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The Celtics Thankfully Decided To Take A Night Off From Causing Us All Immense Pain

Fernando Medina. Getty Images.

Things may be off to a rocky start for this team to start the season, but it was nice to know they aren't "lose to the Magic" bad. Still not great, still a ton of things they need to improve on, but considering essentially every single game this team plays they somehow find a way to cause us immense pain, I enjoyed the night off from that. I needed that, you needed that, we all did. That's mostly all that beating the Magic gives me. Relief. It's for sure a little sad that as fans we had no idea what team was going to show up last night and that losing to the 1-6 Magic wasn't completely out of the question. That reality is not lost on me. But just like I said after the clock hit 0.0, I'm at the point where I do not care how this team gets wins or who they come against. At 3-5, they just need to stack wins. With a back to back tonight in Miami, winning last night was very important. Nobody should look at this Orlando game and think all the issues we've seen over the first 8 games are magically fixed (no pun intended but intended). But it felt nice to collectively exhale after watching the Celts actually not blow a massive lead. Sure you could make the case that if they played almost any other team in the league they probably lose this game given how they shot the ball, but they didn't. They played the Magic and took care of the game that was in front of them. Some might even call that progress!

We'll see just how serious they are about turning things around tonight against a team that is playing as well as anyone in the entire NBA. But before we can focus on that, we first must talk about what we saw last night.

The Good

- There's rightfully a lot of talk about the struggles of Jayson Tatum to start the year. In my opinion, things need to be just as loud when talking about what a great start Jaylen Brown is off to. Outside of his understandable stinkers coming off covid, the man has been playing at an All NBA level and that is in no way hyperbole. 

From the looks of things, it appears that Jaylen is figuring shit out

Only two games under 28 points on the season, more than acceptable 50/37% shooting splits, we're seeing a version of Jaylen that shouldn't surprise anyone. This is who he is. He's a player that has improved every single year he's been in the league and so far things are following that same trend. A career high in FG%, 3PM, PPG, STLs, FTM and just 0.1 rebounds from matching his career high. From an assist perspective, he's down slightly from his career high last year and currently has the second highest average of his career. 

Let me put it another way. Jaylen has been the team's best player. Not a 1B. A 1A. I know he and Tatum get lumped together, but that could not be further from the truth in terms of what each is actually doing on the floor on a nightly basis. He doesn't get the media love or the commercials or any of that but the reality is his production deserves it. I think we can say that the Raptors/Wizards game sure looks more like the exception than the rule, and that's pretty important to the success of this team moving forward. He led the Celts in FGA last night, not just in the game but in the second half/fourth quarter as well. Given how that hasn't really been the trend lately, that was nice to see.

- And then there's Al Horford that beautiful bastard. Don't ask me to explain how a 35 year old can be having one of the best seasond of his life and looks even better than he did in his first Celtics stint. I'm not going to question it, I'm just going to cherish this while we have it because who knows how long this type of production will last. It's honestly beem incredible

Just once in his entire career has Horford averaged more than 10 rebounds and that came in 2012 when he was 26 years old. His 10.7 average this year is a career high. He LEADS THE NBA in blocks at 3.2 a night, with his previous career high in a season being just 1.5. His 14.0 scoring average matches what he gave in 2016 and is higher than each of his next two seasons in Boston. I cannot thank the Thunder enough for shutting him down and keeping him fresh. I look at this guy and have no idea how the Sixers couldn't utilize him. Not only that, he continues to be the ultimate professional and say all the right things

The early returns on this trade by Brad I think have exceeded all of our expectations. I think we all knew Al could help given his skillset, but you were right to mentally prepare for a guy that wasn't quite the 2016 version given his age. Instead, he's been better than ever. In a start filled with mostly disaster, that has been a great bright spot. 

- Crazy what can happen when you move the ball right? A nice 24 assists on 33 FGM in this game. They may not have shot well from a percentages standpoint, but the shots they did make were mostly assisted. That tells me that even on a night where shots weren't dropping, guys didn't try to overcompensate by doing it all themselves. They shared the ball. A total of 5 players with at least 3 assists is exactly what we all want to see. 

- Of course, you preface this by acknowledging that this was the Magic, but it felt nice to finally be on the right side of a 31-10 quarter. Given the 39-11 collapse we just lived through in the previous game, I needed that third quarter. Finally, we saw this team look connected defensively, even if it came against a dogshit team. You have to start somewhere and I'm of the belief that I would rather see this team defend at a high level against anyone as opposed to never seeing it. Hopefully, it gives them the confidence to have that same sort of communication and connected defense against teams that are actually good, but at least now we know they are capable of it. Considering their defense has been the worst in the league, any sign of progress in that department is good. 

You can tell when this team is locked in when they are getting their hands on the ball, and they finished last night with 11 deflections.

- Aaron Nesmith finally scored this season! Just something to keep in mind for a team that desperately needs shooting.

The Bad

- Good news, the Celts went to the FT line 25 times. Love to see that. The bad news, they missed 9 FTAs to finish at 64%. That stinks. Especially for a team that shoots in the 80s as a group. Tatum missed 3 for crying out loud. That's how you know the dude is down bad right now when he can't even make his FTs. 

- The Dennis Schroder experience has been weird. He's for sure one of their best playmakers, his assist numbers/potential assist numbers are great. He has an AST% of 29.4% which fills my heart with joy. At the same time, I hate the possessions where he just dribbles dribbles dribbles for 20 seconds running around and then passes it with like 3-4 seconds left on the shot clock. That ain't it. You know the ones I'm talking about. When he does the Steve Nash and keeps his dribble alive as he goes from one side to the other/under the basket and nobody else touches the ball for almost the entire possession. It's a small thing, but it's not great.

- Like I said in the beginning of the blog, if this team shoots like they did last night against almost anyone else, they lose this game. Just 41/27% for the night, pretty much everyone outside of Jaylen/Rob struggled from the floor. Tatum at 4-16, Al at 3-9, Smart at 3-8, Schroder at 4-11, just gross all around. You have two separate quarters where you can't even break 19 points, that's playing with fire. 

- While I thought for the most part he was fine, I still don't love Marcus Smart's shot profile. He finished a team best +18 and was second on the team in assists so it's not as if he played poorly, I just still hate where he's taking his shots from. Of his 8 FGA, 6 were 3PA. We saw him succeed when he attacked the paint and finished at the rim, but we're not seeing him do it nearly enough. For things to look better offensively, I think he needs to have more balance. His volume isn't an issue, just 8 FGA is fine for 32 minutes of action. But it's not helping anyone if 90% of his shots every night are going to be from deep. Better balance will lead to better results. 

- In the offseason on paper it looked like Brad did a whole lot in terms of improving the bench with actual NBA rotation players. To start the year though there's definitely cause for concern in this department. The Celts bench is 26th in scoring and 26th in FGA. In terms of efficiency, they are 25th from the floor. Outside of Schroder, it feels like other support cast players are taking like 1-2 shots a night. That still puts such a heavy burden on the starting players because it's not as if Schroder is all that efficient. I'm not sure what the answer is here, but it feels like we get a whole lot of empty minutes from every bench guy not named Dennis Schroder when it comes to offensive production.

- When it comes to this whole "players meeting" bullshit, it was fairly predictable. Woj says one thing, the players and coach say another, it's all the normal shit that happens when you are playing like assholes. Was it this huge meeting that was "ineffective" or whatever the hell Woj reported? Or was it just a little gathering before a team dinner and the guys talked it out. Only they know I suppose but I will say this.

If what Marcus Smart said truly fractured the locker room, that is SOFT AS HELL. LIke what are we even talking about? All he said was they need better ball movement late in games, that they are too predictable. If that's going to be a problem then we have bigger issues on our hands. He was right. Bad timing sure, but the overall point was right. 

The Ugly

- Where else can we put Jayson Tatum? He's off to a nightmare start and the guy simply cannot buy a bucket. Doesn't matter where he's shooting from, nothing is dropping. His shot profile last night wasn't even bad, it was a good mix of shots a the rim/in the paint and then behind the arc. Even still, nothing is dropping

He's down to 38/26% from the floor to star the year. He's shooting under 50% at the rim. I don't know if it's the new ball or what, but this is as bad a slump as we've ever seen Tatum have. Obviously he didn't forget how to shoot so things will most likely bounce back given his history, but that doesn't exactly help in this moment. This team needs him to just not be hot garbage from the field in one of these games. Now going up against one of the best defenses tonight in MIA, my guess is tonight will be more of the same. 

- Then there was that fourth quarter. This was why I don't feel totally great about this win. They still collapsed. They had a 20 point lead and then everything we saw against the Bulls once again showed up against the Magic. They shot just 29/18% in the quarter, they finished with nearly the same amount of TOs as FGM. They scored 17 points. A 23 point lead turned into a 13 point win. Those are still concerning signs that this team has no idea how to finish games. It's not a prayer occasion, this is a trend and something that is ultimately going to limit their ceiling. This should have been a game the Celts didn't have to play their main guys late. Instead, Tatum played 9 fourth quarter minutes. Jaylen played close to 7. With a B2B on the horizon, that was unfortunate.

Look, beating the Magic is whatever. They stink. We know that. But the Celtics have stunk out loud to start the season as well, so I'm going to just take the win and move on. Win tonight in MIA and that's a different story. We've seen the Celts play up to their competition when they've had these early season tests, they've just had trouble closing. Play a full 48 minutes tonight and you have the opportunity to change the vibe around this team. I don't think anyone expects the Celts to pull this off which means we'll probably get their best performance of the season. Either that, or they are going to get absolutely murdered. Those are really the only two options.