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The Celtics Went Down To Miami And Left With Their Best Win Of The Season

Issac Baldizon. Getty Images.

You'll have to excuse me for a moment, I'm still just so confused by looking at this graphic. The Heat were the best team in the NBA. A team that improved this offseason while the Celtics didn't, at least that's what I was told. They live in a completely different tier when talking about teams in the East. Again, that's what I was told. So you can understand my confusion that the Celts went onto their floor on the second night of a back to back and completely kicked the shit out of that team. One of the best offenses of the early season was held to under 80 points in a real life basketball game. Not preseason, but one that counts when all their regulars played. Pretty interesting.

So, either the Heat are actually frauds and not that good, or, just like I repeatedly have been saying, when the Celts play up to their potential they can hang with any team in the NBA. Which is it? If the Celts stink, then the Heat should be crushed for losing to a bad team like this at home. Is that what a contender does? When the Celts lose to bad teams it means they stink, so which is it? You can see the whole thing is just so confusing when the shoe is on the other foot. For a team that is supposedly done with one another and fractured all because Marcus Smart said their end of game offense needs more ball movement, they went down to Miami and pulled out their best win of the year. Here's the best part too, they didn't even play that well! I mean pretty much every starter stunk and they still whooped that ass. On the second night of a back to back no less! 

Let's also be very clear about something, This one win does not meanall of the Celts early season issues are resolved. Not even close. That will only be proven over time. But this was a win they had to have. A season changing win potentially. You get blown out by the Heat and who knows what happens. By winning this game, you inspire confidence. You show everyone on the roster that when this team plays like we know they can, they can beat anyone. That's valuable moving forward, now we just have to see what the Celts do with that momentum. 

But until then? We're going to talk about last night and enjoy the shit out of ourselves because lord knows the first 8 games of this season have been emotional torture. Feels good to finally be on the right side of one of these games, so let's dive in.

The Good

- We have been begging Ime Udoka to stop being so goddamn stubborn and unleash Aaron Nesmith. Give the kid a chance because not only could they use his skillset, the Celts also haven't been getting all that great production from the back up wing spot. Game after game we saw him get DNP-CDs and it made no fucking sense. Then Josh Richardson went out with a bruised foot and we suddenly had our opportunity. Ime would have to play Nesmith in this game simply because he had nobody else. And would you look at what happened

Aaron Nesmith changed this game the second he step foot on the floor. His impact was immediate and he never looked back. He is what started that huge Celtics run that essentially ended this game. His shooting, energy, and overall disregard for his own body was everything we knew he could bring. It's what we saw towards the end of last year and then again in Vegas. It may only be one performance, but I don't see how Ime can justify keeping Nesmith out of the rotation now. It was on Nesmith to show that he was ready for the opportunity and that's exactly what he did. It didn't come against some shit team. The Heat defense is elite right? Didn't matter. 

What I loved about his performance was the fact that he didn't just sit behind the arc and wait for someone to pass him the ball so he could shoot. We saw Nesmith put the ball on the floor and score off the dribble. That unlocks so much for his offensive potential I need to see more. Defensively, he was fine. No major mistakes and you didn't get the sense that he wasn't sure what to do. The next step is showing this stuff consistently, but the only way to do that is to get consistent run. It's time to see it.

- And then there's Romeo. Another highly criticized Ainge draft pick, all Romeo has done this year is show real progress. His corner three is not a fluke, it's a weapon. That shit has 100000% translated from Summer League/preseason and it's a glorious thing to watch. Remember, he had 18 points and 4 3PM against the Heat in the preseason too

We're so used to being carried by Jaylen/Tatum that it was weird to see the team be carried by their other young wings in Nesmith/Romeo but that's what happened. The two combined for 25 points on 9-16 shooting (5-10) and were a combined +40 off the bench. If that isn't a coming out party I'm not sure what is. 

This is all why it's important to remember to be patient with draft picks. These two guys have barely played, we don't know what they are yet, but people were so quick to call them busts. Could they ultimately be? Maybe. But given what we've seen so far it's hard to argue that's the case. I just hope Josh Richardson is renting and didn't buy. That's all I'll say about that. 

- I don't know what was said in that players only meeting that was "ineffective" and only made things worse, but holy fuck has the defense been absolutely incredible ever since. You want to throw out the Magic game because you're a hater? Fine. But to hold a team to under 80 in back to back games when one of which is the team everyone is slobbing the knob of for being a juggernaut, that is impressive as hell. Just watch it. It's beautiful

We saw this Celts team get away from switching everything 1-5 on every possession which seems to help, so I do wonder if Ime looked at the film and realized he had to chill out with that stuff. There's nothing wrong with switching at times, but it was killing this team early defensively. Then I look at the difference in having both Al and Rob guard Bam compared to someone like Theis who Bam owns. It made all the difference in the world and completely eliminated Bam from this game. Did he even play? It's hard to say

This team was everywhere defensively. They finished with 16 deflections. They held the Heat to just 34/22% shooting and caused 18 TOs. Dare I say it was picture perfect defense from pretty much everyone on the roster? Even Tatum showed up defensively on a night where his shot was once again not falling. They didn't give up a quarter of more than 24 points. We saw them hold MIA to a 9 point second quarter. 

You have to understand, this was very surprising to see for a team that literally has been the worst defensive team in the league to start the year. We knew the Celts had this in them, but they refused to show us. Now we know what they look like when they defend at a high level and I want that team to stay around forever if it's not too much to ask. 

- The efficiency still needs work, he does tend to over dribble at times, but I thought Dennis Schroder did exactly what his role requires from him off the bench. Good scoring, willing passing, and he played with great pace

There was a reason he was a team best +26 in his 29 minutes. All he has to do now is just figure out how to make uncontested right handed layups as a right handed player and we'll really be cooking with gas.

- Tyler Herro went 3-11 for 6 points and was a -32 in his 29 minutes off the bench. About damn time the Celts shut that dude down. Feels like that never happens but boy was it fun to watch.

- He finished 5-14 which isn't all that great, but Jaylen had stretches in this game where he put the team on his back offensively and showed that he is very much a 1A type player. He's not a Robin, he can be a Batman if the situation asks for it.

It was Jaylen who once again was the only Celtic to get off to any sort of decent start in the first quarter. He finished with the highest +/- of any starter which is always nice, and his ability to finish at the rim even through contact remains elite. Now we just have to pray his tight hammy isn't anything serious, because he's playing about as well as you could ask at the moment.

- This was not a case of a wire to wire win. The Heat got out early and the Celts showed great mental toughness to not crumble and instead punched back. Then when the Heat cut things down to 8 late in the third, they punched back again and bumped it back up to 18. You cannot tell me that didn't fill you with relief. Finally, in a huge spot, this team didn't fold. Instead, they responded like we hoped.

- Another 10 rebounds for Al and an even sweeter dunk

35 years old may as well be 25 years old as far as I'm concerned when it comes to Al. What a season he's having.

The Bad

- I mean…the shooting. Just 39/39% on the night, pretty much every starter outside of Rob (2-3) shot the ball like absolute dogshit. Tatum went 3-13, Horford 3-9, Jaylen 5-14, and Smart 2-6. You would think the Celts got killed if you just looked at those splits, but they were saved by the bench. That is NOT something I feel comfortable relying on long term. They need to figure that shit out because you could make the case this was a bit of a prayer. 

- More along those lines, I'm going to continue to put it in this section for as long as he keeps doing it. Marcus Smart needs to change up his FGA approach. Once again of his 6 FGA, 5 were 3PA. There is no balance with that, and for a guy that is proven to be so much better offensively when he uses his size to get into the paint, he simply refuses to do it. It's maddening. We don't have a volume issue with Smart offensively, but we absolutely have a shot location problem. It's been like this for all 9 games it seems.

- We still saw the Celts struggle in terms of limiting points in the paint (36) and they did turn it over a little too much for my liking (16) but outside of that they were pretty flawless. Some of the turnovers were worse than others, like whatever the fuck this decision was from Grant

It was like the Smart heave against the Pelicans last year. Just a total and complete mental error and wouldn't you know it immediately led to a Heat three. Fucking Grant, don't undo all the good equity you've built to start the season by doing shit like this. 

The Ugly

- You tell me, where else can I put the shooting of Jayson Tatum? We're at the point now where this is starting to get insane. Another 3-13 (2-5), the crazy thing is he's missing every layup he takes as well as FTs. It's a rut unlike anything we've ever seen from Tatum in his career. Sure he's started slow before, but it hasn't looked like this. I thought he was better in terms of not forcing things offensively when his shot wasn't falling and continues to be a willing passer when doubled, but man do they need to try and figure out how to snap him out of this. I think everything has to be on the table from getting a fresh cut to an exorcism. Try it all. He's too important to the success of this team to be stuck in this rut forever. Ime can do a better job of finding ways to get Tatum some cleaner looks, but when he's missing layups against Duncan Robinson I'm not sure what else you can do other than hope and pray he snaps out of it at some point, and quickly. 

The sample size is too large to think he won't, but he has been absolutely killing this team offensively to start the year. Please figure it out.

- Whatever the hell these new Heat jersey's are, they stink out loud. It's a shame really because the Heat alternates used to be so awesome. To go from Miami Vice to whatever that shit is was not the best idea. 

Look, we all wanted to see what the Celts would do with a test like this. Could they respond and prevent things from truly spiraling out of control. Would they show up and be ready to play and keep that same energy for 48 minutes. I sure as shit know I feel a lot better about them today than I did yesterday. They're showing us they can compete with anyone, now they just have to figure out how to consistently close games. If they do that, everything will be fine.