Sorry, I still had a little vomit left over once I sat down to write this blog and started thinking about what we watched last night. Dear lord was that gross. Like I said in yesterday's blog, you can live with the type of loss the Celts experienced in Utah. That's whatever. You absolutely cannot say the same for these last two losses in LA. Each one worse and more embarrassing than the last. Losing to the Lakers under any condition is bad enough, but then to double down the very next night and play the way they did against a Clippers team missing both Kawhi and Paul George is flat out pathetic. Even if the reality is that it's not like this Clippers team is destined for the lottery or anything and the Celts were on a B2B without their second best player…..I don't really care. That doesn't excuse the performance we saw last night. So if they had 1 day of rest instead of 0 days they wouldn't have turned it over 50,000 times? I'm not sure I buy that logic.
When the Celts first set off for the 5 game West Coast trip I talked about how this was an opportunity for them to show us something. They had been trending in the right direction and it was their first legit test out West against all quality teams. Now 80% of the way through the trip, what we have learned is they are not there yet. Not even close. It's still the same one step forward two step backward, shoot themselves in the foot bullshit that plagued their early season. The defense didn't make the trip across the country it seems. They are still having issues executing, and they are still throwing away games they have no business losing. For this to all come in a month where wins are going to be tough to come by anyways, that's not great.
My personal hope was a 3-2 run on this trip. Even after the Lakers debacle, that was still on the table heading into last night. Now, the Celts have to fight like hell just to avoid a 1-4 trip, and that has to come against arguably one of the best teams in the entire NBA. Any sort of positive momentum this team may have had before the trip is pretty much gone. It's back to square one, only things don't get any easier the second they return home. That's what is so annoying about games like last night. A loss like that is completely avoidable if you simply do not play like a bunch of assholes. That's literally the bar. If you're average last night, you win that game. The fact that the Celts couldn't even do that in a game they really kind of needed to have is pretty embarrassing.
You know the drill. We don't avoid games like this, we blog through them and turn the page. Let's begin.
- Well, on the plus side, it does look as though Jayson Tatum decided to show up on this road trip. Long term, that's the most important thing. I don't care what the roster looks like or what else happens if Tatum isn't the player they need him to be. Another efficient 29, Tatum showed
He wasn't perfect, in fact there was a part of his game that was rather brutal which we'll get to, but 29/10 on 9-20 shooting with 10 FTA is exactly the type of offensive production this team needs from their best player. It was Tatum's offense that kept them alive in that third quarter, and one of the things many of his detractors said was they needed to see him consistently put up efficient numbers against good competition. That is currently happening
You'll notice there are more Ls than Ws in that picture which is what really matters here, but the point is that Tatum has held up his end of the bargain. I'd be way more concerned about this trip if the Celts were losing these games and Tatum was putting up 2-16s left and right. He's remained aggressive, is hitting the glass well and honestly is moving the ball better than his assist totals suggest. It's why you have to watch the games to truly get the full picture of how Tatum is playing right now.
For the month, he's started 51/40% from the floor. The Celts will always be in a game as long as they have this version of Tatum, it then just becomes a question of whether or not the rest of the roster can do their part and get this team over the hump. Last night, that didn't exactly happen.
- A much better effort from the starting backcourt compared to what they did against the Lakers. I thought Schroder was much better both as a scorer and a facilitator
I mean you take 19/8 on 50% shooting and just 1 TO. Dennis was really the only one who showed up offensively in the fourth quarter with 11 points on 4-7 shooting including a couple of huge threes, and I thought he did a better job of using his speed to get into the paint and put pressure on the rim. That's when this team is usually at their best and how their comeback happened in the first place. They put pressure on the rim and few players on this roster do that better than Schroder.
With Smart, his overall FG% wasn't bad (43.7%), and he did a little bit of everything in his 37 minutes with 16/7/6/4. Defensively, he was much more engaged and effective than we saw in the previous game. But just like with Tatum, his carelessness with the ball was tough to overcome.
- If there's one player I think we all should be pleasantly surprised with, it has to be Josh Richardson. I didn't really know what to expect when he joined this team, because in 3 years we had seen him be all over the map. He was awesome on the Heat, decent on the Sixers, and a disaster on the Mavs. It didn't cost much to get him and I think my expectations were a defensive wing who could every once in a while make a three and score in the midrange.
In reality, what we got was a player having a career year
If he's going to play like this, you can understand why Nesmith/Romeo get limited minutes. Every game Richardson appears to get more comfortable within his role and last night was no different. A solid 17/5 on 5-11 (3-6) in his 30 minutes off the bench, he was the only player that showed any sort of life and production from that second unit.
The form may looked fucked up at times, but when Richardson puts the ball on the floor and gets into his midrange zone and shoots, I now find myself shocked when he misses. What I love is he starts games off the same way. He comes in and immediately attacks. Once he makes his first few buckets in the paint/midrange, it opens up his three and he's able to take that with more confidence. Of all the players you may have an issue with last night, I don't think Richardson should be one of them.
- Look, under no circumstances should this team ever get down by 21 points against that Clippers team. That's horrendous. But there is something to be said about how they played in the second half, especially on a back to back. They could have just mailed it in, but they didn't. This loss wasn't due to a lack of effort like maybe the Lakers game was. This team fought and played hard. I think that's been a consistent trait even during their infuriating play, and something that is a little refreshing given what we watched last year when energy and effort evaporated as soon as they got his with adversity.
That's obviously a question we all have about this team. How will the respond when shit doesn't go their way? While they may not win, at least they aren't going to quit. That's the first step. Now they have to just figure out how to either not get down by 20 in the first place or find a way to finish off these huge comebacks. But if you aren't going to play hard, nothing else matters.
- Just like the Lakers loss, everything changed in the second quarter. For the second straight game, we saw this team get off to a pretty good start in the first quarter. They shot the ball great (52/57%), they shared the ball exactly how you want (7 AST on 11 FGM) and they actually showed a pulse on the defensive end. But just like the game before, everything good they did to start was immediately undone in the second quarter. Suddenly, the defense disappeared, allowing the Clippers to shoot 61/54% and score 39 goddamn points. Offensively, things went into the toilet, just like they did against the Lakers. That game was a 29-22 second quarter, last night was 39-23. If you look at the second quarter lineups, it really didn't matter what combination Ime went with, they were all bad
Look at that shit. Look at the Drtg's. Doesn't matter if it was starters, bench guys, a mix, it was all terrible. You combine offensive droughts with horrific turnovers and even worse defense, no shit you're going to find yourself on the wrong end of an ass kicking. The second quarter has proven to be a problem in each of their last 3 games. The Blazers dropped 35, the Lakers 29, and the Clippers 39. This team is not good enough to consistently have these terrible quarters. Especially without their second best player.
- You should then not be surprised to learn that rookie Brandon Boston Jr went nuclear to the tune of 18 of his career high 27 in that second quarter. This is where I think most of the frustration comes in from last night. This kid's career high was 13 points. He had made 6 3PM all year. Naturally, the Celts allow him to go for 27 and make 5 3PM. The worst part is after the game Ime said they specifically talked about Boston.
So uhhh…what gives? Did nobody read the scouting report? Was nobody listening when Ime was talking about him? Is this Ime's way of once again saying the blame isn't on him as the coach for letting this kid go off because he did his part in letting them know about him? This is coming off the game before where he said the team talked about keeping the Lakers Big 3 out of the paint and they promptly scored a billion paint points. I'm not sure if that quote was supposed to make me feel better? In reality, it just makes it worse. You supposedly prepared for a guy and he still lit your ass up. That's insulting to me as a fan watching you play.
- I know the numbers say Al was pretty good with 11/7/7 on 50% shooting, but I'm not seeing the same impact from him that we saw earlier in the year. Obviously, some regression was to be expected from his insane start but last night it felt like I barely saw him out there. When the game was in balance, Al had just 8/3 on 2-5 shooting in his first 22 minutes. The rebounding was a big issue once again. He was good in the fourth, I'll give him that, but they need his impact to be consistent over the course of a game. His three is still struggling (1-4) and he's just 5-17 on the trip so far (29.4%). That's absolutely killer.
- I don't know what it is, but this is the worst fastbreak team I've ever seen. To lose a game by 3 points while also leaving about 4-6 points on the board because you can't execute a fastbreak is hard to stomach. I honestly do not understand how this could be possible. You learn how to run 3 on 2 fastbreaks when you're like 10 years old. Even 2 on 1s the Celts can't execute. It's maddening.
Add in the 3-4 missed wide open layups and you get the idea of what a disaster this was. All I ask is the Celts convert plays that 99.9% of NBA players make. I feel like that's not being unrealistic. If I see Smart and Tatum on a 2 on 1 fastbreak, I think it's a fair expectation that they score on that play and don't lob it out of bounds.
- And then there's the defensive rebounding. If there's one thing that these games in LA told me, it's that when the Celts struggle defensively, one of the first signs of that is their lack of defensive rebounding. That's all effort, yet time and time again we saw them ball watching only for the ball to hit the ground and be recovered by LAC. That's lazy, losing basketball and you deserve everything that you get when you play like that.
- Tatum had a really really tough time finishing over Zubac. I had him down for 4 separate blocks at the rim. That can't happen.
- Then there's the defense. What do I say time and time again. It really doesn't matter what the offense looks like. This is yet another example. The Celts scored 111 points and shot 47.7% from the floor. Big deal. They once again gave up over 110 points and once again allowed a team to shoot over 47%. They've done that pretty much every game of this trip, and they are 1-3.
It's not hard. Hold a team to under 110, they are 10-3. Let someone get over 110, they are 3-10. The Celts have had a top 4 offense since they left for the West Coast and it doesn't mean shit. You know why? Their defense ranks 26th with a 121.3 rating. It's October all over again. The Celts are scoring a shit ton of points, but it makes no difference since they cannot stop a nosebleed. If this team doesn't defend, they die. Period.
- If you want a concerning trend that seems to have carried over from last year, all you have to do is look at this team's clutch time play. The Celts are now 5-9 in clutch time games. Only the Pacers have more losses (12). They are middle of the pack offensively in the clutch (15th) and subpar defensively (19th). They have a sub 50% AST%. For a team that has the 2nd most clutch time minutes on the season, being pretty terrible in those situations is not exactly what I would call idea.
Last night for example they had a 116 Ortg / 128 Drtg / -11.9 net rating in clutch time minutes. That's bad.
- And now for the most infuriating part of last night and why this team lost. Turnovers. You simply cannot win when you turn the ball over 24 times which led to 33 Clippers points. I don't even know what else to say. Everyone was so bad and so careless with the ball for the most part. Tatum had 6 TOs with some of the laziest cross court passes I've ever seen. Rob had 6 TOs which was wild to watch because all he has to do is catch the ball and put it up. He couldn't do that. Smart had 4 TOs. Shit, even Al was passing the ball out of bounds in the fourth quarter when the Celts were trying to make a run. How about when the Celts cut it to 4 and Grant decided to try this lazy flip pass to Tatum that was immediately stolen and then he made things worse by fouling which killed the momentum. So goddamn frustrating.
To put this into perspective, this is how rare it is we see this team
I mean what the hell. Just don't be horrendous. That's it. Be average. Turn the ball over 17 times and you probably win, and that's an outrageous number. The Celts have been good about taking care of the ball all year, so of course they would do some shit we almost never see and it costs them a game. I'm sorry, but that's on the players. Clean it the fuck up.
As long as the Celts are going to continue to play this way, they don't deserve the benefit of the doubt. They are making a tough month even tougher by playing like we saw last night. At some point, you have to win games. If you want to shake this idea that you're a .500 team, maybe try not being .500. We know what this team looks like when they play to their potential, so to repeatedly watch them play to their floor is what bothers me and everyone else so much. For the love of God, I am begging this team to wake up and simply