The Celtics Finally Took A Night Off From Causing Us All Immense Pain And Suffering

Brian Babineau. Getty Images.

After how things went this week, I think we all needed this win. Everyone knows it's always annoying when you drop games you shouldn't against bad teams, but it's even worse when you find ways to lose those games in the most excruciatingly painful way possible. Considering half of the Celtics 21 losses have come this way, we're sort of used to it by now. Is anyone throwing a parade because the Celts actually didn't blow a game to a Knicks team that was missing a ton of guys? Of course not. Anyone who makes that claim is just doing it as some sort of weak effort to be a troll. It's OK to enjoy when your favorite team wins and plays well while doing it. I promise you it does not hurt, nor does it excuse their very obvious areas of improvement. However, everything from the defensive effort to how they played offensively for the most part over 48 minutes was all we as fans really want. Obviously, you aren't going to hold an opponent to 75 points every night. That was mostly due to circumstance. But the energy and effort? The unselfishness from both stars? The offensive approach? That's all stuff that can be replicated no matter who the Celts play.

And let's be real for a second. Who are you to thumb a nose up at ANY win right now? The Celts are 19-21. That's embarrassing. It is in fact, not good. I don't care who they play or how they get em, this team needs wins. Consecutively if we're being honest. Nobody should claim all their issues are fixed or any of that, but I also don't understand why things have to be taken to that extreme? The Celts played well and won a game. We finally didn't have to spend our night dealing with immense pain and suffering. I don't know about you, but I enjoyed the night off from such a thing. I almost didn't know how to react seeing the Celts actually not blow a big lead against a bad team. I have to say, I….liked it? I…..had fun? I also slept like a baby for the first time in weeks. I would like to thank the Celtics for that opportunity because my ass was exhausted.

So listen. We all know there is more work to be done to turn this shit around. But to get there, you have to win games like last night. They did, so let's talk about it.

The Good

- What a week for Jaylen Brown. We've seen both sides of the spectrum when it comes to his play this week. The times where he looks like a Greek God sent down from heaven, and then the times where he becomes invisible and basically just got some cardio work in for 75% of a game. Last night, we witnessed one of the best all around performances of his entire career

His first career triple double at 22/11/11 on 9-15 (2-4) shooting and a team best +23 in his 34 minutes. What I loved most about Jaylen's night was how unselfish he was early. He had 7 assists in the first half and I thought even his turnovers were the "good" type. You know, the ones where you could tell he was making an effort to facilitate and create for others, shit just didn't work out. Compare that to the TOs we've seen where he can't even dribble or simply passes it to the other team, and you know what I mean. For a guy that is working on his development as a playmaker, that stuff is going to happen. What stood out was his willingness and his approach to be a passer first. That's not something we really see from Jaylen on a consistent basis. The assists simply came from making the right basketball play. It's not as if Jaylen tried to do extra and play outside of himself. Sometimes that's all it takes. Just make the simple reads and take what the defense gives you. Don't overthink it. 

Not to mention, it was also Jaylen who hit what I would call the big "relief" buckets. There was the big three at the end of the 3rd quarter (which came via Jayson Tatum for those wondering), and then his made three with just under 8 minutes to get things back to 20. It felt a little bit like things were maybe going to shift to start that fourth quarter, but I thought that three calmed everyone down and let them exhale. I understand how crazy that sounds to any other fan that might be reading this blog, like a 17 point 4th quarter lead with 7 minutes to go usually isn't a reason to be nervous. But you don't know what we've gone through. That shot was huge. 

- It feels repetitive to say because it happens pretty much every game, but each and every time I watch Rob on the basketball court he does insanely cool shit. It's not just the blocks (he had 4 more last night), but it's also the way he changes shots, even if he doesn't block it. It breaks my brain a little to see him come from the weak side and the next thing I know his hand is essentially at the top of the backboard. 

12/7 with 4 blocks on 6-7 shooting and a +23 himself, you have to remember that this is a 24 year old we're talking about here. He's only going to get better. I'd love to see him eventually develop even a little 10ft jumper. Maybe a little jump hook or something. But this version of Rob? This version fucks. You can see how well he fits into the group of Smart/Tatum/Brown. Those four have shared the floor in 17 games this season, playing 313 minutes and have a 

110 Ortg

100 Drtg

+10 net rating

That's pretty damn good. The biggest reason for optimism when it comes to Rob has to be his new found availability. He's playing more minutes than he ever had in his entire career, and his body is holding up so far. That's always been the biggest question for him, and he's starting to answer it exactly how we hoped. By the end of next week, he'll have played his 2nd highest amount of games ever in a season. If Rob is staying on the floor now, look out.

- Regardless of whatever point Perk was trying to make last night in his weird attempt to slander Jayson Tatum on a night where Tatum was actually pretty damn good

if you watched this game you saw the positive impact Tatum made. You see the 1 assist and probably think he was a selfish non-passer. That couldn't have been further from the truth. It was often Tatum who initiated possessions with good ball movement. He in no way forced things offensively, and was happy to let Jaylen be "the guy" in big spots. A lot will be made about his 6-14 I'm sure, but you have to remember the context. One of those FGA was because Schroder passed it back to him with 2 seconds left on the shot clock with Tatum 35 ft from the basket. He makes 1 more shot, he ends up at 50%. That's why Perk's tweet was so odd. It's not like Tatum went 6-20 or some shit

And you know what? Good on Tatum for calling it out. Perk later said he was "just stating the facts" but that is not what he was doing. It was another classic Jaylen vs Tatum attempt. That shit is so tired. This was another "see, they can't both have good games at the same time!" bullshit. When in fact, they were both really good in this game.

When it comes to these two, a lot of it is just noise. That's what happens when your team isn't winning. If you don't like it, win. Pretty simple stuff. But if anything from last night truly matters, it's probably this

Sure looked like it last night no? Now we see how things continue to look over time. The idea that they can't play together has always been lazy analysis. Not only is it not true based on the eye test, the actual numbers suggest otherwise

Two young players are allowed to have the time and opportunity to figure things out. You might not want to hear it, but that's the truth.

- If you're looking for a pleasant surprise in this mostly unfortunate first half of the season, the play of Josh Richardson has to qualify. He's having a career year shooting the basketball (45/40%), and it was pretty clear Ime learned form his mistakes from the other night when it came to playing him late

Richardson (and Grant!) played 10 minutes in the 4th quarter last night. I think we were all a little surprised when Brad immediately gave JRich that extension before we even saw him play, but that's not looking like too bad of a decision at the moment. If he's going to end up being a trade chip, his improvement in play AND security of not being an expiring deal could absolutely be attractive to a potential trade partner. What I like about JRich's game is on a team that often settles for threes, at least he's willing to put the ball on the floor and get into higher percentage areas. The 40% shooting from three is a little insane and most likely not sustainable, but his offensive approach is absolutely what this team needs, especially when one of the Jays goes out.

- Basketball isn't always that complicated. You move the ball, good things happen, you win. Last night we saw 26 assists on 36 FGM. We had multiple possessions with 4 or 5 passes before a bucket, which was usually a layup/dunk. Those glimpses of what this team can be when they share the rock are why I continue to believe. When they do it, everything looks different. 

That's why I was happy to see this team did not go all isolation to close this game out. The ball still moved. Everyone didn't just stand around and watch. Of their 9 FGM, 5 of them came off assists in that final quarter. Only 8 of their 19 were 3PA, and while that might seem high, remember just the other day it was like 14 of 17 FGA. I want to say maybe they learned their lesson, but we need to see it more consistently over a longer stretch of time before we can say for certain.

- Listen, I don't care who is on the floor, you hold an NBA team to under 80 points, that's impressive. Randle/Barrett/Quickley/Burks still played. Given how this game started with the Knicks hitting a billion threes, who saw 75 points coming? This is now the third time we've seen Ime's scheme hold a team to under 80. Remember when they did it on the road against a fully healthy MIA team? The Knicks had 26 in the first quarter and then didn't have another frame over 18 points. That's wild.

The offense might still be hot garbage, but there is no denying that Ime has come in and solved last year's defensive issues. His roster is filled with better defenders which helps, but he deserves credit for that end of the floor as well.

- A lot of that has to do with the defense Marcus played last night. He was fairly modest offensively, but he finished with 4 steals and held Quickly to just 3 points on 22 possessions. He was much better in his game fighting over screens and contesting, and the results speak for themselves. 

The Bad

- Not a lot really to choose from in a game they won by 20+ and actually didn't choke, but a few moments stood out. First, what was Dennis doing on the play midway through the 4th quarter when the Knicks very clearly were about to commit a backcourt/out of bounds turnover but instead he sprinted full court only to turn it back over to the Knicks? I commend the effort…I just don't understand why. It's OK to let the ball go out of bounds. Maybe he thought he was going to get an easy layup? Just a weird play.

Second, I still don't understand why he lets the ball roll up in a game where the Celts very much preferred the clock to start. It's almost as if he can't help himself, even if it makes no sense in that situation. Just pick it up and go! Play with pace!

- It's really starting to get annoying how this team repeatedly refuses to keep players who love taking floaters out of the paint. First it was Dejounte Murray, last night it was Quickley. Figure that shit out. I feel like the Celts give up the most paint points to guards in the entire league. I don't really have a way to back up that claim, I just feel it in my heart. Especially late in games. Read a scouting report for me one time or something. 

- I thought Karalis made a really good point here

The Celts do need to be a whole lot better at finding easy ways to extend runs as opposed to just going for the homerun three. This isn't a "bad" shot per se, I mean corner threes are the easiest ones to take and Smart is fine from that zone. But it's the situation that matters more. The Knicks were begging the Celts to seperate at that point in the game, and passing up easy opportunities like this come up all too often. You'll remember, the Knicks scored twice in those last 1:24 to make it a 2pt game at the break. These may seem like small things, but they are what good teams routinely execute in order to build leads. The Celts feel like their leads only come when they start making threes. Those are simple adjustments that could go a long way.

The Ugly

- I don't know why, but this team is cursed whenever there is 1.5 seconds or left on the clock. Who else gives up points here?

Everything about that last possession was awful. They allowed Barrett to go coast to coast, fouled, and then gave up that OREB with 0.9 left which ended in points. It's insane how many low clock situations the Celts somehow give up points in. 

- I did not enjoy that with every miss in the 4th, or any turnover, I said to myself "Oh shit, this is it. This is how it starts". My guess is I was not alone there. That's so fucked. We can't even enjoy 20+ point leads in the fourth quarter anymore. The whole time I was just waiting for the other shoe to drop. That's what happens when you blow the games this team has blown. We have to recondition our brains to actually trust any sort of lead at any sort of point in the game. One day I hope to get there, but I learned last night I am nowhere close.

At the end of the day, all last night meant was we got a night off from the pain. Honestly, I'll take it. I'd like more of that if we're being honest, but I know nothing is guaranteed. It'll be another dogfight tomorrow against the Pacers. It probably shouldn't be, but like I said after the first Knicks collapse. Until this team earns our trust, they don't get it. We can be hopeful, but we need to see it to believe it.