I am happy to report that our beloved Boston Celtics currently sit alone for the moment with the best record in the entire NBA. Perhaps some team joins them after today, but for the moment, there is not a single other team in the league who currently sits at 3-0. That's not my homerism talking, those are just the facts. Be upset with them if you must, but that's just the reality right now. It's early, we all know that, but 3-0 is 3-0 and if anyone tries to make you feel bad for being excited that the Celts are off to their best start since 2009 when they went 27-2 to begin the year, I say ignore them. Chances are they root for teams that don't have a single win on the year, or they are your typical Celtics troll who has a hard time still coming to grips with the fact that they were wrong about this team and now they try and ruin your joy.
Fuck that. I'm here to support your joy. To encourage it. To bring it to new levels you didn't know were even possible.
Is it a big deal that the Celts went on and beat the Magic last night? In the big picture, not really. But in the immediate small picture? On a back to back with Al resting? Again, please tell me how many 3-0 teams there are in the NBA right this second. We talked all offseason how important it was going to be for this team to get off to a good start this season, and now that they are doing just that I'm supposed to act like it's whatever? Sorry, as I said, fuck that.
It's very possible to be excited about their start and still have perspective about what it means on a larger scale. Everyone knows it's October 23rd and they've played 3 games. But that's the sample we have to work with and evaluate from. If you're reading this blog you know that I am someone who thinks not just every game this team plays matters, but every single possession they have matters. Every dribble matters.
So with that said, let's talk about last night.
- First, I want you to listen to this
Compare that mindset to some other big name high profile players who may or may not be gunning for the MVP because they can't stop obsessing over it. Interesting right?
Now combine that mindset with this production
Let's be very clear about something. In the entire HISTORY of the Boston Celtics, nobody has ever seen a better 3 game scoring stretch to start a season than what we witnessed with Jayson Tatum. Pick an era, any era, it doesn't matter. Nobody, not a single one of the legends that have played for this franchise ever accomplished what Tatum completed last night. Think about that for a second. As I always say, if you do some shit on the basketball court that puts you in the same sentence as LARRY FUCKING BIRD, that's a big deal. Now maybe you're going to be quick and talk about how it's easier for Tatum because of the era and 3 point shooting. OK, sure. The only problem there is Tatum is only shooting 33% from deep so far and has only made 8 3PM., which is most certainly not a lot.
Perhaps the best part of all this though was what Tatum immediately said after the game
Spot the lie? He's 10000% right. The Celts team defense last night was the very definition of dogshit. That is in no way how they can play if they want to be an elite team. When your best player, fresh off a 40 bomb that helped him pass Larry Bird is talking like this, it tells you this entire roster is extremely locked in. Guys like Tatum and Brown set the tone, and that's exactly what we're seeing. Happy for the win but in no way satisfied. Impossible to not love seeing that.
Given how he's started the season, it's no surprise Tatum is in the early convo for MVP. He's been incredible. The exact start we were all hoping for is what we're seeing on both ends of the floor. The early season worries about Tatum's efficiency or shot selection have never been an issue for even a second. Just look at how he's starting!
The fact that Tatum is shooting 58% from the floor is largely do to the change we've seen in his offensive approach. He's utilizing the paint way more and settling for fewer contested midranges. His floater is not a legit weapon which was our biggest offseason wish for him.
In terms of isolation, things are generally the same in terms of how often Tatum is utilizing it, he's taking about 4.7 iso possessions at a 16% frequency to start the year which is very close to what he did last season. The difference is the execution. He's shooting 62% on iso's this season, which tells me that not a single player he's gone against has been able to give him trouble when tasked with stopping him one on one. That feels important.
Just add it all up. You can't guard this man without help. Once you help, he's such a good playmaker that you're giving up open looks to elite three point shooting. If you go zone, Joe just puts Tatum at the nail and it's an automatic bucket, just like we saw last night against the Magic. What we're seeing is an evolution of a player who is just starting to enter his prime, and that version looks like the MVP.
- There was a time when I had to listen to people yell about how Brad Stevens was actually stupid for making the Derrick White trade. People who I can guarantee spent 0.0 seconds actually watching Derrick White in SA would tell you that Brad overpaid by giving that 2025 pick swap. They said he wasn't a difference maker or some shit. I'd like to remind those people that Brad does not miss and maybe he actually knows more than you when it comes to building this Celts roster.
Our most recent example?
How about 27/4/4 on 10-17 (5-9) shooting in his 36 minutes? If we're being honest, this may have been one of Derrick's best games as a pro….ever. It was certainly up to him and Tatum to carry the offense last night given how much everyone else struggled from the floor, and I can't help but freak the fuck out over DWhite's new jumper. It's beautiful. He's not leaning like he did last year, his release is quicker, and the confidence he's shooting with is what I dreamed of. This is what happens when he doesn't hesitate and instead just grips it and rips it.
It's pretty clear that White is a rhythm player. When he's involved and touches the ball and has good usage, we get performances like this. Now, do I think White is going to maintain his 50% shooting percentage from deep? No, don't be silly. He's just on a heater right now.
But, could you talk me into a 36-37% season based on what we're watching? Absofuckinglutely. Just think of how valuable that would be to this offense if lineups with DWhite out there have to respect his outside shooting. Think of the lanes that's going to help open up for the elite rim pressure guys on this roster, and as we saw last night if you close out hard on White, he has the size and smarts to use his athleticism to get into the paint!
It truly feels like after a full offseason and training camp that White is way more comfortable. With that comfort comes a version of the player that is exactly what this team needs. It's early, but White's shooting is easily one of the biggest surprise of their start.
- We may be living in a world where Grant Williams never misses again. That may seem crazy, but let's just go through the game log
Game 1 vs PHI: 15 points on 5-5 (3-3) shooting
Game 2 vs MIA: 10 points on 4-6 (2-4) shooting
Game 3 vs ORL: 13 points on 3-3 (3-3) shooting
We now pause this blog to take a live look at both Grant and his agent
Grant is shooting 85/80% from the floor with 2.7 3PM to start the year, and frankly it's a little ridiculous at this point. Any concern about how he would maybe force things offensively because he didn't get his extension has already left my body. Instead it looks like we're about to get Career Year Grant after he just had a career year last year. If this is the guy he's going to be, not the percentages but the guy who is now making contested threes as well as attacking closeouts off the dribble, just go ahead and pay that man whatever the fuck he wants.
- Blake Griffin earned his spot on this team with a single play in my opinion
Blake securing his first Tommy Point of the year was incredible to watch. Tommy would have LOVED that play from the vet. This is honestly all I need from Blake at this stage. Be active, play physical, play with energy, and sacrifice your body to get this team extra possessions. Anything else is a bonus as far as I'm concerned. You don't see vets of his stature be willing to accept a role like this, so the fact that he is fully bought in makes my heart fill with joy.
- As rough as things were defensively, that is not the case with this team's offense. Another night with 120+ points, they shot 48/40% with 19 3PM and had 24 assists on their 42 FGM.
When it came to their guard trio, this was a much better night in terms of assists/TOs. The Smart (8) / Brogdon (4) / White (4) trio finished with 16 assists and just 4 TOs. That's what we need to see every night.
You should know by now that the target number this team has to hit in terms of their ball movement is 20 assists. Once they get to that number, they are virtually unbeatable.
Your Boston Celtics currently lead the NBA in offense, with a 124.3 rating. I tried to confirm, but I'm having a hard time figuring out if a #1 offense is good. It feels good, but let me work some more on getting to the bottom of it.
- The fact that Sam Hauser came into the game and immediately made it rain from three was the least surprising thing we've seen this year. Yeah no shit he's automatic, we knew this already.
For those keeping track at home, Sam Hauser is not 5-6 from three to start the season.
The surprise though is his defense. He's been WAY better than I expected. Not All NBA level or anything crazy, but certainly more than passable. That's honestly all we need to see him do. Just be passable on defense and you'll see floor time where you can then immediately light it up from three.
Brad told us all not to panic when Gallo went down because Hauser was ready. People mocked him. As you can imagine it was the normal radio blowhards who do not watch. Once again, Brad knew. Maybe just trust the guy.
- How about other late game high pressure situation where the Celts had to execute down the stretch in order to pull out the win. This is now the 3rd straight game we've seen them do it. Every one of these games has been a 2 possession game about midway through the 4th, and every time the Celts have stepped up and closed out games strong. Given how poor they were last season at doing that very thing, that's HUGE.
- It's crazy that this team put up 126 points despite how poorly some of their main rotation players shot the ball
Jaylen Brown: 4-16 (1-6)
Marcus Smart: 2-11 (1-9)
Malcolm Brogdon: 4-10 (1-4)
Chances are if those three guys are going to go a combined 10-37 (3-19) that the Celts are going to get waxed. Or….maybe not? Maybe that's why the depth of this team is so important? Are they somehow off night bullet proof or something?
I'm not too concerned with Jaylen because ya know, he's Jaylen and he's been awesome. I'm a little concerned that Brogdon is only shooting 43/22% from the floor to start the year, especially the 3 point shooting.
With Smart, outside of his 8 assists I didn't really love how he played offensively. Frankly, it was downright bad. I just prefer he have way more balance to his offensive approach. Having a game where 9 of his 11 FGA are 3PA is not the shot distribution I want, especially when in this very game he showed how easily he could get into the paint and bully his defender for buckets. Even with the majority of those looks being open, I would have preferred he taken a few dribbles in and either taking the midrange/floater or drew the defense and found a shooter. It was almost like he was trying to shoot himself out of that slump, and that's not really what the game needed.
- I really feel for Payton. Second night of a back to back you think this would be a great opportunity for him to get some run, and he played 4 minutes. He did knock down his three, but man that's tough. That's another reason why not blowing this team out was tough, because who knows when Payton is going to be able to see the floor next.
- The Kornet minutes were…..not great. I'm not sure what I expected, but I think I'd rather see Kab get a shot.
- Until he retires, Terrance Ross is going to haunt my life. Easily on the list of top 5 current Celtics killers, it was more of the same last night. Another 29 point performance on 11-16 (5-8) shooting, this is just something you have to learn to expect whenever they play the Magic. We've lived through these guys before, and you know the very next night he's going to have 12 points on 4-15 shooting. He's just one of those players who destroy this team at all times. You put him and like Ish Smith on the same team against the Celts and they might never win.
- Through the first week or so of the season last year, we saw the Celts give up a billion points a night. They had the 22nd highest rating after 3 games at 109.4. It took some time for them to find their groove, and they became the best defensive team in the league.
This year through the first week or so of the season, we're seeing the Celts give up a billion points a night. They have the 25th highest DRTG after 3 games at 116.8.
No two ways about it, there have been some flashes here and there, I thought they were better against MIA, but overall we are seeing a defense that is nowhere near good enough. Guys are having solid individual seasons like Tatum and Smart so far, but collectively they are nowhere close to being good enough yet. What will be interesting to see is if it's just the same sort of slow defensive start we saw last year. Obviously not having Horford active last night impacts things, but collectively everyone needs to bring it up a few levels.
Under no circumstances should this team be repeatedly giving up 60+ points in a half. That shit is beyond inexcusable.
- How about Grant and Smart knowing more about the NBA rules than the officials? What the fuck was that about? With about 3:12 left in the 4th in a close game (3 point lead), the Celts inbounded the ball and did not touch it, because they knew the rule. The game clock runs until you touch it but the shot clock doesn't. The 8 second count doesn't start. You can literally sit and wait for as long as you want until 2 minutes before you touch the ball.
An official obviously did not know this and blew the play dead at like 2:50 or whatever. He did that because he didn't know the rules. The Celts could have taken that down another full minute if the Magic didn't force them to pick the ball up. I dunno, call me crazy but an NBA official should know all the NBA rules and how they are applied. Instead, the Magic were able to reset and force the Celts to start their possession about a minute earlier than they had to. That was Grade A bullshit and very embarrassing for the league.
- As expected without Al, the rebounding in this game was gross. For the first time this year we saw the Celts get worked on the glass to the tune of 48-37 which helped the Magic score 22 2nd chance points. That's how you let bad teams hang around, you HAVE to finish possessions. They won that 2nd chance points battle 22-6 which was obviously a factor.
To that point, the Magic were also way more aggressive in terms of fighting for 50/50 balls. Every won they got immediately turned into a Ross 3PM, because that's what happens. When you sit and watch and don't fight for the ball, the Basketball Gods make you pay for it. I don't care that it was a B2B, the Magic played the night before as well. The Celts were just way too slow to the ball on too many occassion.
But as they say, 3-0 is 3-0. This team looks poised for another great run and they should only improve from here. The one thing I think we can all say with certainty is that the version of this team we watched from January until June is real. It's who they are. New coach, new players, it doesn't matter. The foundation has been set and it sure as shit looks like a legit contender to me.