There Might Not Be A More Pathetic Team In The NBA Right Now Than The Boston Celtics

Nathaniel S. Butler. Getty Images.

Things are starting to get a little ridiculous. It's like we're all living in some sort of Groundhog Day reality from hell. You don't even have to say it, I know these blogs all sound the same. But what exactly would you like me to do? We show up after every game win or lose to talk about it. When myself or any Celtics fan says this team continues to find new and beyond embarrassing ways to lose games, it's the truth! It's not being hyperbolic or overly dramatic. It is literally how they are losing games. Every night, every one of them is something new. This team simply cannot stop finding new ways to twist the knife, and after these last two back to back games how could anyone even debate that. Against the Spurs, there was the blown Jaylen layup after an inbounder passed him the ball with 5 seconds left. Something that basically never happens. Last night? How about blowing a 25 point lead, and then another 20 point lead in the second half all while a former player who didn't do jack shit for you while he was on your team rips your fucking heart out? Then, to cap it off, your franchise player makes a huge basket on one end only for a 33% three point shooter who had been 3-14 in the game bank in a prayer three point heave? It's as if we're living in a Mad Libs book of futility or something. There is no scenario too outrageous or too far fetched when the topic is the Boston Celtics blowing basketball games. It's remarkable really,

Look, I've seen it all when it comes to this team. I've seen them win like 12 games in a season. I've seen them lose 18 in a row. I've seen massive winning streaks, I've seen deep playoff runs, early playoff choke jobs, Game 7 wins and brutal Game 7 losses. I've even seen a championship. I don't think I've seen anything like what we've experienced through these first 40 games. People will compare this to last year, but it's way worse in my opinion. Just look at how they are losing games, all while doing it with better talent. Even if you don't think the talent is all that good, it's a better overall group of talent compared to the 2020-21 season, yet here we sit. Gut punch after gut punch, collapse after collapse. Every night we all just sit around and wait to see how they'll blow it this time, knowing that it will most likely come in the most embarrassing way possible. That is their reality whether you like it or not. Until they prove that to actually not be the case, they do not deserve the benefit of the doubt. You have to earn trust, and who could trust this team right now.

We all know the record. 2-11 in games decided by 5 or less. 2-11!!! Their last 7 losses all look like this

3 points

2 points

9 points

5 points

4 points

5 points

4 points

Beyond frustrating. How is this even possible? How does water in no way find its level? How is it possible that every other team in the NBA can somehow fall backwards into late game wins yet the Celts remain allergic? Sure there is context around some of those games in terms of who they were playing and who was available, but that's not the point. This is not a fluke situation where they caught some bad breaks every once in a while. The Celtics have 21 losses on the year and over half of them have come this way. Yes, they can't close to save their lives, but a game like last night shows the bigger issue. The lack of shooting and lack of second half defense is why they cannot keep leads. Then things get tight and everyone poops their pants, and the results end up being the same.

Alright, you know the drill. Let's get into it.

The Good

- You know what I personally love? I love wasting really good Jayson Tatum performances. That's fun. That's what you want to see. On a night where the star player not only plays like one but comes through in big moments, who needs to win those games. That would make too much sense

Every way we all want Tatum to play, he did in this game. He was efficient at 12-21 (6-11), he took care of the ball (2 TOs), he played good defense, and he was a very good passer/playmaker (9 assists). In the fourth quarter, he showed up with 13 points on 4-8 shooting and 0 TOs. He finished a starter best +8 in his 39 minutes. At no point did it feel like he was forcing his offense, he continued to be unselfish and trust his teammates, even in the fourth quarter when nobody else on the roster could make a shot. He even had a good contest on the RJ Barrett game winner. There is a long list of blame for how last night went, but I don't have Jayson Tatum anywhere near it. 

Coming off a brutal loss to SA in which he was pretty horrific in his first game back, Tatum did what you expect a star player to do. He stepped up and did everything he could to stop the bleeding. I just wish everyone else had that same mentality.

- I know everyone is pretty upset today, but if you need something to help give you any sort of positivity, please enjoy the continued development of Robert Williams. 

He's another guy who you can tell truly cares. What I've been really impressed with this season with Rob is how much better he is at providing help at the rim. In years past it always felt like he was a step late to read a rotation. Now? He's blocking everything. A total of 7 blocks last night, I think it's fair to say he is developing and blossoming exactly how we all hoped. Remember, he's just 24, and we're finally seeing what it looks like when he's not only available consistently, but is playing big minutes. 

- That's it. We're moving on. I'd love to talk about that awesome 2nd quarter, but honestly who gives a shit.

The Bad

- I almost don't even know where to start in this section. Not because there isn't anything to choose from, but because there might be too many options. I suppose we can start with one of the more glaring issues that continue to plague this team. OK, that was a little broad because you could say there are like 50 things that fit that description, but I want to talk about this teams inability to consistently play defense in the second half.

If you were to go back at each one of those close losses listed above, you'll see a common trend. Teams are lighting up the Celts in the second half. You don't just have collapses because you stop making shots, they happen because you aren't getting stops. Last night was no different. The Knicks scored 61 points on 47/60% splits with 12 3PM over the final 24 minutes. That is no different than any of the other collapses we've seen this year.

On the season, the Celts have the 23rd ranked second half defense, coming in with a rating of 110.9. How drastic of a dropoff is that? Well in the first half of games they have the 6th best defense at 105.3. In the second half of games, the Celts are allowing opponents to shoot 45/35%. They are giving up on average around 53 points which is 19th in the NBA. There is a reason I always say if this team defends nothing else matters, because it's the truth. Their offense is too streaky to consistently be this poor defensively in the second half of games. This is an issue because since this team cannot hold a lead, their ability to get stops late in games is even more important. That is something they are in no way doing. Considering they have a 112 Drtg in the fourth quarter, that's pretty obvious.

- Let's now move on to some individual performances that I found to be less than ideal. I think it's safe to say that Al's great start to the season is a distant memory. He's really, really struggling right now, especially offensively. For a guy that can't seem to throw the ball in the ocean, I can't say I love that 6 of his 8 FGA were threes. That just feels like an approach that has a low probability of working out. I also didn't really love his 4 rebounds in 30 minutes or that he finished with just 1 assist and had 3 TOs. He's in a big time rut, no two ways about it. 

If he's not going to make his open threes, or isn't going to rebound, and they aren't going to use him as a facilitator to initiate offense from the top of the circle, what's the plan? We went over his shooting splits yesterday so I don't need to type them again, we all know how gross they are. What worries me a little bit is all this talk postgame about getting rattled late, needing a calming veteran voice in big moments, shit like that. 

Isn't that what Al was supposed to bring? We all knew there was going to be a dip in his production given his age, but that leadership/calming impact shouldn't have anything to do with that. He's a guy everyone on the roster supposedly respects and was happy to have back, but here we are. Still saying this roster needs the same things Al was supposed to provide.

- Only this team could build up a lead to 25, see it go to 10, get it back up to 20, and then still find a way to lose. Well that's not true, the Pelicans also do that shit apparently. One of the worst parts of nights like this is all the insane stat tweets we get immediately following the collapse. Last night might have been some of the most brutal ones. See for yourself

Do I need to keep going? Everyone get the jist? I mean what the hell. I'd say the most annoying ones from that list are the 1-229 stat and the Evan Fournier one. That might be the most unbearable one of all. Evan Fournier legit stinks this season, unless he's playing Boston….because of course. I don't even get why he's taking this so personal. He got paid! He got his bag! It's not like the Celts screwed him or anything. They just didn't want to pay him 80M, but he still got the 80M. How a guy goes from scoring 4 points and not playing in an entire 4th quarter against the Pacers only to turn into Steph Curry whenever he sees Boston is so goddamn annoying. Where was this Fournier last year? You cannot make this shit up.

- I am nothing if I am not consistent. I can't get on guys like Dennis for making not making simple reads to a wide open cutter or a wide open Jaylen Brown and then ignore this

This is a pass Marcus simply has to make. I know he had made two huge threes earlier in the quarter, but he had also missed his last few heading into that shot. Given the situation, the fact that there is NO ONE close to Jaylen, you have to move the ball. Period. There was plenty of time on the shot clock for one more pass to a wide open player who was ready to catch and shoot. There's really no excuse for it, it was a bad decision in a big moment.

Part of this is due to everyone's role in that closing lineup. Tatum became the ball handler and made the right play. He kicked it to Dennis in the corner who also made the right play and kept the ball moving. Playing Smart in his weird off ball SG type role down the stretch is how you get him taking a shot in that moment. Look at how different that is compared to the Suns 4th quarter when he was an the primary ball handler in the 4th. Smart basically assumes whatever role that lineup calls for. Ideally, Smart is the one who Tatum kicks to, and he keeps the ball moving to the shooter. In that lineup, he became that shooter spot. 

- I know many will focus on how this game ended, but like all of these horrible collapses, things started well before the 4th quarter. I'd say their execution on both ends in the 3rd was every bit a factor in this loss as how they played in the 4th. They came out flat, immediately allowed the Knicks to get momentum, and even after clawing back to make it 81-61 with 5 minutes left, it was a 7 point game at the start of the 4th. 

So what happened? Well for the 3rd straight game, this team had no idea how to guard Evan Fournier. I'm looking at guys like Smart, who kept getting lost on screens or going under. Either way he repeatedly lost separation way too often. They also allowed Julius Randle to get going because they stopped rebounding. The Knicks had 11 OREB for 21 2nd chance points. That's the game right fucking there. How many times are we going to see this team get in late game situations and be unable to grab a rebound? Every time they fuck that up, you know a dagger bucket immediately follows, and that's exactly what happened. It was everywhere in that 4th quarter

1. Gibson OREB at 8:58 led to a Fournier 3PM to make it 87-85

2. Fournier OREB at 6:59 led to a Fournier 3PM to make it 93-87

3. OREB at 2:09 led to a Fournier 3PM to make it 98-99

4. OREB at 1:28 led to a Robinson dunk to make it 101-101

We saw time and time again the Celts fumble the rebound only to immediately give up points. You clear your defensive glass, none of that shit happens. That's the frustrating part. Some of these OREB were simply do to the Celtics not being able to grip a basketball. 

- It makes little sense to me that on the second night of a B2B you have a shortened rotation and play all your starters big minutes. No wonder they ran out of gas at the end. Both JRich and Grant played under 20 minutes. Neither saw the floor in the 4th quarter. For some reason, we saw a Freedom in the 3rd quarter who got shredded which is what gave the Knicks life. I just don't get it. You think I'm kidding? The Enes lineup had a 200 Drtg in his 1 minute of action in that quarter. 

- It wouldn't be a collapse without another pathetic second half shooting performance either. This time it was 37/27% with 7 TOs. They scored 38 points in the second quarter and then 42 the rest of the way. That is so bad. Half as many TOs as FGM. A total of 22 of their 37 FGA were threes. Second game in a row we saw this exact same script. Nothing but threes that go cold, another sub 30% half from deep, and high turnovers. It's losing basketball so who should be surprised they lost while playing that way.

The Ugly

- For this team to be successful, they cannot have their best players disappear. Against the Spurs it was Tatum. Last night it was Jaylen. He was nowhere to be found for 3 of the 4 quarters. Didn't touch the ball, didn't demand the ball, didn't move without the ball, and he finished with 4 points after his great start. He took 1 FGA in the 4th quarter, which was a rushed and contested three. 

There's really no excuse for this to keep happening, and it's on everyone. Both the coach and his teammates. Where is Ime to realize that Jaylen hasn't touched the ball in 15 years, so maybe get him something going to the basket? Where are the players that understand it's important to keep everyone involved, especially their second best player? Where is Jaylen when it comes to demanding the ball? Everyone is to blame for that shit. 

- OK, let's get to Ime. The players made it clear they wanted a coach that would hold them accountable and coach them hard. They hand picked Ime. Fine. But someone explain this to me

Listen, I'm not an idiot. I know that over the course of an NBA game you have to let players freestyle and play through momentum. That's fine. But for a team that very clearly needs direction and a plan late in games, are we just not calling plays? Is that what I;m reading? Also this

I dunno, why can't that person be Ime? I am not someone who thinks players are only good if a coach motivates them. I hated that shit with Brad and I hate it with Ime. But, that's not what I'm talking about here. It's entirely possible for the coach to calm his team down, make sure they don't get rattled and maybe call a play to get them some easy buckets. Where were ANY of the sets we saw early in the game for Rob where he just dunked it? There are things you can do as the coach to instill that calmness and prevent them from getting rattled. Instead I'm hearing him say "do you want me to have to call plays?" 


What's the harm? You already have the worst 4th quarter team in the NBA playing whatever way it is we're watching. I think it's perfectly fine to call plays in that instance. Sure the players would have to execute, but I found all these quotes postgame pretty troubling. 

There's then the decision of how Ime closed this game. It looked fine against SA, but it was very clear that we were not getting a good version of Dennis/Smart combo last night. Yet there was no adjustment to see if something else worked. Two of their better shooters didn't touch the floor. He was asked about this, and I didn't really like his answer here either

If Tatum is going to handle the ball late, why make things harder by running out lineups with 3 non shooters. Someone make that make sense to me. Why on earth do they keep changing their offensive approach from what clearly works earlier in the game. Have Smart be a primary ball handler/facilitator and actually run sets. If you want Tatum to be the one to score, run plays for him. Pretty simple no?

- Because we have a large enough sample to know that whatever their 4th quarter approach is, it is not working. How many more of these do we need to see?

13 of their 17 FGA in the fourth quarter were threes. On what planet is that a winning formula. Tatum was the only one who even thought about attacking the paint and guess what, it worked! It's like this team does not watch film on their previous failures or something because everysingle fourth quarter is the same thing. Newsflash, it isn't working

So here we sit. Watching this team blow their entire season because they can't hold on to massive leads. Doesn't matter who they play. The lighter January schedule? Means jack shit. Around and around we go on this ride from hell. I'd say things have to eventually even out, but I'm not sure I even believe that because what has this team shown us that tells us it will. All you can do is just wonder how they'll kick us in the dick next. Awesome.