What a difference a few days make. The last time I sat down to write one of these I was experiencing immense pain and sadness. Now? About 48 hours later?
I feel incredible. Filled to my eyeballs with joy if we're being honest. I suppose that's what happens when you come back after accomplishing your mission and regaining homecourt advantage with 2 of the final 3 games at home. The Celts didn't ride a plane back to Boston after their Game 4 win, they rode the momentum and that will continue right into Wednesday night's Game 5. NBA history will tell you the winner of Game 5 in a 2-2 series basically always goes on to win the series so yeah, it's a pretty big deal. This is why you played for homecourt in the first place, so you could have these huge games (Game 5 and maybe Game 7) in your own building. The Celts know the Bucks can win on the road considering they've already done it this series, so I expect them to be ready.
What I am trying very hard to do and suggest you do the same is don't let yourself think about how this series should be 3-1. That happened to me immediately after the Celts win last night and I forced myself to snap out of it. Stay in the moment. We cannot change the past but we can focus on the future. The Celts may be 2-2, but they are in the driver's seat again of this series and now have every opportunity to put themselves in a great position to close this thing out. You should never consider the Bucks dead and buried until they are actually dead and buried though. That's important. You don't win a series because you got a 2nd win and regained homecourt. Unfortunately, that's not how things work. We've seen what the Bucks are capable of once a team hits 2 wins against them. This shit is not over by a LONG SHOT and that's OK. The Celts know they can beat this team and that's all that matters.
We have a lot to get to so I won't delay things any further. What a fucking win. What a fucking team. Let's talk about it.
- May I present to you the easiest no brainer in the history of no brainers. As you know, this top spot in the blog is one of if not the most coveted achievement in all of basketball. Players campaign every night to be here. Agents send me gift baskets (they don't, but if they want to my DMs are open) to try and get their guy in here to kick us off. Well if you have any question as to who it would be after last night, I don't know what game you watched. Bow down to Playoff Al folks, the baddest motherfucker of them all
After we all witnessed the Celts waste an incredible Playoff Al performance in Game 3, I think a lot of that frustration was due to the fact that we all thought that was the best version of Al we would ever see. I hate wasted elite Playoff Al performances, it's one of the most infuriating things a team can do. Well, it looks like we're all a bunch of fucking idiots because Playoff Al is just getting started. Did Al Horford save the Celtics season last night? Many people are saying yes. Should he be offered another max contract maybe even a lifetime contract? Those same people are also saying yes. The box score numbers are flat out insane. A cool 78/71% splits with 5 3PM including a perfect 6-6 for 16 points in the fourth quarter, we've never seen anything like this from Al because I'm pretty sure he's never done anything like this before. What a time to have the game of your life in my opinion. After the game Horford talked about how this play
is what flipped a switch for him.
and the rest was history. We all know came next. Al continued to hit every shot he took and then when the opportunity came to get his revenge on Giannis, Al was ready
I have never seen Al Horford react like that in my entire life and I have watched a lot of Al Horford play basketball. It was like he morphed into KG immediately after dunking on Giannis. If we're being honest I didn't know Al had that type of fire in him. It just goes to show you how much this means to him and how crazy competitive Game 4 was.
Defensively, Horford has completely put Giannis in jail….at age 35. At this point, it's not an accident or coincidence. Horford is playing the best basketball of his career just like he always seems to do once we get to this time of year. Playoff Al is a real thing and god damn is it beautiful. I thought he was great at exploiting the little midrange zone to avoid the Bucks rim protection, and then as long as the Bucks are giving Al wide open threes, I want him taking those with confidence. I said all season that the ceiling of this team relies on if Al can make those safety valve threes, and he is now shooting 48.2% from three on 7.0 3PA through 4 games. That is insane. This is coming off his 65% from three on 3.8 3PA against the Nets so yeah I think it's fair to say he's pretty locked in right now.
- Just listen to how everyone talk about him. They all love and trust Al and it is beautiful to see
You know when Gorman hops on Twitter to talk about it….this is a big deal
- We need to talk about that fourth quarter. I'm still not even sure how that actually happened. I can't ever remember seeing a performance like that from this team in that quarter. For a huge chunk of the year we had to deal with this team being one of the worst fourth quarter teams in the history of basketball. So many collapses, so many blown games, the knock used to be just keep things close in the fourth and the Celts will puke on themselves. To think we went from that reality to a situation where the Celtics do this
is almost too much to comprehend. If we're being honest I didn't even realize this was happening in real time, I was more focused on the score and getting stops that I didn't realize the Celts went basically an entire quarter without missing a shot. No, something like this is not sustainable so don't ask, but who cares. When they needed it, the Celts closed. This is now the second straight game they've been dominant in the 4th quarter so maybe this is just a thing now? The Bucks clearly blow their load in the 3rd and end up having nothing left for when it matters most. Fine by me, I don't give a shit. If you're telling me I can now trust this Celtics team in the fourth quarter on the road in a huge playoff game with their season on the line well then I'll tell you there's nothing they can't do.
I just love everything about what that picture says. The 84/80/100% splits, the 1 TO, only 5 of their 19 FGA being 3PA, the 7-7 from the line, the 43 points, it's all better than any of us could have asked for. It was by far their best quarter in any game this entire season, and it came when they needed it most. If this doesn't show you that this team is different from what we saw early in the year, I'm not sure what will.
- It was very unlikely that Jayson Tatum was going to have two stinkers in a row. That shit hasn't really happened since early November, and even though he got off to a rough start in Game 4, when it came time to nut up and be that star player, Tatum responded
Much like Al, Tatum was massive in the final frame. He had 10 straight points during a stretch where the Celts were finally able to open things up a little bit and the Bucks never really threatened again. The shooting numbers are gross, just 11-24 (3-10) but the biggest difference between the shitty shooting in Game 4 compared to the shitty shooting in Game 3 was the fact that Tatum was still very engaged last night. He finished with a team high 13 rebounds and also had 5 assists to go along with just 2 TOs. After his slow start, Tatum was 8-16 from the floor in the second half and led all Celtics with 21 points so it was clear he figured things out.
As long as the Bucks are going to play George Hill, that is a matchup I need Tatum to continue to hunt. Especially if it happens in the fourth quarter like it did last night. There is no chance that Hill comes close to staying in front of Tatum and you could tell everything about Tatum's body language changed once he could hunt that matchup. On the defensive end, Tatum was also nails. Jrue Holiday had 0 points on 18 possessions against Tatum, Wes Matthews had 0 in 16 possessions, and Pat Connaughton had 0 in 10. While Al did most of the heavy lifting in this game, when it came time for the Celts best player to wake up and close the deal, that's exactly what Tatum did on both ends.
- It's not complicated really. If you take care of the ball, move the ball, rebound, and defend at a high level the Celts are nearly unbeatable. Last night's numbers back that up, They finished with just 11 TOs (4 in the second half), they figured out how to protect their glass and allowed just 3 second half OREB, they finished with 25 assists and the Bucks shot 41/33% and barely got over 100.
This entire series really has come down to whether or not the Celtics can hold onto the ball. Game 1 saw 18 TOs and a loss. Game 3 had 7 TOs in the 3rd quarter which changed the momentum and resulted in a loss. Early last night when they were careless with the ball the Bucks built their lead. When the Celts cut that shit out, they crush this team. The biggest issue is live ball turnovers, and once the Celts cut those out the Bucks basically couldn't score.
- There is a reason we love and trust now and forever. This is what that looks like
Let me ask you something. How many other teams in the NBA see their point guard matched up with Giannis with no help and actually feel like they have the advantage? I'm going to go ahead and say zero. Remember, there are real life people out there with real life takes that Marcus Smart was not a worthy DPOY. Those poor idiots just can't help themselves, and that's OK. They are stuck in their ways and can't admit when they are wrong. Meanwhile, all Smart continues to do is fulfill his role to near perfection. On the offensive end, he only took 13 FGA with only 3 of them being 3PA. He had 8 assists and when the time came in the fourth to provide efficient offense, he was great at using his size to get around the rim. I saw a whole bunch of possessions against Jrue Holiday in that frame who I'm told is the better perimeter defender. Funny how that worked out huh?
Smart was brutal in Game 3 so him bouncing back like this was huge for obvious reasons. When they get this level of Marcus Smart, when he's making the right decisions and then making huge DPOY plays on the other end, he shows us why he is the perfect two way point guard for this team.
- I love how Jaylen Brown refuses to take any shit. When Giannis had this reckless play on Jaylen's dunk late in the 4th, he clearly was upset about it and went right at Giannis
Giannis keeps trying shit with players in the air yet nobody really talks about it. Why is that? If anyone did this shit to him people would lose their minds. He's done it twice already in this series and obviously has a past of doing shit like that. After this play where Jaylen clearly didn't like what Giannis did, he pulled this weird move
I LOVE how Jaylen reacted. There's no time to be buddy buddy right now. Not after you just tried to pull some shit. That's the mentality we all want this team to have and Jaylen is leading the charge. Remember, Jaylen had been eating elbows from Giannis with his face all night, including this play that was called a foul on Jaylen
so it's not unrealistic to think Jaylen is sick of Giannis' shit.
- I heard a lot of chatter in recent days about how the Derrick White trade was a disaster. I mostly attribute that to people who heard it on talk radio from people who don't know what the fuck they are talking about and decided to run with this narrative that he's been bad this postseason and the trade was a disaster. Uhhhh, what is everyone watching
So far in this series, Derrick White is a +41 and he is currently shooting 41.7% from three through 4 games. He's averaging 8.8/3.5/2.3 with great defense in his 24 minutes a night which is basically exactly what this team needs. So much is made about his shooting, well over the last two games he's shooting 7-12 (3-6) from the floor and hasn't turned it over a single time. Maybe Brad and Ime knew what they were doing and hot take artists who just like to be negative actually don't know what they're talking about? Imagine that!
People saw his 0-6 (0-4) Game 2 (a Celtics win where he was one of the most impactful players) and think this guy sucks. Hey morons, the Celts have won both games in which we've seen Derrick White on the floor to close out games. That seems good.
To anyone who actually watches these games, it's clear why Brad wanted this dude on the roster. The way he fits in with what they want to do on both ends is so important, and who knows what happens if White doesn't make that corner three to cut the lead to 7 entering the fourth. What a huge shot that was. His ability to play on ball/off ball, his switchability, his willingness as a passer, it's all a big part of what makes this team successful. He certainly looks like a more confident player right now and that couldn't happen at a more important time.
- There's something to be said about this team's resiliency. The way they fought back in both Games 3 and 4 on the road tells us a lot about what their makeup is. They don't quit….ever. I thought it was huge that they never really let the lead balloon and kept it around 11, and I was happy to see as a group they did not lose their mental composure when things started to get a little dicey in that 3rd quarter. That's the type of shit that championship teams do and the Celts will have to do moving forward if they want to advance.
Naturally, for the second straight game, there was some fuckery from Tony Brothers & Co. I thought the Celts were much better at not complaining about fouls instead of getting back, and they didn't let that bullshit throw them off their game. Of all the things we saw last night, that might end up being the most important moving forward.
- He's been so good that I'm open to giving him a pass for this, but Grant was brutal in this game. He looked way more like Year 2 Grant than Year 3 Grant who dominates. It started early with a ton of missed bunnies and some very boneheaded turnovers, his defense wasn't all that great and the outside shot has definitely regressed these last two games (1-5 last night). It's not often you see Grant with a team worst -17, and that's probably the reason we only saw him play 24 minutes. The Celts may have survived an off night from Grant, but this cannot become a trend. At the very minimum I need Grant to make his wide open threes and then not carelessly throw the ball away. That's it. I know he's taking a beating trying to guard Giannis so I give him some slack, but not with the boneheaded turnovers. Possessions against this Bucks team are so important that you cannot expect to survive if you keep passing the ball to the other team.
- Which is exactly what this team did to start this game. Honestly, I'm not sure it's possible to start a game worse than what we witnessed. They scored just 18 points, shot 36/20%, didn't take a FTA, had 5 TOs and 5 fouls while also allowing 6 OREB. They can't keep digging themselves these early holes and we saw the same type of start in Game 3. It really comes down to turnovers, but I didn't exactly love the shot profile either. 10 of their first 22 FGA were threes, and they started 2-10. That's tough.
- I'll simply never understand how one player is able to repeatedly use his elbow to hit players in the face and that is a defensive foul, yet the one time he gets an elbow in the face it's a technical foul. I just do not get it. Either both are fouls or none of them are fouls. It can't be a foul for one and not the other. I don't even really care about the charge/block shit either. Those are bang bang plays that are hard to call. But hitting people in the face with an elbow is very cut and dry, yet one player is allowed to do it? So pathetic.
- 25-17 foul difference after the Bucks GM cried to the league about fouls. Interesting. Still didn't matter. Sucks for them.
- I don't ask for much, but Payton, this is a three I need you to make bud. That's a layup for you
- One thing I would like Tatum to do during this off day is go look at the film and look at his feet when he's taking his threes. They are all sorts of jacked up. His feet too often were not set and it messed his entire shot up. I dunno if he was second guessing himself at the last second or what, but when he steps into a shot with confidence and has his feet set, it makes a world of difference with his outside shot. Considering his ability to consistently make his open threes is a huge deal, I'd like him to address it for Game 5.
- For the second straight game this team didn't look ready coming out of the half. They keep losing these 3rd quarters which is not something we experienced all year, and last night it was the Bucks best quarter with 32 points on 52% shooting. It's clear their plan coming out of the break is to get Giannis going, and the Celts have to figure out how to counter that. On the other end the Celts couldn't buy a bucket, and that 12 minutes was definitely playing with fire.
- I know it might not be fair because he went from barely playing to now having to fill in for Rob, but Daniel Theis was horrendous in this game. A brutal 0-5 (0-2) and a -10 in his 10 minutes, the Celts caught a prayer with that one. Basically, he put up the exact performance we all hoped he wouldn't, and I'm just not sure this is the series for him. That's why Rob's injury is so important because if guys are going to get into foul trouble guarding Giannis, Theis will have to see the floor. From the missed bunnies to the bricks from three that weren't even close to allowing Brook Lopez to get OREB off missed FTs, this was not a great Theis showing by any stretch.
So here we go. Back to Boston for Game 5. I truly think that the first team to win 2 games in a row will win this series, and that door is now wide open for the Celts to run right through. Technically all you have to do is now win your home games, but I don't even want to get this to a Game 7 where anything can happen. Take care of business Wednesday, close this shit out Friday and get your rest before the ECF. That should be the plan, now let's see if they can execute it.