to under 115 points just ONCE, and that team was the Rockets. That's so bad I don't even know where to start. Outside of like Rob and Al, pretty much the entire roster has been trash defensively as a collective unit. 

Take a look at the closing lineup we saw last night of Smart/Jaylen/Richardon/Tatum/Horford. On paper, that should be a good defensive lineup right? Well in their 8 minutes together they had a 168 Drtg and a -98 net rating. Guess when the majority of those minutes happened? That's right, the epic fourth quarter collapse. I agree with Ime when he said this wasn't an effort issue too. This wasn't like the TOR game. They were just bad defensively and when you can't get stops it puts pressure on your offense that already has enough issues. For this team to truly meet their potential, they have to defend. Period.

- Let's talk about the Smart comments because we may as well. First, listen to the video

Here's the thing. I think most people would agree that what he said is mostly true. Nowhere is he saying that the Jays need to pass him the ball so HE can shoot. He talks about how their end of game offense is extremely predictable and they have to switch things up and get the Jays new looks, but that's hard to do if Smart is in the corner. There's some truth in that. Ime is doing them a disservice by having Smart in the corner watching the Jays because he's a playmaker not a shooter. Defenses can collapse and focus more on the Jays when that happens. When we see this team at their best, it's with guys like Smart/Schroder with the ball in their hands creating for the Jays. That is not what we see closing out these games, in fact we see the opposite.

Where Smart fucked up in my opinion was the whole "they don't want to pass" line. That's not really reflective of what happened in this game. There were multiple occasions in that fourth quarter where Tatum passed out of the double. One of which was to Smart. So that part I don't agree with. There's also something to be said about the person giving the quote. After a blown loss like that, nobody wants to hear Smart be the one to say those things, even if there's truth to it. Especially on a night where he had 0 assists. It becomes less about what he's saying and more about the optics. Now we're seeing that quote be cut up and spread all over social media. It becomes a distraction. Ime sort of set the tone by airing their shit out to the media, but this certainly does more harm than good in my opinion.

At the end of the day though, don't blow a 19 point lead and this isn't even a topic.

- To that point, I did find it pretty weak that both Jaylen and Tatum skipped the media session. I'm not sure what the reasoning was for Jaylen to suddenly decide not to go, but I don't like that at all. As the leaders of this team, it's about being accountable. We have Al Horford lying through his teeth but they can't face the media? They collapsed, Tatum was brutal down the stretch, you have to face the music. Take ownership of it, feed me fake bullshit answers, I don't care. You can't skip it completely. We would kill any other star player who did something like that, so let's be consistent now that it's the Jays. That was weak. 

- Not surprising that in a first half where the Celts do not turn the ball over they look fucking awesome, and in the second half they finish with 8 TOs and can't close. Basketball isn't complicated. If you take care of the ball, good things happen. If you throw it away, you're going to lose. Not to mention they also only had 20 assists on 42 FGM and there was just a bunch of gross basketball from everyone involved.

- When Richardson played well against the Wizards in that double OT loss, I could understand why Ime didn't adjust his minutes. That's fine. What isn't fine is when he's having a brutal night that Ime still rides with him. There was pretty much nothing in last night's effort that told us Josh Richardson deserved to play the most of any reserve. He was a -29 in his 17 second half minutes. It's not just the offense, but he was giving them nothing defensively. Why not give Romeo (12 min) more run? What does Richardson do that he can't? Why have Nesmith once again be a DNP-CD when you just needed some sort of spark? It feels like as a rookie coach Ime is relying on his vets no matter what and burying his young players. We're in Game 7. This is when you should be using your bench not shortening your rotation, especially on a night where a guy clearly doesn't have it.

- On the topic of Ime, I want to be consistent here. When it comes to guys not playing hard or not playing with energy, I don't think that's on Ime the same way I didn't think it was on Brad. But rotations, scheme, playcalling, that shit is on Ime and it's been brutal at best. When the wheels were falling off last night, did it feel like Ime calmed everyone down and ran some sets for an easy look? No. He sort of just sat there and watched it happen. He's fine at calling timeouts which is nice, but we're not seeing him identify that things are going to hell and then run shit that get the team out of their funk. It's early, but it's something I've noticed to start.

- We're seeing what having a three guard lineup on the floor with three subpar shooters is doing to this offense. Guys are sagging off their man when Schroder/Smart/Richardson share the floor together. That's just not enough space for the Jays to even operate properly. You then add in their predictable late game offense and not shit they are easy to defend.

The Ugly

- What else can we start with other than that fourth quarter? I honestly still can't believe it happened. Just look at this shit

It's impossible to pick a worst part. Is it the Bulls 81% shooting? Is it the fact that the Celtics didn't get a single defensive rebound in an entire quarter? Is it the 11 points? Is it the 39 points allowed? Is it the 21/0% shooting? Is it the icing out of Jaylen Brown? Honestly I have no idea what's the worst part I just know it's all so pathetic. Up 14 to losing by 14 is so insane. All they had to do was not get outscored by 15 points and it took them about 6 minutes to do just that. 

The Celts currently have the 28th best 4th quarter offense to pair with the 24th best defense. They are DEAD LAST in fourth quarter AST% at 43%. That's 15% lower than their whole game average. What does this tell you? It tells me the ball isn't moving, the team can't score and that's only magnified by their inability to defend late.

Also, would it kill them to run actual plays in the fourth quarter? Take this one for example that we saw in back to back sets in the first quarter

Where was that? We saw them do it so we know they are capable, yet they move away from that type of basketball in the biggest moments. Inexcusable and extremely frustrating.

- Which brings us to Jayson Tatum. First, watch his fourth quarter

I don't think it's accurate to say his whole quarter was just him holding the ball and not passing. Some of those looks are wide open normal shots that we all want him to take. We saw him pass out of doubles to both Smart and Horford, they just missed their threes. But it's also true that he took 2x the FGA compared to anyone else in that quarter and so far this season Tatum's fourth quarter production has hurt this team. He's shooting just 25/37% in that frame if you were curious. His shooting struggles right now are killing them. It's most likely just a rut, but this was a prime night where you want to see things run through Jaylen more. That's where I'm looking at Ime. Where are the plays for Jaylen?

I think it's silly to take things to the extreme and make big picture conclusions about Tatum based on this slow start where we have a much larger sample of him being a positive impact player. But it's also true that he has not been that guy to start the year and that's a problem. This whole thing is built around the idea that Tatum would not shoot 40/27% on the year. That's a lower 3P% than Smart for those wondering. This team will go as Tatum goes and so far he's been a net negative. That's just the reality of where we are right now.

What we're seeing right now is no different from the 2020 team. It's the same old issues. At their best, we know what they can be. But this team has a long way to go to prove to us that things can truly be different, because so far to start the 2021 season it's been groundhog day in the worst way possible. Clean it the fuck up.