That's really the only way to describe what happened last night. For the second time in basically a week, the Celts dropped a competitive OT game to the Cavs to now drop to 0-2 head to head. You may think these November games don't matter, but I couldn't disagree more. All of them matter, especially head to head matchups with other good Eastern Conference teams. That's what made last night so important after the Celts dropped the first matchup at home in OT, so to lose by a goddamn point on the road in another OT is the very definition of a kick to the dick.
There are a few ways to look at what unfolded last night. On one hand, there's no real shame in losing to a healthy Cavs team by 1 point in OT. It's not as if the Celts got blown the fuck out or didn't come ready to play and instead got absolutely waxed. That's not what happened. They had a competitive game that ultimately they lost at the last second.
At the same time, they started 3-0 and now sit at 4-3. Welcome to the first skid of the season. The current 1-3 run after the 3-0 start with 2 of those losses coming in OT feels eerily similar to their start last year where they played 3 OT (2 2OT) games in their first 6 and were 1-2. You're not panicking or anything, but this shit is annoying. You have to be able to beat good teams on the road and the frustration from last night is more around the execution side of things. They had enough talent on the floor to win this game. But mental errors late, poor decisions, lack of effort, and late game rebounding is ultimately what cost them this win.
If that feels familiar, it's exactly how this team lost the first game to CLE a week ago.
There's a lot to get to, so let's not waste any time. Let's dive in.
- I'm kind of not sure what to even put in this section. You could say one of Tatum and Brown because they had a combined 56, but I dunno, there were parts of their nights that I didn't love. For starters they finished a combined 18-47 (5-19) from the floor which stinks considering they are your top two options, but they did have their moments
Normally that type of production is good enough to carry this team to a win, and it nearly was. I thought Jaylen carried this team early offensively while Jayson struggled, but I do wonder if that led to some fatigue as the game went on. Jaylen was only 4-12 in the second half and was 1-7 in the fourth quarter. It felt like he maybe ran out of gas a little bit for what he had to do to keep the Celts in this game early.
With Tatum, I liked how he shifted his game and his approach after his shot really wasn't dropping in the first half. He finished with 13 second half points on 4-8 shooting, and 5 of his 8 FGA were from the FT line or closer (3-5). Tatum showed up in the 4th with 8 huge points on 3-3 shooting in his 7:50 in the 4th, so I liked how he didn't let his early struggles take himself out of the game. He was still active on the glass, he moved the ball and created for others. You just hope to see a better showing to start, because 8-21 (2-9) is tough.
- I know every time the Celts lose people immediately say their defense stinks, but I didn't think that was the case in this game. The Cavs only had 107 in regulation which is a fine number. They shot 42/28% from the floor and only made 11 3PM. A team that entered last night with a 114 Ortg finished this game at a 103.6 rating. Mitchell shot 11-27 from the floor. LeVert didn't have 41. I wouldn't exactly call this a "bad" defensive performance overall.
In terms of individual matchups, we saw guys get back to defending at the level this team needs
Tatum and Brown were also solid on this end as well. Grant had his moments. What they were able to do in isolation defensively was more than good enough to win.
The issue was consistency. Good defense needs to be played for 48 minutes, not 24. I did not think things looked great in the first quarter (35 points) or the third quarter (33 points), but this was not a game where this team was never able to get stops or provide any sort of perimeter resistance. Their defense in the fourth quarter was solid. My point is, the defense was good enough to put this team in a position to win. It wasn't some glaring hole that looked like a team was lost on that end.
- I thought Marcus had a pretty typical Marcus Smart Experience night. I thought he played within his role for the most part, only took 12 shots, defended his ass off, was 2nd on the team in assists with 5 and only 1 TO, didn't take a 3PA in the second half and his play in the 4th quarter basically helped save this team and even force OT.
In that 4th quarter Smart was 2-2 with a couple assists, 7 points and some huge defensive plays. As is tradition every time the Celts lose Smart immediately gets the blame (and we'll get to OT soon) but this was not a game where Smart wasn't playing his role or anything like that. He did fill his role.
- It makes me very sad that this team wasted a 26-27 performance from the FT line. Man was that beautiful to watch. No starter missed a FTA. Tatum and Brown were 15-15. It was everything I dream about and more.
- On the offensive end, while the Celts shot 40/29% which stinks, I was actually pleased with the looks they were getting against this Cavs defense. They finished with 26 AST on 38 FGM which is a fantastic ratio. If the Celts play like that and share the ball up and down the roster, they'll win a lot of games.
This game was mostly about the Celts just not able to make enough of their open looks. They finished just 4-12 on "open" threes and 4-17 on "wide open" threes. There's your game right there. But the process the Celts played with to get those shots was fine. None of us liked the results, but it never felt like they Celts weren't able to get what they wanted on the offensive end. They just couldn't finish off the play with a bucket.
- In a huge moment, I think we need to give Joe proper credit for this ATO. What a call
For Tatum to then immediately have the game saving block on the next possession also ruled very hard
But in terms of the end of game call, this was really the first time we've seen Joe in that spot. If you remember the Tatum miss at the end of regulation in the first meeting Joe didn't call a timeout and he just let the players do whatever. This time he did, and he nailed the call. I also didn't even hate the look Jaylen got at the end of OT either. That's a shot he can make and the look was clean
- I loved how Derrick moved the ball (6 AST) and he continues to help provide that spark defensively. He leads the team in charges and I remain so impressed with his ability to beat guys to the spot and his willingness to give up his body. Part of me would like to see him to a little more aggressive in terms of his float game, but I have no problems with him operating as a connector and ball mover while playing good defense and knocking down his open threes.
- Believe it or not, the Celts actually won the rebounding battle 52-51. They only allowed 9 OREB. That should be good enough to win. Unfortunately, we're going to talk about how important timely rebounding can be, but as a whole the team was much better in terms of collective rebounding compared to the first meeting.
- As you can imagine, when the Celts struggled in this game it came down to the same old factors. Careless turnovers. In the first quarter they couldn't stop throwing the ball to the other team, I mean literally throwing it to the Cavs, and it dug them an early 35-27 hole. In the 3rd quarter it was the same thing. Another 4 TOs, another 33 points allowed, this time losing the quarter 33-20.
Tatum's 6 TOs were brutal. Malcolm not really settling anything down with 3 of his own off the bench was tough as well. Same with Jaylen's 3. While they finished with 14 and that might not seem like a crazy number, we're still seeing issues when it comes to taking care of the ball. It's no surprise that in their worst quarters of this game we saw them have turnover problems. That's usually how it works.
- Pretty brutal night for Malcolm all around to be honest. I think he missed 4 total layups right at the rim which not only sucked because it left points on the board, but also because those plays usually sparked Cavs fastbreak points. I thought he had some issues defensively at the point of attack as well, but really it's the missed layups that killed this team the most.
- The sad thing is Brogdon wasn't alone there. The Celts were REALLY bad in the paint in this game. Just look at this shit
look at all those red Xs right at the rim. This wasn't a case of trying to finish over Jarrett Allen or Evan Mobley all the time either. These were simply smoking endless bunnies. When you're playing a team like CLE, you need to be better in the paint/around the rim when you have clean looks from that zone.
If you're more of a numbers guy, it's just as ugly as the picture.
The Celts were 15-26 in the restricted area and 6-15 in the paint (non RA). That's a combined 21-41 which says over 50% and you might think that's good but then you remember we're talking about point blank shots here, so it's actually very bad.
- I think what we've learned is there is a certain profile of scorer that gives this team some issues, especially as they continue to [lay drop coverage. Going up against strong pullup scorers like Garland and Mitchell puts a unique pressure on this defense that they're still figuring out. That's where the Rob factor stings because he's much better at hedging/switching and guarding those pullups. As of now, they don't really have a consistent answer for it.
That's something to keep in mind because as we know, the NBA is a copycat league. While everyone doesn't have a Mitchell/Garland, the Celts are showing some weaknesses at defending those types, especially down the stretch of games.
- Let's now talk about one of the biggest moments in this game. The Smart OT FGA
I have no problem with Smart taking a shot in this spot. He had been 3-4 in the second half, he had already driven successfully in OT, he took what the defense gave him and didn't shoot that contested three.
What I HATED was the type of "shot" he decided to take. It wasn't a shot. He was looking for the bailout. Given the fact he just got the call on Allen on the other end, he has to know the situation. He's not going to get that call. I would much rather he just take a normal jumper or continue to go into the lane and actually take a real shot. Maybe it goes in. Maybe there's an OREB. What I hate is putting that situation in the hands of the official.
Even if he may have gotten fouled, that's not really the point. Take the shot all you want in that spot, but actually take a real shot. I could understand people being pissed if he took that long contested three over Mitchell, but he didn't. He put the ball on the floor and was aggressive. I just think he needed to fully commit to that aggression and actually try and score, not bait the ref into a call that's never going to come.
- It is inexcusable that after the first game was decided by a late game Caris LeVert OREB over all Horford that once again with under a minute in a close game when the Celts desperately needed a rebound, Caris LeVert got another OREB over Al Horford
Just like Jaylen/Brogdon did in the last game, Tatum lost sight of his man. He didn't find a body and then once again Al couldn't come down with a 50/50 rebound. That's just losing basketball folks. You need to finish possessions, especially in that spot. The fact that the exact same shit happened against the exact same team with the exact same player was pathetic.
- Alright, let's now also tell the truth. Jayson Tatum was fouled on his dunk. That is a fact. You could make the case this game should not even have gone to OT in the first place. Inexcusable to not call that a foul in that spot. That's called 100000% of the time and you know how I know the ref knew he fucked up?
He didn't give Tatum a tech for complaining about it. We've seen Tatum get a tech for the exact reaction he showed after that play so far this season. He didn't get one because the ref knew he blew it. Only helped cost the Celts a potential win. No big deal or anything. Love when officials impact the results!
Things certainly don't get any easier with CHI up tomorrow and then NYK on Saturday. Another chance to get revenge on a previous bad loss, and I am interested in seeing how this team handles their first real skid of the season. Will they let it fracture the locker room and balloon? Or will they come together and right the ship. As of now both are possible, but I certainly hope it's the latter.