And just like that, the winning streak will end at 9. Before we dive into what ultimately was a very annoying loss to a bad team, first let us all pay our respects to what was a run that not only was awesome to watch, it basically saved the Celtics season
Good night sweet prince. RIPIP
Alas, at some point the Celtics were going to lose a basketball game. I hate to break it to you, but they weren't going to win 30 games in a row. Losing by a single point in frustrating fashion is usually how these things go. Just look at the Raptors, their 8 game streak broke with a 1 point loss, the Suns second long streak of 1 games (jesus) ended against a team under .500., the Grizzlies 11 game streak ended with a 27 point blowout. There's really no good way for a streak to end. If you're someone that now thinks everything you've watched over the last 6 weeks is suddenly undone because of one loss, well that's a you problem. I get it, you've only seen 6 losses in 2022 prior to last night so things have been hard for you.
Let's be very clear about something though. This was a bad loss. A very bad loss if you want my honest opinion,, It sucks to not be heading into the break on a 10 game winning streak all because you couldn't beat the worst team in basketball at home. Not only that, but the reason you couldn't beat them is because you once again collapsed down the stretch. Just yesterday while publicly rebuking 538's claim that the Celts have the best chance at a title, I said this
Their flaws still exist, even if they haven't shown themselves over these last few weeks.
Last night they did. It's no biggie in the grand scheme of things, it just leaves you fucking annoyed. Even if this was a weird night across the league last night where the 20 win Pacers won, the 25 win Blazers went into Memphis and beat the Grizzlies, the Lakers without AD beat the Jazz etc, with the Celts this one is a little different because of their previous issues against shitty teams. Those teams can afford a loss here and there to a bad team because they for the most part have taken care of business in that department this season. The Celts haven't. They are now 20-14 against teams under .500 which is by far the most of any top 10 seed in the East. In fact, no team in the top 10 seeds from either conference has 14 losses to under .500 teams. That's also not great.
And while it's true that the Pistons have also beaten TOR (2x), MIA, MIL, UTA, and CLE, it still does not excuse this team for falling into the most classic trap game of all time. Everyone could see it coming, so it's annoying the Celts weren't able to avoid it. This just goes to show that in the NBA, anyone can get got on any given night. It's why you have to show up consistently on both ends if you want prolonged success. The talent is too good. The Celts weren't as locked in as we've seen in the previous 9 games and they ultimately paid the price. That's on them, but also give credit to the Pistons for having one of the better performances of their season. They knew they could play the spoiler role heading into the break and that's exactly what they did.
Does it suck this is how we enter the break? Of course. Shit is very annoying. But I think if you asked pretty much every single Celtics fan if they would take a 9-1 run to close out the first half and head into the All Star break, every single one says yes. That's what they did, now it's about getting healthy and making sure this doesn't balloon. As always, before we can truly look ahead, we must first relive what was the first frustrating loss in a very long time,
- This wasn't a case of everyone on the roster not showing up and everyone laying an embarrassing egg. I think that's what makes it more frustrating to me. We had some legit performances last night that ultimately were wasted. I hate doing that shit. We can start with Jaylen, who was for sure locked in right from the opening tip
Coming off his huge 29/8/3 on 10-17 (5-7) performance against the Sixers, Jaylen backed that up with a nice little 31/2/6 on 12-21 (3-6) in his 37 minutes last night. I thought he was aggressive, his three point shooting is some kind of locked in right now, and the majority of his looks were in the paint and at the rim. It's an approach we should all want to see
Now he obviously wasn't perfect (you'll see why later), but I would not put this game in the category of the Celts two best players not showing up. Jaylen did. I feel confident in saying if this is the version of Jaylen this team continues to get, they'll be fine. It's nice to see he's snapping out of his little mini funk we watched during the DEN/ATL wins when Jaylen went a combined 10-33 (2-12). My guess is he'll come back from the break rested and healthy and ready to roll. That's a pretty important piece.
- It really really really bothers me when this team wastes awesome Al Horford performances. Last night might have been one of the best games we've seen Al play on the offensive end, and it ultimately was all for nothing
I think there's something to be said about the plan to keep Al's minutes low so he can stay fresh. Look at what a fresh Al can do! This is early season Al Horford, you remember him right? Pre-Covid Al was putting up 12/8/3.5 shooting 45% from the floor and was making 1.3 3PM a night. With him, the biggest thing is his 3 point shooting getting back to where it usually lives. Well, over the last 13 games Al is shooting 38% from deep making 1.3 3PM a night. Like I said, we're seeing early season Al. The man was pretty massive offensively last night, finishing 8-10 from the floor and making what at the time felt like it could have been the game winner from the corner in the closing seconds.
You add in what he did as a facilitator in the offense, and I think you'll agree that this was the best Al has looked maybe all season. He's only had two other games all year scoring more points and one was early season Al's 20 in that early loss to CHI and the other 21 against UTA. For him to also shoot 80/66% and come up with clutch baskets, man it sucks to waste it.
- I have seen enough to declare that Danny Ainge nailed the Grant Williams pick at #22. Sorry if this offends.
I know everyone loves to scream about this idea that Ainge can't draft and that he blew his end of first round picks, but I dunno, Rob seems pretty good. With Grant, look at what he is doing and developing into. The three point shooting isn't just some random hot streak, this is now who Grant is. His form looks great, he's taking these threes with great confidence, and we're even starting to see him have the ability to attack closeouts off the dribble to either score or find someone on the weakside for a three. It's incredible. That is most certainly not something we saw Grant do with confidence last season. It's real development right in front of our eyes.
When we got to the fourth last night, it was Grant who had the guts to take and make gigantic high pressure shots. He finished with 9 points on 3-4 (3-3) shooting in his 12 minutes. That tied for the team lead. He's showing us that his skillset is maybe a little broader than just taking corner threes, which he is elite at. I'd say that's a pretty important development. I think we're now at the point where we can trust Grant to be on the floor in big moments as a stretch four, which is quite the change of where we were at this time last year. Just goes to show maybe don't write off young players careers in their first two seasons. Something to keep in mind with some other young guys currently on the roster.
- It's hard to find a place to put Derrick White. There were things I thought he did really well like move the ball (6 assists), play decent defense, force turnovers either through drawing big charges or coming up with a huge steal late. There are also things I didn't love like his 3-10 (1-6) shooting or his late game turnover at the worst possible time. It was a very Marcus Smart type of performance
36 minutes and 9/6/6/3/2 on 3-10
with some good defensive moments is pretty much the Smart blueprint. So is the missing big time fourth quarter threes. Overall, I'd say he was good, but there were definitely frustrating moments. When have we said that before?
- I really liked the energy we saw from Nesmith in his 22 minutes In fact, he was a team best +11 in his time on the floor. While it was nice to see him hit a three and that offensive putback was massive in the fourth, it's his on ball defense that stood out to me. He did a great job staying with guys like Cade off the dribble and contesting without fouling. If there's a path to playing time for Aaron, it's on the defensive end. Ime will play him if he can trust him on that end. The shooting will just be a bonus if it comes around. Much like Grant, we're seeing Nesmith be much more comfortable putting the ball on the ground and attacking closeouts, which will only grow as his confidence grows.
- It's not often we see the Celts shoot 54/40%, have 29 assists, and still lose. I mean those are all the magic numbers they usually hit and win. In fact, they were 7-1 heading into last night when they have at least 29 assists in a game. The ball was moving for about 95% of it with four players having at least 5 assists. That's good. That tells us the ball was moving and guys were being unselfish, two things that generally lead to winning.
The bad news is it stopped at the most important time, but we'll talk about that in a bit.
- So how do you score 111 points, have good splits and great assist numbers and still lose? For me, it starts in two places. The first, is turnovers. The easiest way to give a bad team confidence and to prevent separation is turning the ball over. The Celts had 15 last night which led to 20 Pistons points. Do we think that might have had an impact? Tatum alone had 7 which I'm pretty sure was actually closer to 9. That my friends, is disgusting. As we know, when this team and their best player are careless with the ball, they get burned. That's part one.
The second part is another thing you simply cannot do against a bad team, which is give up offensive rebounds. This is where they clearly missed Rob on the defensive glass, but it also shows how bad the collective effort was from everyone who played. Grant had a total of 3 rebounds, Jaylen had just 2. Theis off the bench in 15 minutes only had 3. Meanwhile, the Pistons had 18 OREB which led to a 17-2 difference in 2nd chance points. So just add it up. They had 37 points off turnovers and 2nd chance points. That's 33% of their offensive output coming from things that are entirely avoidable.
So when people talk about the Celts not being ready for this game or whatever, this is what they are talking about. Taking care of the ball and rebounding are about focus and energy. When you don't bring it and your opponent does, you end up losing a game you shouldn't. Pretty simple.
- What do I always say when it comes to this team. People can scream about the offense all they want, but at the end of the day, if this team doesn't defend, nothing else really matters. This game is a perfect example of that. There was no offensive issue last night. Again, they scored 111 and shot 54/40%. The issue was on the other end. For the first time in like two months, this team was mostly trash defensively. Call it fatigue, call it looking ahead, call it whatever you want. I'll call it terrible defense.
They gave up 112 points, they allowed the Pistons to shoot 46/53% and make 16 3PM and as the game went on, the worse they got. Their second half defense looked like all of the other frustrating losses we've seen. It was terrible
In the fourth quarter alone, they allowed 28 points on 54/57% splits. I'm sorry, but that is in no way good enough. Especially for a team that has been absolutely nails defensively for the last two months.
You might say well Greenie, they were missing Smart and Rob. OK, the same was true against the Sixers and they didn't break 90. This team is capable of playing good defense even without those two. Last night they didn't and it cost them.
- When you are trying to extend a winning streak, the small details matter. One mental mistake here or there can ultimately be what ends it. As I think of everything that went on last night in that regard, one play sticks out.
Remember the other day when I tweeted out two clips from the Sixers game of 50/50 balls breaking the Celts way? When you are playing the right way, that tends to happen. It's how basketball works. When you aren't, they don't. This sequence is a perfect example of that. I want you to hit play on that clip and do nothing but watch Jaylen. He picked a pretty terrible time to turn his head and lose his man. That simply cannot happen in this situation. It's why many get frustrated with Jaylen's off ball defense. He gets caught way too often. You can see as soon as Stewart goes into his move, Jaylen loses sight of his man and before anyone can realize it, Bey is there for the easy putback. That's just really bad.
- This was rather unfortunate
- I'll admit, I have enjoyed the privilege of being able to skip this section these last few weeks. Deep down I hoped I'd never have to return but here we are. We may as well start out with Tatum. I know he came on late to same degree, but this was not a great game for him. I mentioned the 7 TOs, but it was more than that. Everything about his night reeked of early season Jayson. When he's careless with the ball like this, the Celts almost always lose, and when he compounds it with an unserious approach, things get even worse.
When things got tight and it was time to come through, Tatum & company reverted back to bad habits. You know what I'm talking about, so let's get into it.
- I'd say this collapse was shocking, but we've seen this exact blueprint of a collapse a few times before. Let me know if these sound familiar to you. The Celtics find themselves leading by 7 with 4:59 left. They go on to score just 2 more points the rest of the way and lose to a 5-13 team in SA. Here was their final shot chart over those minutes
a 4/10 finish, but at least things were in the paint.
Now let me ask if you remember another situation. The Celtics find themselves up 7 points with 4:14 left at home against the Sixers. They score just 6 points the rest of the way and lose to a .500 team at the time. Here is their shot chart over that span
A 3/8 finish, with no real ball movement down the stretch.
Which brings us to last night, The Celtics found themselves up 8 points with 4:25 left. They would go on to score just 5 more points the rest of the way, ending the game on a 14-5 Pistons run. Let's have a look at their shot chart
2-7 shooting, pretty much nothing in the paint, and absolutely no ball movement. It was the ultimate collapse blueprint. Do you see a common theme there? Now let's go to the tape. What made this so frustrating is up until 4:25, the Celts were aggressive! They moved the ball! Things were working. But then we saw them get back to their bad habits at the worst time. Possessions like this
are not the move. Careless turnovers by Horford and White in the closing moments were brutal. Then came the prayer 3PM from the Pistons which is what happens when you play like assholes. It could be RJ Barrett at the end of the game or Saddiq Bey at the end of the shot clock. We've seen it time and time again. For whatever reason, the Celts stopped attacking switches. Tatum had been dominating Corey Joseph this quarter, but they stopped hunting that matchup. Bad decision in hindsight.
Then, when it came time for either Jaylen or Tatum to come through in a big spot, this is what we got
With Tatum's, it did seem like he could have taken another step or two into the paint, but he decided for the pull up. It was a clean look, he just missed it. The confusing part is the fact that he had been so aggressive up until the 4:25 mark, and then he just sort of….stopped. That gave me early season PTSD. In fact, the entire 4:25 did, because I've seen this collapse before. Way too many times if we're being honest.
It's that collapse that has everyone annoyed this morning and rightfully so. This team had been so much better at closing out games these last few weeks, entering the break with a fourth quarter collapse is just so annoying. What it does is remind this team that regardless of how many games they've won in a row, if they don't play the right way for a full 48 minutes, these things can still happen and it's no one's fault but their own.
So now we rest for a week. It's going to be a long 7 days if you ask me. I miss them already. While I am happy everyone has a break to get healthy, given how last night ended I do wish they were playing again tomorrow or something. We haven't had this feeling often in 2022 and I have to admit, I do not care for it one bit.