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It's Safe To Say The Celtics Pulled A Prayer Directly Out Of Their Ass To Beat The Bulls Last Night

Maddie Malhotra. Getty Images.

In a perfect world, the Celts take both of these B2B games this weekend. That would have been something. Since to anyone who is willing to use logic that would have been extremely unrealistic, to walk away with a split is certainly the next best thing. Even when that split is a result of the Celts winning a game they absolutely had no business winning. In fact, it was setting up to be yet another frustrating ending, filled with disappointing play and late game futility. You know, the things we've seen a billion times before that usually result in losses where immediately after you spend the next 4 hours on your computer looking at the schedule and crying yourself to sleep while looking at all the "clutch time" single digit losses so far on the season. What, nobody else does that? Try living a little for me one time.

Instead, we got to experience the other end of that prayer. Because make no mistake about it, the Celts caught a gigantic prayer to win this game. When we saw a similar experience against the lowly Magic, you didn't really feel that great because ya know, it was the Magic. While the Bulls may have been missing guys and the Celts were missing Smart, it's not as if that version of the Bulls is anything to sneeze at. DeRozan and Vuc are legit. Ayo turns into maybe the greatest shooter of all time whenever he plays Boston it seems, and their supporting casts made shots down the stretch. It required the Celts to punch back if they wanted to win. Finally, we saw some resolve. No "woe is me" bullshit when DeRozan started to go off in the fourth and everyone on the Bulls seemed to be making their threes. It was about damn time we saw a situation where maybe it paid off to be lucky rather than good. Always seems to happen against this team so I will apologize for nothing. I'll take the win, realize and acknowledge that for long stretches the Celts looked mostly like dogshit, yet still found a way to win. Works for me! 

There now remains only one team in the top 10 seeds that the Celts have not beaten so far this season, which is the Nets (1 game). That's encouraging. They now enter a nice stretch of 4 of their next 5 at home, all of which I imagine they'll be favored in. Take care of business, and you could find yourself in a much more favorable position by the end of the month. Before we get there though, let's relive last night

The Good

- You may want to start somewhere else, but as the person who makes the big decisions around here, I choose to begin with Rob. Watching Rob blossom and develop has been one of the few bright spots of this season. Early in his career when those of us would talk about Rob in the way he's currently performing, we were laughed at. Called "delusional Green Teamers". Well, seems like we are looking more and more right by the game

I'll remind you, Rob is 24. I'd say he had a pretty rough time against Embiid on Friday night, so to come back and bounce back the way he did against Vuc & company was very good to see. It was another night of seeing Rob do insanely cool shit on pretty much every possession. Sometimes it was finishing off a lob that makes you laugh and shake your head, other times it was running the offense through him at the high post and watching him throw dimes to off ball cutters, and more importantly, we watched him step to the line with the game on the line and calmly knock down 4 GIGANTIC free throws.

Did you know Rob has not missed a single clutch time FT this year? He's shooting 100% at 12-12. That's the center, and one who does not exactly have a jump shot. That tells you Rob can play late in games and you don't have to worry about his FT shooting. What a luxury that is given how much of an impact he makes on both ends, basically at all times. 

As awesome as it's been to watch Rob grow as a player in terms of his production, what I love is the growth we've seen mentally from Rob. The best way I could describe it is Rob gets it. You know it when you hear it. Remember after his first triple double?

and we got a similar message last night

Given the position he plays and his age, I don't think you're crazy if you want to see Rob continue to develop and grow with Tatum and Brown. They all have great chemistry together, they all love and support each other's success despite what some anonymous Eastern Conference executive wants you to believe, and oh yeah, Rob is pretty fucking good.

- In terms of shooting the basketball, things were not good for Jayson Tatum. In fact, they stunk. Thankfully, there are other ways to impact a basketball game outside of shooting

and that's exactly what Tatum did last night. The 8-24 (1-5) shit certainly has to be figured out, but I thought Tatum was great on the glass (12), did well as a facilitator (4) and played some of the best defense of anyone on the roster. Wanting to be "the man" is about way more than just scoring points. I know that's what Twitter likes to focus on, but I loved how Tatum took the responsibility of matching up on DeRozan with the game basically on the line

Considering DeRozan made about 10,000 of those exact jumpers earlier in the quarter, that's about as good of individual defense as you're going to find. Good job initially bumping off his spot, and then another great job of staying with the side step and contesting without fouling. You factor in Tatum's huge block on Coby White at the rim, and at a time when the Celts needed their franchise player to step up and make a winning impact, Tatum responded and he did it without scoring the basketball. There's a reason Tatum finished with a +11 which was second on the team in his 40 minutes. He found ways to make a positive impact despite shooting like shit. We all should take that.

- Similar story to Jaylen's night. Like Tatum, he struggled shooting the ball, finishing just 8-19 (0-5). But everywhere else? Jaylen was solid

19/7/4 with 4 steals and just 1 TO, Jaylen was another guy who found a way to make a positive impact despite his offensive struggles. I'd say the play that stood out to me was at the end. This play to Rob

So often in these late game situations when the Celts are trailing, we can see Jaylen have tunnel vision. Sometimes he makes the jumper, often times he turns it over. That slip screen had been there basically all night when the Celts ran any sort of high screen, so I loved the fact that not only did Jaylen recognize it, he trusted his teammate to make a play in a huge moment in a tight game. This may seem like a simple pass that a lot of players make, and you're right. It's not overly complicated. But it shows Jaylen's growth. He didn't try and force anything in a tight situation. He simply made the right basketball play, and sometimes that's all you need to do. 

Defensively, he matched up with DeRozan on 23 possessions and allowed just 2 points on 0-2 shooting. So like Tatum, Jaylen made an impact on the defensive end. He didn't let his poor shooting mess with his game, which is another thing you love to see because it doesn't always work out that way.

- It was pretty obvious the team talked about how terrible their first half offensive approach was against the Sixers, because as soon as this game started it was everything we wished they did on Friday. Everything was at the rim. The Celts finished with 34 points in the paint in the first 24 minutes. Surprisingly, they had a 47.8% shooting half! Wild how those two things might be connected. 24 of those points came in the first 12 minutes. Vuc isn't exactly an imposing rim protector, so thankfully the Celts realized that and were aggressive. Why they ever stop doing that is something nobody will ever be able to answer, but at least they had the right mindset from the get go.

- 27 assists on 44 FGM is much more like it. Four different players with at least 4 assists. Just 11 TOs as a team. Isn't it crazy what can happen when you share the ball and don't turn it over 20 times? It's almost like that might be a very important factor to winning basketball games!

- We also got a much better version of Dennis in this game. After being a complete disaster against the Sixers, he deserves credit for his short memory and playing exactly how he needs to while he fills in for Smart. I thought his rim pressure was much better, he actually used his speed to get to the rim, and overall his decision making was much quicker. When it came to creating for others, Dennis was better in that area as well

When it comes to Dennis, it's pretty obvious that bad things happen the longer he holds onto the ball. I don't care if he wants to score, they need his offense. Shoot as much as you want. Just be quick with it. Make a choice, and attack it full speed. It's the holding/dribbling that often times screws everything up. When I look at Schroder's approach

it's exactly how he has to play. No settling, an open three that came within the flow of the offense, and essentially everything else at the rim/in the paint

- I'll do anything for this version of Al Horford the rest of the way. Finally we saw him make shots (7-11), and a lot of it was because Al took shots in high efficiency areas. A lot of little jump hooks and shots in the paint. He made a three too, but he didn't play outside/in. This offense desperately needs to find ways to get Al going, and unlike the Sixers game it did not feel like they went away from him. His shooting as regressed big time these last few weeks, so any sign of that coming back will be pretty huge moving forward.

- The entire ending of this game was nuts

The Celts don't win games like this. They are the ones who choke. To see them end on a 10-2 run over the final 3 minutes almost felt like a dream. Getting stops, converting on the other end, not panicking or shitting their pants in huge moments. What a thrill.

I mean, they had less than a 7% chance of winning this game according to the numbers

Down 6 with 105 seconds left. So when I say the Celts caught a prayer, I am not being hyperbolic. It's exactly what happened.

The Bad

- I already mentioned it, but I'll repeat it. Not a great shooting performance from the two best players on the roster. A combined 16-43 (1-10), Tatum/Brown need to be a whole lot better there. Especially coming off the performance they both had against the Sixers, that wasn't great. It's why this team found themselves in a rock fight with an undermanned Bulls team. The Celst will only go as far as their best players take them, and when both are very off when it comes to shooting the basketball, it's hard for this team to get separation.

The annoying part was a lot of those misses were on open or wide open looks. At some point those have to start going down or things aren't going to get that much better.

- I'm confused as to why there's chatter about Bulls fans maybe wanting to trade Coby White? What's that about? Maybe I'm being impacted by the two games against the Celts, but I feel like he's exactly what you would want in a reserve guard. He's fast as shit, he can shoot, he has good size etc.

With Ayo, I mean what a homerun that pick looks to be. He's missed 1 total FGA in both games against Boston and became the first rookie ever with 21/10 on 9-10 shooting. The Celts had no answer for him whatsoever, and too often let him get the ball into the paint which allowed him to pick his poison. Bad strategy there.

- Then there's Vuc. This dude is quickly rising the list of all time Celtics Killers. Guy is having a down shooting year yet somehow this team can't defend him. He even gave Rob the business in their matchups. Prayer of the century that this shot didn't go in

- I love Mike Gorman. He's the GOAT. But he did us all very dirty at the end of that game. He had no idea what was going on because at the time nobody really did.

That clip cuts off but he then started talking about how their was a foul on that final DeRozan shot. It was madness. What a roller coaster of emotions those final seconds were. Did they win? Did they foul? We were all on edge and that only made things worse.

- There are few things this Celts team likes to do more than starting off strong only to immediately give the lead back in the second quarter. This time it was a 22 point effort on 33/0% shooting while giving up 27 points on 50% shooting from CHI. Tatum went 0-6 in the quarter, Jaylen went 0-4, and a 12 point lead got down to 1 before ending on a 5 point difference at the break. It was another quarter filled with a long offensive drought, the kind we all know this team usually does in a game they blow.

This time they didn't blow it, but that doesn't mean the 2nd quarter wasn't gross.

- We're still seeing Tatum be too careless. Another game with 4 TOs, this is still an issue that needs to be cleaned up. 

The Ugly

- You and I both know what a Celtics 4th quarter collapse looks like. So I think you would agree that we actually saw one last night, Rob just saved their ass. More TOs (3), and we saw a 6 point lead with 10 minutes left turn into a 5 point deficit with 6:45 left. Tatum went 1-4 in the quarter, there was a whole bunch of standing around, and once again there was no real defensive resistance for about 95% of it. The Bulls put up 29 points on 47/50% shooting in the quarter. They basically got whatever look they wanted, which is concerning. 

Essentially, all the bad habits that we see the Celts do to lose games, they did in that fourth quarter. They just caught a prayer. That's really the only thing that separates last night from all the other brutal late game collapses. It's not like they played all that well in the 4th. They just caught some breaks. So no, I still don't feel great about this team's ability to close out games strong. You can't rely on prayers in my opinion.

- We're also still seeing this team be extremely bad when it comes to second half defense. It's another common theme in all of the frustrating collapses we see. The Bulls finished with 63 points on 52/50% with 8 3PM in those 24 minutes. That's nowhere near good enough. Especially got a top 6 defensive team which the Celts are. They have to figure out how to carry that defense over to the second half, because their offense is simply too unreliable to mess around like that. 

The numbers back this up too. In the second half, the Celts have a 110 Drtg, which is 20th in the league. Their first half rating is 104, which is 5th. All of these collapses happen in part because the Celts stop defending at a high level for whatever reason as soon as a game moves to the 3rd and 4th quarter. To me, that's when things should be tightening up, not going the other way.

So listen, should the Celts have won this game? Probably not. Do I give a shit? Absofuckinglutely not. I just want wins, however they get em. Beating the Bulls no matter who is on the floor works for me. Whatever helps this team figure out some momentum for this pretty massive stretch in January is all that matters. Now it's time to build.