Advertisement

Game 4 Was The Latest Example Of What Happens When The Celtics Decide To Play Like Assholes

Elsa. Getty Images.

Advertisement

Listen, it's my job to tell it how it is. When the Celts play great and look unstoppable, we talk about it. When they play like gigantic assholes and blow golden opportunity after golden opportunity, we talk about it. And make no mistake, that's exactly how they played last night. This is not the first time I've had a headline like that, and it's not the first time Ime would probably agree with me

Yes, Steph had maybe one of the best Finals performances of all time. It was insane to watch and never have I been more terrified of a player. Every single time he goes up for a jumper my heart drops. But even with that, the Boston Celtics still had an opportunity to be up 3-1 in this series. It wasn't like Curry went nuts and this team was blown out from the jump. It was a 1 point game with 5 minutes left in the 4th quarter. That's a winnable game on your home floor. All you have to do is not play like assholes.

I would argue the main reason the Celts were even in a close game in Game 4 was due to their asshole basketball behavior. I think most would agree that heading into a game, we all hope for the same thing. That the Celts will rebound the basketball, that they'll take care of the basketball, and that they'll play the right way. When they do those three things, there is not a team on the planet that can beat them. This much has been proven.

The issue is, when they play the exact opposite of those three things, they kick you directly in the dick. They rip your heart out and ruin your mental health for the next 48 hours. You feel nothing but frustration and disappointment. I mean this is the NBA Finals. A 3-1 lead was on the table, and they played pretty much the exact way we all hoped they wouldn't. That's, not great.

Now just like I made sure to do when things were good, perspective is still very important. It's 2-2. The Celts aren't down 3-1. There is still A LOT of basketball to be played. Everything that was on the table before Game 4 is still on the table after Game 4. It just now requires a more difficult path. That's the price you paid by playing like assholes, but that difficult path is not an impossible path. Even if they lose Game 5, the season isn't over. We've seen this team come back from down 3-2 before. While this may have not been the idea situation we all wanted, this team is far from dead, so let's try and remember that. 

But what that doesn't do is excuse what we saw last night. Let's dive in.

The Good

- Earlier in the postseason I talked about how annoying it was to waste good Al Horford games. That shit made my blood boil. Well, I think I've found something that enrages me even more. That would be wasting elite Robert WIlliams performances

Advertisement

Hands down the best Celtic last night. Not just because he was a team best +6, but just watch that shit. Rob was everywhere. He was why they looked so good early. Considering it's impossible to predict how he would look with only 1 day of rest, the fact that this was the performance Rob put up makes me love him so much while also being so mad at everyone else on the roster all at the same time. Rob gave you exactly what you need on both ends in order to win these games. Guy can barely walk and he's putting it all on the floor and giving it everything he has.

7/12/4/2 on 3-3 shooting in his 31 minutes. Led the team with 4 OREB and didn't turn he ball over a single time. If this is the Rob we get the rest of the series, I feel fine. I expect the rest of the roster to be much better moving forward, so having this sort of impactful Rob in the mix is a very big deal. He now gets 2 days to recover and make sure that knee is right, and we have a large enough sample size to know that when this team gets a healthy Rob, it changes everything as long as everyone else does their normal shit.

- I in no way have an explanation for how Derrick White is shooting the basketball from three. I keep going back to the New Dad Powers that helped FVV never miss back in 2019, because that's the only thing that makes sense. White is shooting 50% from three in these NBA Finals (10-20) while on decent volume (5.0 3PM). It's been a huge factor in this series and I am not at the point where I will do anything for just potentially 3 more games of this. 

Watching him, I see a player who is way more confident in his jumper to the point where there is zero hesitation. That's what seeing the ball go in a few times will do. You catch a rhythm and feel good, so you shoot with confidence. White was never as poor a three point shooter as he had been this season, so you always hoped things would eventually even out. Now they are. There isn't a zone behind the arc I don't feel confident in White shooting from right now. The corners, the wing, the top of the arc, it's all cash. It goes without saying how important his ability to knock down catch & shoot opportunities will be moving forward, and so far in these Finals White has stepped up and proven he can stick that shot.

Now we just need to work on his 2pt FG%. Overall he's shooting just 37% from the floor, so that just goes to show how brutal things have been inside the arc.

- Hey, the Celts only lost a 3rd quarter by 6 points! Sure it blew their 5 point lead and gave the Warriors life, but at least they didn't get embarrassed! 

The Bad

- Where to begin. I'd say let's start with how we are all feeling right now. The pain in my chest at the moment cannot be normal. I feel this shit in my bones. This is the life of the ups and downs of trying to win a title. If it were easy, everyone would do it. You need to absorb body blow after body blow and get up each and every time. Especially with a team that literally refuses to make things easy on themselves

Advertisement

The pain stems from the circumstances. The Celts are so fucking close to an NBA title and were given a path most teams would kill for. For the 3rd straight series, they refuse to take it. It's incredible but in all the worst ways. It's as if they don't realize you don't have to keep doing this to yourself. There's another option! 

We've seen this team bounce back from this spot, including in this very series, I get it. At the same time, things are a little different this deep into a series. I would not call losing Game 4 up 2-1 at home the same as losing Game 2 after you already stole homecourt. That wasn't really a bad blown opportunity, you expect the Warriors to win at least one at home. Game 4 was very different. Not just because of the fact that it was in your own building, but what it now means for the series. It's going to take the strongest mental rebound this team has ever had in Game 5. They pride themselves on how they respond to these tough losses, but you are now going into the lion's den. A red hot Steph Curry and a building they've only lost one time all postseason in. If the Celts come out and take Game 5, they are right back in the driver's seat. I have all the confidence in the world they can do just that, but they cannot play like we saw last night. 

- When we talk about the Celts playing like assholes, there are two very important categories that factor into it. The first is rebounding. When the Celts control the glass, they control the game. The reason rebounding is so important is because against the Warriors, you need to have clean ends to your defensive stops. If you don't and they are allowed to have 2-3 tries on a single possession, they are going to beat you.

So when I look and see the Warriors had 16 OREB for 19 2nd chance points, that tells me all I need to know. The Warriors won the rebounding battle 55-42 (16-11) and 2nd chance points 19-12. Draymond had 9 rebounds, 5 coming on the offensive glass. Looney had 11 rebounds, 4 of which came on the offensive glass. Andrew Wiggins had 16 rebounds, and 2 of his 3 OREB came in huge spots in the 4th quarter. 

Then there are the turnovers. The #1 factor in every single Celtics playoff loss. It's something we've talked about time and time and time and time again. If the Celts take care of the ball, they win. If they don't, they lose. It's not complicated, it's true for basically any team in the NBA, but especially this one. The main contributor to all of these gut wrenching losses are the self inflicted wounds. In this game, the Celts 15 TOs led to 19 Warriors points. Tatum had 6 by himself. Live ball turnovers continued to turn into back breaking threes, which is why you cannot do that shit against GS. That's how they get hot and how you ultimately blow games.

Just add all that up. 19 points off OREB and 19 points off TOs. That's a combined 38 points. Considering the Warriors scored 107 points, the Celts self inflicted wounds accounted for 35% of the Warriors scoring. So yeah, that's why I'm frustrated. 

Advertisement

- Through 4 games, I'd say we had 2 really good Marcus Smart performance and 2 fairly shitty ones. It's no surprise that they won the two good ones and have now lost both of the bad ones. Unlike Game 3 it wasn't as if Marcus had a turnover problem (just 2), but outside of early in the 3rd quarter where he dug the Celts out of an early hole, I just don't think he played all that well. I know the line says 18/4/5, but it didn't really feel impactful. He was a -17 which was only outdone by White's -19, and even though his individual defense wasn't bad, he held Curry to just 4 points on 1-4 shooting on 25 possessions, all I can say was it didn't feel like Smart played that well.

When I think of how this team closed this game, part of that comes back to the point guard. It was so similar to the November Celts offense which we all hated, and for me, part of that responsibility is on the starting point guard. Even if he's not the one initiating offense, direct people. Make sure they are playing the right way. Take initiative and move without the ball if no one else will. Part of that is also on Ime and the other players themselves, but it never felt like they ran any sort of offense down the stretch. Instead, they settled. That's an area I would like Smart to be better with in Game 5.

- The Celtics learned a very valuable lesson in this game. When the Warriors are experiencing a cold stretch, you have to extend the lead. You need to make them pay for it because once they snap out of that funk, they are going to score in bunches and it won't take them long. 

There were three instances of this that really hurt the Celts. The first came in the first quarter when the Celts were up 12-6 at the 7:23 mark. The Warriors would either miss a shot or turn it over on every possession for the next 1:20 until Klay hit a three. They wouldn't score again until a Wiggins three (off a OREB) at the 5:29 mark. The Celtics, would not score again until a Tatum jumper at 5:04 to go back up 14-12.

So, from 7:23 to 5:04, the Celtics did not score, all while the Warriors couldn't buy a bucket/take care of the ball.

The second instance came in the second quarter. Jaylen made a layup to tie the game at 39 with 6:03 left. Warriors took a timeout. They would then miss or turn the ball over on every possession until a GPII bucket at the 4:25 mark. The Celts wouldn't score again until 4:10 when Jaylen made a layup.

So, from 6:03 to 4:10, the Celts did not score, all while the Warriors couldn't buy a bucket/take care of the ball.

And of course, there was the 4th quarter. We're going to dive into that more in a little bit, so just hold off for a minute. 

The point is, when the Warriors open the door and don't score for 2+ minutes, you HAVE to put up points. It's Steph insurance. When you don't, you get a result like last night.

- It's starting to get pretty fucking annoying that this team seems to move away from Jaylen in the fourth quarters of games where he's been their best player offensively. Is he not demanding the ball enough? Are they just forgetting he exists? It's all so confusing. It felt like they went to him early in the fourth quarter and found success, but then Jaylen did not get a single FGA in the final 4:12 after he missed that 3PA at 95-94. That feels like a mistake. Are they afraid of his late game TOs (2) or something? Because for a long time there he seemed like the only one who was going to be able to hit a shot and then they just…stopped getting him shots.

- The biggest story of this game and maybe even the Finals is how poor the Celts have been inside the arc. This was not a game in which the Warriors killed them from three and the Celts just couldn't match. They both made 15 3PM and the Celts shot a higher percentage (39%). This loss really comes down to their inability to make 2pt FGA.

They finished just 19-47 (40%) on all 2pt FGA. They were just 9-22 in the paint and 3-14 in the midrange. It's just tough to beat the Warriors if you are going to be so poor inside the arc and in the paint. Tatum is shooting just 25% in this series from the paint and just 11.8% from the midrange. That's devastating. Derrick White is shooting 23% in the paint. Those are two pretty important players when it comes to paint touches, and the scoring production simply hasn't been there. 

Advertisement

- 5 more missed FTs. Wake the fuck up.

The Ugly

- In a game of this magnitude, you need your stars to show up. Game 4 was an example of one side getting that and the other coming up short. Jaylen and Tatum combined for 46 points on 17-42 (6-14) shooting.

For comparison, Steph had 43 on 14-26 (7-14) shooting.

When it came time to make big time shots late, Steph and Klay came through and the Jays couldn't match. Over the entire second half they combined to have 16 points on 6-20 (1-8) with 4 TOs. I give Jaylen credit, he did his best to carry early and then make an impact late, but it wasn't quite enough. 

With Tatum, this is the shit that cannot happen. In this type of game, at home, with 3-1 on the line, we need something better than 8-23 from the floor and a 2-9 second half. In a 1 point game heading into the fourth quarter and the game in the balance, a 1-5 frame does not cut it. Easily one of the worst games we've seen Tatum have this postseason, it wasn't just his late game execution either. Some of his decision making and passes early in this game legit made no fucking sense. His back to back turnovers early in this game is what gave Steph life. It doesn't really matter what else happens on this roster, they will not beat the Warriors with this version of Tatum. It's as simple as that. Between the ball security issues and the poor shooting, you can't have both. 

An average shooting night and ball security night from Tatum is probably enough. That's the annoying part. Do I have faith he;ll bounce back? 1000000%. We've seen his before. Am I extremely frustrated that this was the performance we got in Game 4? 100000%. This is the NBA Finals. A title is so close and for the best player to lay an egg like that will always be tough.

- OK, let's talk about the collapse of this game. First, the raw numbers

what the fuck even is that. I'll tell you what that is. That's the November Celtics. You remember them right? The worst 4th quarter team in NBA history? That is the exact box score I would put in those blogs, you can go back and check. Just go down the list

1. No real ball movement

2. Turnovers

3. No player movement

4. Playing the clock and not the score

5. A majority of FGA being 3PA

6. Give up OREB

Every single one of those things happened in last night's 4th quarter which is why we got a November result. I'll just never understand why this keeps happening. Why do you play like this? It's as if everyone on the team goes braindead all at the same time. For some reason once they got down 97-94 with plenty of time left, it was if they thought the only shot you can take is a 3PA. Just look at the difference between the first 7 minutes and the last 4 minutes

Advertisement

The biggest advantage the Celts have in this series is their size. Where was the aggression? Where was utilizing the bonus? Either Ime didn't tell them to do it or the players ignored him. I don't love either option if we're being honest. We just saw in Game 3 how successful this team can be when they attack the paint, so now, in the biggest moment of the season they don't even take a single paint FGA? What the shit is that?

The Warriors dared the Celts to beat them with drive and kicks, and it worked out for them. This is not the first time we'll see that, but the Celts do themselves no favors when they all stand around and dribble 20 seconds off the shot clock and matchup hunt. Just. Fucking. Play. Their desire to hit the homerun three instead of just playing the right way and realizing 2pts is still a valuable option is ultimately what did them in. Ime even said postgame to not be afraid to take a 2pt FGA. I think that was the most maddening part of the final 4 minutes of this game. The Celts refusal to do the one thing that has been their advantage all series with a 3-1 lead on the line.

Late game execution needs to be flawless if you want to beat this team and win an NBA title. It really hadn't been an issue so far this series, and it just so happened to show up at the worst possible time. That's where the pain comes from. They seemed to have figured out 4th quarters so what the hell was the issue here. You're at home, you're in a position to win, and you decide to just play like assholes. Unreal.

So now we head down the hard path. Backs against the wall and the series truly up for grabs. The Warriors bring the momentum back to their own building and probably feel like they have new life. They're confident. This is obviously what none of us wanted, but I truly think as long as the Celts limit their self inflicted wounds, they'll be fine. Avoid playing like assholes and you're up 3-2 heading back to Boston for Game 6.

Love and Trust.

Advertisement

Advertisement

Advertisement