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The Way The Celtics Won Game 1 Was Basically All Of Our Wildest Dreams Coming True At Once

Nathaniel S. Butler. Getty Images.

As I sit here hours later, this still doesn’t even seem real. I’ve struggled to find ways to even make sense of what we all experienced last night. This shit doesn’t happen. Not on this stage against that team with those circumstances.  In a building where the Warriors had not lost at any point this postseason, in a game where historically the Warriors are like 21-2(??) in Game 1s, we should not be having the type of discussion that we are having right now. In a matchup where one side is filled with “championship DNA” and the other side is comprised of an entire roster making their NBA Finals debut, this was not supposed to go down like this. If I were to tell you a team would blow a 15 point lead with a historic 4th quarter collapse, you would think it was just another example of the Celtics choking given what we watched them do during the year. 

Heading into these NBA Finals, I didn’t know what to expect. I knew what the data said.  I knew what the matchups were. I knew what my heart told me. But until you see the ball tossed up and the game actually gets going, it’s impossible to predict. I knew that if the Celts play to their potential they can beat any team on the planet, but I also know that sometimes when you play the Warriors, playing perfect still isn’t enough. That’s why they’re so devastating. You can do everything right, and it might not even matter. 

But in Game 1, it did matter. The one constant we’ve known about this Celtics team is they are ridiculously resilient. They don’t panic. They don’t sulk. When things don’t go their way, they punch back. That is NOT something we could have said as recently as last season. You know what happens to this team in previous seasons after they experience a 3rd quarter like we got last night? They lose that game by 30+. The 2022 Celtics? They use that as fuel for one of the craziest 4th quarters in NBA Finals history. 

To do what they just did, against that team, in that building, on this stage is legitimately insane. Or is it? Let’s not forget, it’s been the Celtics not the Warriors who have been the best team in the NBA over the last 5+ months. It’s the Celtics that are 8-2 on the road this postseason and have a +12.1 differential over their last 31 road games (24-7), which is beyond historic.

And while I know I don’t have to say this, I’m going to do it anyway because I believe in consistency. Perspective is still very important. 1-0 is not 4-0. Snagging 1 win does not somehow equal 4 wins. We are VERY early in this series with a shit ton of basketball still to play. I think we all understand and accept that. But holy shit was this about as massive a win as you can have at this point in a series. 

Which is why we can worry about Game 2 in a few days. We finally have a break in between games, so instead for today I’m choosing to focus on one of the best wins I’ve ever seen this team have. We have A LOT to get to so I hope you’ve cleared your calendar. We’ve waited 12 years for a blog like this, so let’s get to it.

The Good

- Sometimes in life you have to make extremely difficult decisions. In my 35 years on this planet, I’m not sure I’ve had a tougher call to make than who kicks us off in this blog. It’s the most coveted nod in sports and I know the pressure and responsibility that comes with this decision which is something I do not take lightly. There legitimately isn’t a wrong choice which is awesome, but also stressful. 

After much consideration, I kept going back to the same place. You know what I’m kind of done with? Jaylen Brown having to play second fiddle. I feel like too often his accomplishments happen in the shadows rather than the spotlight. No more. Not today. I don’t really consider Jaylen to be a #2, I consider him to be more of a 1B. What I do know is that if someone like Tatum had Jaylen’s performance, it would headline every talkshow and blog on the internet. So it’s about doing what’s right. We are starting with Jaylen

First, the numbers. In his 38 minutes, we saw Jaylen put up 24/7/5 and finish with a team best +22. Then you realize the context around those numbers and you can understand why he was awarded the top spot. Let’s just tell it how it is. The Celtics lose this game if not for Jaylen’s 4th quarter heroics. It’s honestly that simple. Heading into the 4th quarter down 12, the Warriors had all the momentum in the world. They had just capped off a dominant 38-24 quarter where it looked like they were ready to take full control of this series.

So what does Jaylen do? He put the team on his back and refused to let this game slip away.

Thankfully, he remembered that nobody on this roster could guard him, especially Jordan Poole. In a blink of an eye Jaylen led a 7-0 start to the quarter. He was doing everything from finishing at the rim, hitting pullups, and finding Rob for lobs. Suddenly a 12 point lead was 5 with almost no time coming off the clock. It was after that Rob dunk that once again the energy shifter shifted the energy. Then you realize that he also had 5 assists in the quarter and he legitimately did everything. When you get to this stage, you need you best players to rise up in the biggest moments. Jaylen embraced that challenge. He wasn’t timid. He didn’t shy away from the ball. It was everything we’ve ever wanted to see from Jaylen in these huge 4th quarter spots. Jaylen played like a franchise guy because he is a franchise guy. 

It was pretty obvious how much more comfortable he felt attacking this Warriors defense after having to deal with the Bucks and Heat’s active hands and early help on drives for a combined 14 games. The Warriors don’t do any of that shit which enabled Jaylen to take advantage and use one of his biggest strengths which is his aggressiveness. There was no tunnel vision of any sorts when it mattered most, and I think what we’re going to see is Jaylen is going to be able to get to his midrange pullup whenever he wants until the Warriors prove they can stop it. Here’s the problem they now face though. Defenses are so focused on not letting Tatum beat them one on one, it opens everything up for everyone else, especially Jaylen. It’s the ultimate pick your poison and WHY ANYONE WHO SUGGESTED YOU BREAK UP TATUM AND BROWN SHOULD BE EXILED FOR LIFE. 

- Before we begin, please join me in wishing Al Horford a happy birthday. I hope he has a tremendous day and gets everything his heart desires. As I’ve said, Al Horford deserves all the good in this world and if you didn’t think so before, I bet you do now. A man that waited 15 years and 141 playoff games for this moment had the game of his life

26/6/3 on 9-12 (6-8) shooting while being able to keep his minutes relatively low (33), to say Playoff Al has been incredible really doesn’t do it justice. Let’s just put his postseason run into perspective 

Uh, what did I just read. Can you believe there are franchises out there that couldn’t figure out how to use Al Horford? How do you not figure out how to use a player who literally does everything? God that’s embarrassing for you. I’m just so fucking happy for Al, I don’t really know how else to say it. We’ve never met. I’m fairly certain he does not know I exist and if he did, he probably would think it’s a little (very) weird that a complete stranger would feel this way about him but I can’t help it. Seeing Al thrive in these moments after everything he’s been through and everything he’s done for this team just brings me so much pure joy. I want this so badly for him and to see him have this sort of Finals debut is better than anything I ever could have predicted.

Most importantly, I’m relieved we don’t have to live in a world where this team wasted an all time Horford performance. That shit bothered me for weeks when they did it against the Bucks. Much like with Jaylen, we’re seeing the issue that the Warriors are going to have to deal with all series. If you don’t guard him at the three point line, you’re asking him to make 6 3PM in your eyeball. If you go out to check him, you’re exposing the entire paint with no rim protection. It was clear the few days off did wonders for Al’s legs after his shot was clearly struggling to end the MIA series, and that’s why having two days off in between each Finals game is so massive. Will he always shoot 9-12? Probably not, but he could. A rested Playoff Al is a legit sniper. You saw the tweets above. This shit isn’t a fluke.

- What are the odds that we as a fanbase can force Derrick White into having more kids? Is that taking things too far? I feel like it isn’t. The proof is in the pudding. He’s having a 2019 Fred VanVleet new dad moment and it has completely changed everything

Remember, there were people who were upset in February that Brad “overpaid” for Derrick White because he had to include a future pick swap. Imagine giving two flying fucks about a pick swap. How many people did you hear complain that they wished Josh Richardson was still on this team instead of White when his shot was struggling earlier in the postseason? Guys, Brad knows what the hell he’s doing. Look, I’m not going to tell you that White’s recent stretch of going 11-18 from three is sustainable. But what I will tell you is what we are seeing is a guy playing with extreme confidence blended with new Dad powers. I’m not sure there’s a more lethal combination in basketball. There is ZERO hesitation in White’s jumper and that’s made a world of difference. Obviously, the makes help that, but this is yet another game where we’re seeing White make GIGANTIC shots. Executing the shots is one thing, but having the guts to even take the shots in the first place is huge.

When I think of what makes Derrick successful offensively, it always goes back to the same place. His approach. When he touches the paint early and gets his floater going, it opens everything up for him. That’s where attacking the Warriors weak perimeter defense is going to be so important.  He can use his size and strength to get into the paint whenever he wants, and once he either sees that floater drop or gets to the line and sees the ball go in, then come the threes. It’s basically what they teach you when you first start playing basketball. Play inside/out. Get some easy/close looks early to catch a rhythm and then once you feel good, let it fly from deep.

As huge as Jaylen was to start the 4th, let’s not pretend like Derrick White wasn’t just as massive in that frame. He played basically the whole way and was a huge part of this entire turnaround. The guy finished a +25 in his 32 minutes. Offensively, defensively, 

it didn’t really matter, White was elite at both. You can see why Brad targeted him at the deadline. He was built for a matchup like this. 

- Let me ask you something. In a huge NBA FInals win, did you think we’d go this long without even mentioning Jayson Tatum? That just goes to show how ridiculous this all is. Let me ask you another question if that’s OK with everyone. How does 13 assists and 2 TOs sound to you? That’s right, we’re talking about Jayson Tatum doing that. A guy that loser anonymous sources loved to call a selfish player and someone who only cares about his points and would be unhappy if they won and he didn’t score, WHOOPS!

Yes, the guy couldn’t buy a bucket. It was brutal and most definitely cannot happen again. We all agree there. But what we saw was the continued growth of Tatum. Did you ever, even for a second, get the feeling that he was sulking because he couldn’t make a shot? Did it feel like that negatively impacted his effort and overall performance? Nope. Not ever. He controlled this game without even making a shot, especially in the 4th quarter. Think of how insane this is. Tatum finished a +26 in the 4th quarter and he did not score a single point. Not ONE point. Why does it feel like what I’m telling you doesn’t seem possible yet that’s exactly what happened?

I think most people would agree we’d like to see Tatum make a winning impact even on the night where his jumper isn’t falling. We’ve all lived through these Tatum eggs before, and I’d say 9 times out of 10 they result in a loss. That’s just what happens when an offense is so reliant on his scoring. We sit in our beds starting at the ceiling until god knows how late repeating to ourselves that if they just got a below average Tatum night instead of the worst night of his life, the Celts would probably win. You’ve done it, I’ve done it, and it sucks. I am happy to report I did no such thing last night. Sure I would love for him to not go 3-17, that’s horrific. But I saw a player who still did what was necessary to help his team secure a win, and THAT is what matters most. 

- I said it before the game and I will say it again. I will die for Ime. No questions asked. He went into Golden State and put Steve Kerr right into his back pocket. Outcoached him like you read about. I thought his rotations were pretty damn close to perfect, I thought the way he used his timeouts in the 4th was beyond perfect as a way to both give his players rest AND draw up huge ATOs when the Celts needed buckets to extend a late lead.

We talk about love and trust with this team, and you saw it last night with Ime. He could have subbed Smart back in sooner, but he loved and trusted his players that were on the floor. He rode the momentum perfectly. He wasn’t stubborn with his lineups like we’d seen him be at times early in the season. That’s growth. 

- Speaking of Marcus Smart, I wonder how all the people who cried for legit DAYS about him taking late game threes are doing today. Let me guess, you’re not going to spend the next 48 hours slandering him for shooting now are you? 

Here’s why this is so funny to me. In Game 7, the Celts were up 8-10 points with under 3 minutes left and Marcus took open 3PA. Shots that you should always want a player to take. Naturally because he’s Marcus and he missed, people KILLED HIM for like 3 straight days. It was kind of pathetic if you ask me. You heard a lot of this



Then there’s last night. The Celtics were up 8-10 points with under 3 minutes left and Marcus took open 3PA. This time he made them. Weird huh? I didn’t see everyone complaining about Marcus shooting late in this game, how come? Because people can’t think critically when it comes to Smart. You’re called a delusional Green Teamer if you do. Well just like I said when he missed all his shots late I will say again now that he made all his late. If Smart is open, I want him shooting with confidence. I know he can make them, as we saw in this game. 

He finished with 18/5/4 on 7-11 (4-7), and honestly it was his play early that even kept the Celts in this game. He showed up ready to go right from the opening tip. His defense was great like you expected it to be

and if this is the version of Smart they are going to get this series, the Warriors have some issues.

- It goes without saying that 120 points on 50/51% splits with 21 3PM is rather ridiculous. My favorite part of the offense last night? Easily the 33 assists. That’s a massive number and 12 (!!!!) came in the 4th quarter alone.

I fully accept that a 40-16 quarter is not the norm. We’ll probably not seeing that shit again, but who cares because it happened once and that’s good enough. Here’s a question I have though. I thought the Warriors were supposed to have all this championship experience and that was going to be a huge factor? Well, then how do you let that happen to you in your own building? After Steph’s huge start, he went 5-16 the rest of the way. Draymond went 1-12. They couldn’t get stops on one end or score on the other. They collapsed. I thought the mentally tough and battle tested Warriors don’t do that? Interesting.

- I don’t want to get ahead of myself here, but Rob looked spry. He looked like he had his bounce back. 

There were some mental mistakes and some things to correct during their film session, but we all know what truly matters with Rob is his physical health, and he looked like the old Rob to me. Guy is diving on the floor starting fastbreaks, he’s blocking everything at the rim and you saw that when Rob is on the floor, the Warriors don’t even want to fuck with the paint. That is what makes Rob’s impact so huge. You take away the rim from the Warriors and it really messes with their offense. To do that, we need a healthy Rob. Thankfully he now has 2 more days of rest after only having to play 24 minutes.

- How about Payton Pritchard. A solid 8/6/2 and a +14 in his 16 minutes off the bench, the dude is just a big game player. I don’t know how else to really describe it. He’s not intimiated by the moment, his defense was actually pretty fucking good, and he’s going to get as many open looks as he wants in this series which makes him a legit weapon.

- What was with Steph and Draymond saying they dominated 41 to 42 minutes of this game?

 Are they concussed? For starters, they were up by 4 points after the first quarter and were trailing by 2 at the half. That’s domination? They they were outscored like 48-21 or some shit over the final 14 minutes of the game. Is that domination? Just a weird thing to say in a game they very clearly did not dominate for 41 to 42 minutes. Is it denial? Am I just a moron and am bad at math or something? There are 48 minutes in an NBA game I believe, which means they think they dominated this game until the 6 minute mark of the 4th? Were they maybe in shock at what just happened? Was that the message that Kerr relayed to the team in their locker room?

- You know what? I don't feel like being done yet. It's Friday, you don't want to work. I want to help you not work. How about we all enjoy that incredible 17-0 run together one last time? 

Yeah, that's the good stuff.

The Bad

- Would it kill this team to rebound? I feel like I don’t ask for much and that this isn’t even that crazy of an ask. Rebounding is effort, plain and simple. The Celts may have “only” given up 12 OREB, but it felt like more. What I do know is the Warriors scored pretty much on every second opportunity they got. Giving up 26 2nd chance points is simply way too many. I get it, Kevon Looney is a massive human, but you can still box him out.

It’s one thing to get killed on the glass when the Celts go “small”, but this shit was happening when both Al and Rob were on the floor together. When you are playing two 7 footers, I need you to be able to protect your defensive glass. Hopefully this was the wakeup call the Celts needed because the absolute LAST thing you can do in this series is give the Warriors second and third cracks at scoring. They are going to make a backbreaking three. It’s inevitable. Just protect the glass and you don’t have to worry about that shit.

- I was also not exactly thrilled with what we saw in that 3rd quarter. How could you be. It was all the Celts bad habits coming back to life. After taking pretty good care of the ball in the first half (6 TOs), the Celts had 5 in the 3rd quarter alone. Worst part was they all seemed to come at the start of the quarter due to soft passes, and that’s what sparked the Warriors run. They are the most devastating 3rd quarter team in the NBA. It’s during those 12 minutes that they bury their opponent and that’s exactly what they did in Game 1.

You just can’t lose a quarter 38-24 and think you’re always going to be able to dig out of that hole. The Celts shot just 36/37% and had nearly the same amount of FGM (7) as TOs (5). Every single dogshit quarter we see the Celtics have looks like that quarter. They turn the ball over, they give up extra possessions, they can’t buy a bucket because they start to panic a little bit and their shot quality goes out the window, it’s all gross. It didn’t burn them this time, but it will. You can trust me on that. They NEED to find a way to avoid these disaster quarters. 

- I know this is how they play, but I do get a little nervous about getting into a 3pt shooting contest against this team. It worked in Game 1 sure, but there were times in this game where it felt like to me that the Celts fell a little too in love with the 3PA. I know that’s a weird thing to say in a game where they shot over 50%, and I know this is not the first time we’ve seen this type of shooting in this postseason run, I just always go back to making sure you have the right balance.

It felt like Steph going nuclear sort of tricked them into matching his offensive approach, and that’s just a dangerous game to play is all I’m saying. 

- I really hope the Celts go over what to do with off ball screens because it felt like the Warriors got whatever they wanted with that. Personally, I prefer they just switch at all times. It’s your default defense! You’re built to switch! The Warriors come off screens more than any team in the NBA, so it’s not going away. They have to figure out an adjustment and stick with it for a full 48.

The Ugly

-Speaking of Steph, maybe for Game 2 we can go with the strategy of actually guarding him. While they were much better in the second half, my god what the fuck was that shit to start the game. I have never, ever, seen a team repeatedly decide you know what? Let’s give the best shooter in the history of the sport WIDE OPEN looks. I honestly can’t think of a worse strategy. For some reason this team refused to switch and instead decided to play drop, which is maybe the most insane thing you can do against Steph. You were asking for him to make 6 3PM in a single quarter with how they were defending him. You just cannot make the type of mental mistakes this team made early in this game. Two guys running AWAY from Steph so they could follow Jordan Poole? That’s bad. Losing Steph in transition? Maybe the stupidest thing you can do.

Like I said, they eventually figured it out, got back to switching more as the game went along and things worked out fine. But that first quarter? It was like they had never read a scouting report before or even ya know, been on planet earth for more than 2 seconds. For the love of God do not give him those type of open looks again.

- Fair is fair, you go 3-17 from the floor, your shooting performance is going to end up in this section. I’m sorry Jayson, I don’t make the rules. Well, I do technically but you get what I mean. The worst part was his looks weren’t even bad. They were wide open! This was just one of those nights where Tatum didn’t have it shooting the ball. That happens. I trust that if he gets those same looks again he’ll end up much better than 3-17, maybe it was Finals nerves or something, I dunno. What I do know is that a 3-17 (1-5) is nowhere close to good enough.

At the end of the day, we sit here up 1-0 and 3 wins away from the NBA title. It feels so close yet so far away. The goal of this trip was to split and they accomplished that goal. But now? I want more. I want both of these games. The Warriors are going to punch back in a big way in Game 2 you have to think, so I’m excited for the challenge. I’m ready to see these Celts finally figure out how to build off wins. Win Game 2 and you head back home in a GREAT spot. It’s certainly on the table, now it’s just up to them to go get it.

Love and Trust.