I wish I didn't have to do this, but I have to start this blog off with some bad news. It appears that my wish of the Celts having close games the rest of the way to end their season so this group could get some high pressure reps in before the playoffs is never going to happen. Why? Because this team can't stop won't stop beating the ever-living shit out of whoever they play. They can't help themselves. Sometimes it's by 42 points, last night it was by 23 points over another playoff caliber opponent on the road. While this may be concerning on some level, who gives a shit about close games if you never play a close game
I look at it like this. If your biggest problem is simply the fact that you're winning by checks notes too many points, my guess is life is pretty good. There was a time in our lives this season where we would all sell our organs for any type of win, so now that the Celts have 50 of these things I'm going to get all bent out of shape because they are too dominant? I don't think so. Maybe these teams should try being a better test. Seems like a them problem and not a Celts problem.
The 50 win mark is cool to see because of where they started obviously. From 18-21 to 50-30 is rather insane. That's where it ends though. At this point, 50 wins is basically the bare minimum for any team that wants to fancy themselves a contender. For me, it's not until you get into the 60 win range that you should start saying holy shit. You do that shit, it's different. But as someone who has been 10 toes down on the fact that the Celts are a contender since the year started, seeing them get to 50 was a nice moment.
Now the goal shifts. They saved their season, they got to 50 wins and control their own destiny since they own all the seeding tie breakers. Now it's time to back up everything we've seen over the last 3 months and that only can happen in the playoffs. Before we get there though, let's relive another ass kicking because my god are these incredible to watch.
- There are a few ways we could start today, but I wouldn't feel right going with any other choice. This is the most coveted spot in the blog and it should go to someone who really stood out. So, Al Horford, please come on down
When it comes to this roster, there's a lot of talk about what the playoff X factor will be. Is it the play of Tatum/Brown, is it when Rob returns, is it Smart's decision making, is it the bench, stuff like that.
Well, what about a healthy and fresh Al Horford? That might be the biggest X factor of them all. Last night it was his beautiful 7-7 performance, he looks 29 and fresh as hell. But take a step back and recognize what you're seeing. Since 3/1, or the last 15 games Horford has played, he's shooting 52.3/44.6% from the floor. That's right, for the last month Al is shooting 45% from three on 3.7 3PA a night, which is decent volume for his position. Do you know how much of a weapon that is? What that does for the offense when teams decide they want to make the mistake of doubling Jayson Tatum? The safety valve 3PA is such a huge weapon and if you remember Al's previous playoff runs on this team that shot was so important to their success.
This season when Al gets 2 days rest in between games he shoots 52/46% (13 games). So when we think about the postseason and Al being fresh, there's reason to be very excited. This is why if he wants to take these last 2 games off, I say enjoy the rest. Especially with Rob out. Al has had a fantastic year and I want him at his best when this shit truly matters.
- Then there's the small little fact of 10 straight games of 25+ points for Jaylen Brown. If it was easy, everyone would do it
The point totals are great, nobody could deny that, but what I'm loving most about Jaylen right now is how complete his performances are. Last night it was 7 more rebounds and 4 more assists. He's being much better about not playing with tunnel vision on drives and hit shot making right now is reaching a pretty insane level. I wouldn't fight you if you said Jaylen is playing like a #1 right now because he's doing #1 type shit on a nightly basis.
That's the thing. This level of play is consistent. If by some chance you aren't already all boned up, you might be after you see how efficient Jaylen as been over this run. He was 47/50% last night and over this 10 game run Jaylen is sitting pretty at 55.7/50% splits with 5.8 3PA a night. 55/50%!!!!! He's taking 19 FGA a night in total, so the volume is pretty damn high and it hasn't mattered. Jaylen is destroying everything in his path right now to the point where even his handle is back to being tight! I can't remember the last time we saw him fumble that shit off the dribble which is such a welcomed sight.
As we know, with Jaylen it always will come down to his approach, and let's have a look
Yup, that's the good stuff.
- The reason we're seeing so many of these blowouts is pretty simple when you boil things down to the basics. It's how they are starting games. Something insane like 7 of their first 8 baskets came off assists. They finished that first quarter with 9 assists on 12 FGM and were up 32-19 after having a lead as high as 17 points. They aren't even giving these teams a chance which is certainly a nice little twist to how they're playing.
You'll notice, this shit isn't happening because someone iso's. It's not just giving the ball to Tatum and standing around. The ball is moving, guys are passing up good looks for great looks, and they are back to defending their dicks off. That's how you consistently build big leads and more importantly, keep them.
Just look at their final totals. The Celts finished with 29 assists on 43 FGM. They are now 46-16 when finishing with more than 20 assists in a game. That's 30 games over .500!! There's a reason Ime is so hell bent on ball movement and defense
because it works. Keep it simple is all you need to do. Move the ball and defend and you literally become the most unstoppable force on the planet. That's not me talking, that's the results talking.
- I suppose that Jayson Tatum fella was pretty decent last night if you consider 16/10/8/2/1 in 30 minutes decent
Could not buy a bucket to save his life (5-18, 1-8) but once again we did not see those struggles bleed into other areas of his game or his overall effort. In fact, he stepped it up in all the surrounding areas which still allowed him to make an impact. Defensively he was solid, the way he moved the ball was about as perfect as you can get, and if you're telling me the Celts are still going to beat playoff teams by 20+ when Tatum can't shoot I'll take that every single day of the week and twice on Sundays.
I'm not totally convinced there's not something going on with that left wrist, I feel like I see him grab or mess with it every time there's a whistle so maybe that's impacting his shot a little bit. If that means he's resting these last two games, so be it. The bigger takeaway for me though is Tatum's ability to remain engaged and make an impact even when his shot isn't falling. That's growth. It wasn't always that way and that's why people would get frustrated at times. But as he's developed we're seeing it less and less which is a good thing to have in the postseason when defenses should level up.
- When I say the Celtics are a certified wagon, I am not lying. I am just explaining to you what we are watching. For example, after this latest 20+ point win, I found these stone cold, irrefutable, and undeniable facts to be pretty interesting
The Boston Celtics are tied for the most 20+ point wins in the NBA this season (17 w/ MEM). Next closest East team is MIL with 13
They are tied for the NBA lead for the most 30 point wins (6)
They lead the NBA in 40 point wins (3)
They are tied for the NBA lead in 50 point wins (1)
Tell me, is that something that a certified wagon does or doesn't do? If every team in the league does this, why are the Celtics either leading or tied for the lead in all that shit? Hm, isn't that something.
- I don't want to get ahead of myself, but you're all aware of what Derrick White is doing correct? Not just in terms of his defense which has always been solid or his ball movement which has been such a blessing to add to the rotation. I'm talking about his offense. Over his last 8 games, we're seeing White throw up 13.4/3.3/4.5 on 45.7/45.2% splits in his 30 minutes off the bench.
Read those shooting splits again.
So what's going on? I'd say to some degree this is just water finding its level. He's not going to shoot 18% forever or whatever that shit was during his brutal valley. The other part is his approach. White is so much more effective when he uses his size and athleticism to get into the paint. His floater is strong, and if he gets fouled great, he's an 87% FT shooter. Look at this shot chart from last night
That adjustment is exactly what he's doing. Now when he takes his threes he has more confidence. Touch the paint first, shoot the threes second. When White plays inside/outside it changes who he can be as a secondary scorer for that bench unit. It provides a different dynamic for defenses to worry about when a 6'4 guard is getting into the paint at will. Either someone has to rotate and he can just throw the lob, or I trust him to take that floater/layup if it's there.
I'll be fair here though. I do not expect White to shoot 45% from three for the rest of the year. But if he can be in the mid to high 30s? That makes the Celts so hard to guard because what do you do?
- This is the defense I remember. Holding a team to under 100 points, keeping them to 43/30% splits and only allowed 7 3PM. Causing 17 TOs while having 11 steals and 6 blocks.
In fact, this was another wire to wire win. There were 0 ties and 0 lead changes in 48 minutes. Hard to lose when you never even tie. Call me crazy, but I recommend they always do that simply because it seems to be an effective strategy. I'll admit, I'm just a blogger, but something feels right about the idea where if you never trail, you'll never lose.
- Admit it, you see it with Aaron Nesmith. I'm telling you, there's something there.
The defense is getting better, the hustle and energy are already elite, and now the shot is coming around. I still think there's a role for Nesmith minutes even in a playoff series, and that's especially true if he's going to shoot the ball like this.
- While I still really don't love the fact that his shot balance is so titled (7 FGA, 6 3PA) there's no denying that Smart is back to his ways of being a pass and defend first shoot second point guard. There was that little two game sample of TOR/MIA where he was asked to shoot a little more and things got dicey. In their 3 wins since, Smart has taken 9 FGA/6FGA/7FGA to go along with 5 AST/7 AST/6 AST. That's something we can all get behind.
Then you add in the DPOY shit he's doing defensively
and I would say Smart was pretty effective in his starter lowest 25 minutes.
- It really cannot be understated how awesome Theis has been filling in for Rob. It's been way better than even I expected. Another 15/6 on 50% shooting, there was probably a little revenge factor for Theis last night facing the Bulls but at the same time this is basically who he's been since Rob went down. Normally Vucevic kills this team, but Theis was solid on him all night.
It's fairly obvious why Brad made this trade, all you have to do is see how seamlessly Theis has fit in. Chemistry matters, especially when you need that player to overachieve for a while. Theis is playing out of his mind right now and while I have no clue how long he's going to be able to keep this up, it's not like he's doing anything crazy. He's just filling his role at a high level at the moment.
- It was not lost on me that every single time the Bulls maybe tried to show a little life, the Celts immediately stepped on their throats and punched back. Even when things got into single digits, there was an immediate response. There used to be a time against this very team that they would blow that huge lead and have themselves a dogfight. Last night they killed that momentum before it even became an issue.
- OK, what's the deal with these 2nd quarters and why do things seem to fall apart so frequently once we get into that frame. I suppose maybe because it's the first time we start to see more of a 2nd unit lineup, but either way it's a concern for me. Every game it seems this team has a bad 2nd quarter defensively. Last night it was 32 points on 61/50% for the Bulls. Sure, the Celts had 35 on 58/66% but I don't really care about that. I care about putting together 4 quarters of elite level defense. The point total at the end looks great, we all know that, but we didn't see 48 minutes of elite defense last night. Not when a team is putting up 32 points on those splits.
This is why I am weary of this. In a playoff game, all it takes is one bad quarter. Even more specific, one bad stretch. You go 3-5 minutes with no offense on one end and then no defense on the other, chances are that's not going to work out well for you. When Ime talks about cleaning things up, I feel like this is what he's talking about. Too often do we see this team let up a little bit in these 2nd quarters, and it's been happening for a while now.
- Tatum's three point shooting has been uhh…..not good lately. In his last 4 games he's only shooting 18.5% from three on 6.8 3PA a night. I'm not telling you this is a huge deal, I'm just telling you it hasn't been good. I'd say his three point shooting is pretty important so it's just something to monitor. We've been through these type of ruts before this season so the hope is this all gets sorted out by the times the games truly matter.
Because make no mistake about it, if Tatum shoots 18% from three in a playoff series, the Celts will have some issues.
- Allowing Tristan Thompson to have 10/6 on you while shooting 4-5 from the floor is rather embarrassing. I mean he was pulling off jump hooks and shit. I lived through a Tristan Thompson era and never saw that shit so pretty much everyone should be ashamed for letting that happen.
- I miss Javonte. Such a fun player.
- Alright, what's the deal with the FT shooting. Am I being trolled? I feel like I'm being trolled. The Celts are one of the best FT shooting teams in the NBA and I'm watching them go 14-22 from the line? 63.6%? Jaylen missing 3, Tatum missing 2, White missing 3, what the hell was that shit. Good thing this was a blowout or this might have been the end of me. FTs are easy points, these are the best FT shooters on the team and they throw up a performance like that? Gross.
The thing is, Jaylen and Tatum have been missing a bunch of FTs during this last month or so. We all want them to get to the line, but once they finally do they need to ya know….make their FTs.
- It's obvious Brad did not take my advice and institute a $500,000 fine for Ime if he continues to play his top 10 rotation guys in the fourth quarter of a 20+ point blowout. What are we doing Ime. Are you aware of where we are in the NBA calendar? I know you have PTSD about this, we ALL do, but the end of bench guys can handle a 25 point lead with 8 minutes left. I don't need any regular rotation player on the floor this close to the playoffs. You are literally begging for another Rob situation with this shit.
If you can't hold a 25 point lead with 8 minutes to go, what are we even doing. My thought was maybe everyone will be resting today so that's why Ime left them in but even still I don't like that. Stop messing around, I am begging you.
Alright, so here we go. The final 2 games of the year starting tonight in MIL. Will everyone rest? Most likely. Could everyone play? It's possible. I think it's mostly impossible to force a certain path given how bunched everyone is, so there's no sense in getting worked up over what the Celts choose. If they prefer health and rest, that's a good thing. If they want to go for the highest seed possible, that could also be a good thing once we get into the playoffs depending on how things shake out. My focus is more about how this team looks and how they are playing than who they could play.
Because right now I'm seeing a team that can run through anyone. Now let's just keep that going please.