St. Patrick's Day Collection | T-Shirts, Hoodies, Crewnecks, Hats, FlagsSHOP NOW

The Celtics Are Kicking Ass And Taking Names Right Now And It Is Glorious

Brian Sevald. Getty Images.

4 in a row. 6 of their last 7. 11 of their last 15. Since December 31st, the Celtics have 13 wins. That is the 2nd most in the entire league. They also happen to own the league's best defense and net rating over this span. Pretty good! I have to wonder, are we seeing it again? What's it? That forward progress stuff. You have to forgive me, I'm blogging this in a bit of uncharted waters at the moment. You see, I've watched this team play 54 games in the 2021-22 season. I have never seen them win 4 games in a row. Not once. Not even one good week and then going back to being inconsistent and unpredictable. So, by that very definition, we have to be heading in the right direction here. To me that says progress. Nobody runs before they learn how to walk right? 

As anyone with eyes will tell you, this Pistons are what we in the biz call….not good. Things are even worse when they don't have their best player in Cade Cunningham. But what I can also tell you is that I do not give a shiiiittttttttttttt. Do not care one bit. Everyone else in the East got to start the year feasting on the Pistons of the world, now it's just the Celts turn in their schedule. I'll remind you, the Bucks (30th toughest), the Bulls (29th), The Sixers (26th), and the Heat (25th), haven't exactly had the hardest schedules to date. You think that impacts records? Well, given the Celts current stretch, I think we can assume that playing the easier teams can positively impact your record! 

But speaking for me? And the team I care about? I'm just happy they did what we all asked them to do following a big win against the Hornets. Don't have an immediate letdown. We'll see if they can follow that up and take care of things tomorrow as well, but the first game off a big win against a bad team is always one every Celtics fan is wary of. The same old two steps forward, one step back bullshit that has haunted our lives for far too long. It's what has really prevented them from ever putting together a 4 game win streak at any earlier point of the season. Last night we saw them not play with their food and were ready to go from the jump. Certainly not perfect, but when the regulars were playing, this game was a breeze. As it should be. What do people say about good teams? When they play the bottom, they handle their business. Good teams beat up on bad teams. For a long time, or basically all season, the Celts have struggled in this area and it's what has limited their ceiling. Can't be a good team if you keep losing to under .500 teams. Especially if you want to get out of then play in. 

So it was nice to see the Celts stayed locked in and showed some actual growth. Just something to keep in the back of your mind as we begin.

The Good 

- In games like these, your hope is usually that your best players will take advantage early, get things out of reach quickly, and then get put on ice in the fourth quarter. Essentially, that's exactly what we got, specially with Jayson Tatum's performance. He didn't really do much in that first half if we're being honest. He had the same amount of FGM (2) as TOs (2), only had 1 assist, and finished with 5 points. Then former Celts assistant Jerome Allen talked some shit

and well….

Giphy Images.

A third quarter explosion. A version of Tatum that we all know exists and when it shows up all you can do is become giddy with excitement. You know you're about to watch a dude completely take over a game and virtually end things by himself. That's exactly what that third quarter was. 

19 points, 4 rebounds, 7-13 (3-6) splits, Tatum nearly outscored the entire Pistons roster (25) by himself. He played all 12 minutes, didn't turn the ball over, and also went 2-3 from the line. It was a complete takeover. Think of how it started too, with Tatum attacking the rim and not settling. He had the initial layup, then the big time drive and dunk. As soon as he hit that first side step three my spidey senses started tingling. That's a shot he hasn't really made this year and he usually nails when he's about to get into a shooting groove. It's like his mini heat check 3PA. He hit that contested three right as the shot clock was winding down and we were off to the races. Now he's starting to feel locked in, next came the pullup three from the top of the key. Bang. Most predictable make of all time. Again, he had just hit the side step. I had no doubt in my mind that ball was going in when it left his hand. I've seen this movie before. Then came the fastbreak two handed dunk and another scream. By now you've for sure lost your mind watching this all unfold. It was a wave of aggressive Tatum we often dream about seeing.

This was immediately confirmed with his next bucket being an aggressive drive to the rim for an AND1 foul. Can we stop for a minute and mention how much better both Jaylen and Jayson have gotten at finishing through contact this year? Legit difference. Then to cap it off? How about a nice corner three that didn't even grace the rim. A chef's kiss of an ending to an emphatic 19 point quarter. I will go as far as to say this is exactly how Jayson Tatum needs to play. If he does, it changes a lot about how this team looks. 

- Another game, another spectacular two way performance from Marcus Smart. Another game where he once again fully accepts and thrives in his role while playing a very important part in a victory. That's a sentence you've certainly read before and I hate to break it to you but you're going to keep on reading it. 

Offensively, he led the team with 6 assists, committing just 1 TO. I know I'm not a huge math guy, I cheated and put all my formulas in my TI-86 like a normal person, but I feel like a 6:1 assist to turnover ratio is pretty good and something you would want from a primary playmaker. I'd also say it's a valuable weapon to have that same primary playmaker be able to do something like this

This wasn't a game where Smart's rather insane shooting efficiency showed his value. He only had 6 points, but did shoot 3-5 from the floor. He made his impact passing and defending. First there was the play where he turned that for sure turnover into a Grant three, then the time he singlehandedly stopped a fastbreak and caused the TO which led to a Rob dunk. Impact everywhere you look in all the ways you want to see

But the big takeaway really has nothing to do with the Pistons. The big takeaway is we are continuing to see Smart play the role we all want him to play when everyone is back and active. When he doesn't have to shoot more because maybe Tatum or Brown are out. We're seeing Ime not play him with Dennis so he doesn't play so much off ball and can instead have the ball in his hands and be a point guard, creating for others and not shooting. When he does shoot, he's taking good open threes or making sure he touches the paint. That's perfect. Half of the issue was someone like Dennis passing Smart the ball at the end of the shock clock where he had to hoist a three. Now that they really aren't sharing the floor together, that shit has been nowhere to be seen since Smart came back on 1/23. 

One of the big questions about this year was could Smart assume this role and could the team thrive with him as the starting point guard. We've seen this group play together a total of 19 times. They are 13-6 with a 116 Ortg / 91 Drtg / +24 net rating / 62.6% AST%. All signs are pointing to yes, it does work. Now the wins are following and beginning to match the production. Those are all encouraging signs.

- Watching what Rob does on a nightly basis is starting to get a little comical. I'm talking about what we are seeing is happening every single game. Rob touches the floor, insanely cool shit immediately follows

11/11/4/5 on 5-5 shooting and a team best +17 in his 31 minutes. Poor guy didn't record a steal, but I suppose the 5 blocks more than makes up for it. Much like everyone else on the roster, this is a game you expect Rob to dominate simply due to the talent difference. So it's nice to see that those things actually happened. I'd say one of the best parts of Rob's season and what has me so hopeful about his future is the consistency. It's not like we get a performance like this a few times a month. It's every game Rob plays. The impact he makes on both ends of the floor cannot be overlooked. Everything he does in terms of ball movement, rim running, OREBs, and screens offensively is so crucial to this team finding success on that end. Then defensively, he's easily a top 5 shot blocker in the league, his lateral quickness is insane for a big which means he basically can guard all 5 positions, and he's getting better and better at rotations and timing his weakside defense. 

Best of all? Rob clearly gets it

- I'm starting to really like what I'm seeing from Al over these last few weeks. Last night was pretty ideal in my opinion. Good defense, only played 19 minutes and still had 10 rebounds and he was 2-2 from the floor. Love that they kept his minutes down and love that he was productive in his role during his stints. This team getting the normal Al back and not the one who shoots like 20% from three would be a big time development. Making sure you have blowouts like this where you can give Al extra rest is always a nice bonus to have. Keep him fresh for the stretch run and let's go.

- I'll say this, the normal bench rotation guys were all good in this game. Everyone from Dennis to JRich to Grant were exactly what you want from your second unit. They finished with a combined 29 points and a combined +40. JRich made his threes and got to the line, Dennis played with some good pace and actually attacked the rim, and Grant did shit like this

On a night where everyone was doing a good job of filling their role, I would say those three off the bench was more of the same in that regard. 

- I really liked the approach early in this game with posting up Jaylen. We don't usually see that all too often to start games, but I'm into it. I trust his jumper, he has the size and strength to body a defender if necessary, and I'm all for getting Jaylen as many looks close to the rim as possible. It worked too, he got off to a great start with 10 points on 4-7 shooting in the first quarter. Can't say I'm surprised, Jaylen is the best first quarter player on the roster. You can look that up. 

The issue unfortunately is they went away from him a little bit the rest of the way, and he finished the game just 1-8 the rest of the way. That was annoying. But the early post ups? I would like to order more of those please and thank you. Those are good.

- Part of you wants to be proud of the overall defensive effort holding a team to 93 points on 32/38% shooting, but you also are taking in that information with a GIGANTIC grain of salt given who was shooting the basketball. Allowing just 31 points in a half is pretty insane no matter who it comes against, but there's obviously a difference in doing it against the Pistons compared to like…any other NBA team you want to choose. 

But, that good defense is what helped ensure thre was never a lead change or a tie. A wire to wire win is always going to end up in this section.

The Bad

- Even if things were never really in jeopardy, I would exactly say this was the best offensive performance we've ever seen. I mean the Celts did only score 18 points in the second quarter. Yes, technically they extended their lead to 15 by the end of it, but 18 points on 41/0% splits with Tatum and Brown going 0-5 is not what I would call good. It's not like we didn't see the ball stick at times in certain lineups where suddenly it felt like it had been years since the Celts scored. 

As a team, they shot just 9-28 from three, which is 32.1%. You play any other team than DET and shoot 32% from three, well we know what happens when this team is under the 34% threshold. 

As a team they only had 24 assists, and it felt like too often we saw them play without pace and not really do much. Dribble around, maybe pass it back and forth along the perimeter and then hope someone can do something in isolation or off a high ball screen at the end of the clock. That's not the way. That's what we should be trying to avoid. 

- Feels like Tatum and Brown are getting a quick tech whistle. That tells me officials are probably tired of hearing from them. You could argue maybe the refs should get calls right so they wouldn't have to complain, but this is important moving forward. If they are going to have a quick whistle, they need to realize that and adjust. Whatever they are doing is clearly not working. It's not really buying them calls or anything. Let Ime do it.

- Going 19-25 from the FT bothers me. What, it does. I know it's a me problem. I know it had zero impact on the result. But this is the 2nd best FT shooting team in the league at over 80%. Stop missing so many FTs lately, shit is annoying. They are free points.

The Ugly

- If you watched this game, you know what's going here. The last 4 minutes of the 4th quarter, or basically when Ime put in all the kids. My fucking god was it bad. How else do you describe a 22 point lead with 4 minutes left (96-74), sub in the end of bench guys like Pritchard, Nesmith, Enes, and Bruno and then the next thing you know it's a 10 point game with 90 seconds left. I mean holy shit was that bad. Nesmith looked like he never played basketball before, Pritchard for some reason couldn't break a press, Romeo was airballing FTs, they literally went nearly 3 minutes without scoring. 

As a team, the Celts lost the 4th quarter 37-24. They shot 27/25% and had more TOs (6) than FGM (5). Even in blowouts, they still can't help themselves! They have to shit their pants in the fourth quarter! It's remarkable. I can't even think of how to explain it other than this team has a 4th quarter problem. Doesn't matter who it comes against, doesn't matter the score, this team cannot play basketball in the last 12 minutes. It's bizarre. The consistency in which they find themselves being so pathetic in the fourth is truly something to be studied by the best minds in basketball. How can a team suck so bad in this random moment? Even in a game where there isn't any pressure and your only goal is "just don't fuck it up"? They immediately fuck it up! 

It's bullshit that as a fan I have to sweat a 22 point lead against one of the worst teams in the NBA with 4 minutes left. That cannot be how we are forced to live. We don't ask for much, I feel like being able to trust a 22 point lead with 4 minutes to go against a team with 19 wins should be doable. Ime is never going to play any of these kids again and who could blame him.

Now, go finish the deal against Orlando. Let's build even more momentum before the gigantic head to head matchup against the reeling Nets on Tuesday. We asked this team to show us some real change, and that is what they are doing. Please just keep it up.