Let's begin with a statement that I do not feel is really debatable until proven otherwise. The Golden State Warriors remain the Celts boogeyman. Fact, not opinion. That doesn't mean it always be that way, but for the moment, until we see the Celts actually play to their potential and beat this team, that is where things stand. Yes, they were without Rob and Al. Yes, Golden State was without Wiggins. I don't really care about those things. I care more about what happened with then players who were active, and by my calculations there was more than enough talent on the floor for the Celts to win.
Here's what I don't think should happen. I don't really think it's accurate to now have the stance that this wasn't some sort of big game, or that it wasn't important. Of course it fucking was. If the Celts had won 123-107, none of us would say it wasn't a big deal or an important win. Those are just the facts. So now that they played like shit and lost, I don't think you can then frame it like there wasn't extra juice on this game or it's the same shit as playing any other team in the league. There was, and the Celts weren't good enough when it mattered. Period. That is on them and they should be held accountable for it.
At the same time, here's what I also do not think should happen. Immediately after the loss you heard terms like "frauds" being thrown around. Suddenly everything we've seen over the last 26 games meant nothing because they lost a single game to a team that's now 12-2 at home. That makes no sense at all. While predictable because it happens after every Celts loss (they only have 6 by the way), I'm pretty sure those who were screaming "fraud" last night wouldn't be screaming "champs" if the Celts had won. I just really don't see the accuracy in taking things to that extreme.
Here's what happened. The Celts went into Oracle and they played like shit. Their best player had a repeat performance of the NBA Finals as did the surrounding depth. As a result, the Warriors stuffed them in a locker. Again. It's not some gigantic referendum on their season or what the team is capable of, but that doesn't excuse what was a very disappointing performance in a game the entire planet knew was a big deal. As we know, you can get beat on any night by any team in the NBA if you don't play well, and that's especially true when the opposition is Steph Curry.
It can be true that "this is just one game" while also acknowledging that it was a rather big game that the Celts didn't play anywhere close to their best. The hope was that given everything that happened in June that we would see a much different type of performance, but in the end it was the exact same shit that cost them a title. They have to own that and now respond. It's as simple as that.
We of course had a lot to get to so let's just dive right in.
- You know who isn't afraid of the Warriors? Jaylen Brown. Just like he did so frequently in the Finals, Jaylen showed up. He wasn't just aggressive, he was effective
If we're being honest, Jaylen looked like one of the only guys on the roster who wasn't caught up in the moment. He wasn't intimidated or hesitant. He played pissed off. Finishing with 31/9/3 and only 2 TOs on 13-23 (3-9) shooting, it was really Jaylen who helped keep the Celts alive for most of this game. His work in the midrange area continues to be KD like if we're being honest (he's shooting 58.2% from that zone), and just like in the Finals we saw Jaylen be able to repeatedly expose that zone within the Warriors defense.
They do such a good job closing out on shooters, you have to be able to put the ball on the floor and utilize that midrange zone, especially since guys like Draymond and Looney also do a great job of protecting the rim. I thought Jaylen was MUCH more in control offensively than we saw in the Finals, especially in terms of his ball security on drives, and on a night where the Celts needed their two best players to show up, Jaylen more than rose to the occasion.
In what was a 5 point game at the break, Jaylen was basically the only player who decided to actually come out of the locker room in the 2nd half
and you're not winning in Oracle with that. It needed to be a collective effort, and unfortunately that is not what we got.
- Outside of Jaylen, I really only thought Malcolm Brogdon played well in terms of guys who are normally in the rotation, at least in the first half. That was the big addition that we all wanted to see against this GS team since he wasn't there for the Finals, and at times you could see his impact
but it really wasn't in the way I think most of us thought it would be. It wasn't like Brogdon came in and helped the offense look smooth and not get into ruts. His impact was more as a scorer. On most nights, getting 16/5/4 on 6-10 shooting from Brogdon off your bench is enough to win, but that requires all of the other pieces to show up as well. The lineups with Brogdon never really got seperation or kept things close (he was a -13), but I wouldn't exactly say that was due to his play specificially. He came in and was immediately aggressive in terms of being a scorer. While I would have liked to maybe see a more "floor general" game from him, Brogdon gave this roster enough in terms of his production.
What I didn't love from him and pretty much everyone on this roster on offense was the fact that they weren't decisive enough for my liking. There was a lot of holding the ball and trying to make a read/decision. That's playing into the Warriors hands.
- Blake Griffin will die for this team and I will die for Blake Griffin. Another start, another 13/7 with great energy, his 20 minutes were awesome.
- Honestly, that's really it for this section. Let's move onto the meat of the story.
- I know Rob and Al were out, but what I cannot understand is how this team played in the NBA Finals using a certain approach, that approach got torched, and then in the first meeting this year they went with the same approach. Guess what happened?
They got torched.
Let's start with the drop coverage. I get that Rob and Al were out, but I don't really understand why the Celts kept relying on this approach. It was VERY clear pretty much from the opening minutes that this was not going to work. What do we think is going to happen when the Warriors are getting looks like this?
I mean what the fuck are we doing? Is anyone aware that Steph Curry is the best shooting on earth? OK, that last picture is a little insane, but it was still a mistake. Smart was way too low and the miscommunication prevented Grant from recovering quick enough. but the rest? How is this a good idea against a team like GS that just showed you this defense doesn't work against them.
It wasn't only against Steph either, they did this shit with Klay too
as well as Jordan Poole
I get that maybe Blake isn't the quickest, but I don't really care. You have to adjust. Play Grant at the 5, get back to switching on screens, what we saw last night was nothing we hadn't just watched in the NBA Finals, but it did not look like the Celts were prepared at all. It's no surprise that every time they went to that Grant at the 5 lineup and stopped playing drop they forced turnovers and got back into the game.
Yet every time they got close, they went back into drop and what happened? The Warriors hit a dagger three because giving generational shooters wide open looks in rhythym usually doesn't work out for you.
There are some 3s you just have to tip your cap to. Like the end of the 1st quarter Steph make over Hauser at the buzzer. Fine, I mean it's Steph. But the majority of these? That was not the case. It was a poor defensive gameplan in my opinion and to stick with it for so long was a mistake.
- To beat the team like the Warriors on their own floor, you have to do certain things. You have to rebound, you have to take care of the ball, you have to make your bunnies, you need contribution from your entire roster, and you need to limit transition opportunities.
Sadly, the Celts basically did none of those things.
They didn't rebound (53-39), which was an issue considering GS's 11 OREB led to 21 2nd chance points. They did take care of the basketball which was nice (10) so I'll give them credit there. They did not get contribution from their entire roster given the fact that their role players outside of Brogdon did not show up and then obviously everything with Tatum. They did not limit transition opportunities considering the Warriors won that battle 19-11.
You add all that shit up and a game like this is what you get. The Celts had a 13-12 lead with 6 minutes left in the first quarter, and then never even tied it the rest of the way. They got their asses kicked for 42 minutes. I'm sorry if that's upsetting, but it's the truth. If you're more of a visual learner, here is what that looks like
If the Celts had a performance like this, we would talk about how badly they dominated their opponent. I know this because I would be the one saying it. So just because they were the one's getting dominated doesn't mean we can pretend that's not what happened.
- One of the more frustrating parts of the Finals loss was how we all witnessed their depth magically disappear as the season went on. That's why the Brogdon addition was so huge right? Well the same shit happened last night. I'm not even sure Grant Williams or Derrick White played in this game and that's a pretty huge issue.
With Grant, he went back to being hesitant. I would not say that he made himself a threat in this game on ay level. He needs to either take the three, or make a play at the rim. Instead, he was back to pump faking and then holding the ball which hurts you in multiple ways. When he did put the ball on the floor, he wasn't even looking to make a play at the rim, instead looking to pass it back out for long 3s. At a time when you need points, I didn't love that approach.
With Derrick, the guy just couldn't hit a shot to save his life. Just 1-7 (0-4), his missed open 3PA were killer. There's no other way to really say it. To win on the road against a team like GS, you have to hit your clean looks. The fact that he also missed pretty much everything around the rim as well wasn't great, and to get only 10 points from both of those guys in this huge game was clearly an issue.
Depth is great to have, but it needs to show up when you need it most. Last night it did not.
- It goes without saying that I did not love the 19-26 performance from the FT line. They missed 4 FTA in the 4th quarter when the game was still in the balance, including two GIGANTIC missed from Tatum that could have cut the lead to 6 with plenty of time left. These are the sort of mental mistakes that you cannot make in a game like this because pretty much every single time the Warriors are going to come down the floor and make you pay for it.
- We'll talk about the outside shooting in a second, but for me the real frustrating part came inside the paint. This is nowhere good enough on any level
missing 19 FGA in the paint is a brutal number. They were just 16-33 in the non restricted area and 3-5 in the restricted. It didn't matter who it was, everyone missed layups. Add that to the list of things you cannot do against the Warriors, especially when you're 3PA aren't falling. You have to convert your bunnies. Whether it was Tatum, White, Smart, it didn't really matter. They all were brutal around the rim.
Add that to the missed FTA and you can see why this shit was so frustrating. Just make your layups and FTs. That's all you had to do!
- Only 17 assists on 38 FGM tells me a few things. First, the Celts weren't shooting well. Second, they weren't really moving the ball the way you need to. For a team to only have a 102 Ortg is not going to cut it on the road against a good opponent, and when you watched them play it never felt like they were imposing their will offensively.
When you're playing GS, it's all about processing information quickly and making quick decisions. Instead, we saw the Celts hold the ball on the perimeter and not really know what to do. It was almost as if they were thinking and not playing, which is something that tends to get you into trouble whenever you do it.
- The whole night it felt like the Celts were playing with this "oh fuck" mentality. They would miss some bunnies, the Warriors would go down and hit a 3, and it was like everyone immediately had PTSD of the Finals. They looked like a team that was shellshocked to be honest with you. It's as if they were just waiting for the next Warriors dagger as opposed to focusing on stopping it. I think that's what frustrates me most about this game.
- As they say, it's a make or miss league at times. You go 7-20 on "open" threes and 4-15 on "wide open" threes and this is the type of result you get. The Celts haven't had many nights like this in terms of their outside shooting, but in the handful they've had, pretty much all have resulted in losses.
- Now the biggest part of last night. The performance of Jayson Tatum. Quite frankly, it was dogshit. As dogshit as we saw in the NBA Finals, only a little worse because the hope was that performance in June would help motivate him to the point where we wouldn't see that shit again.
In reality, we saw the exact same performance.
At this point, it's no longer a fluke, it's a trend
This was another case of if the Celts just got an average Tatum performance, they are in a great position to win this game. Instead, they got 6-21 with about 4-5 blown layups. When he stepped to the line in the 4th quarter with a chance to cut it to 6 and then bricked both, at that point it felt like this was mental.
It's not like the Warriors got all in his airspace and caused him to turn it over 7 times like the Finals. Tatum just couldn't hit shit from behind the arc to start, and then once the layups started missing you could tell it was starting to impact him mentally. Sort of a "oh no not again" type thing. He's the best player, and as the best player you need to show up in the biggest games. You get the praise when you play well and you get the blame when you play like dogshit. Given what happened in the Finals, to then have a showing like we got last night was very annoying. He took ownership of it which was nice to see
and I do think people are once again going too far with Tatum now suggesting he never shows up in big moments or any of that shit. That's being a prisoner of the moment.
But it is true that the Warriors have his number. They know how to defend him and that is going to be the case until he proves it otherwise. I think that's OK to admit. This is a matchup that gives him issues and he simply has to figure that shit out, because the Celts cannot beat this team with Tatum throwing up 6-21s.
On a night when the Celts needed their franchise player to show up, Tatum was nowhere to be found. Tough to win when that happens.
As always, perspective is important. The Celts still have a chance to finish this trip strong and end the 6 game road trip 5-1. That's pretty good if they're able to pull it off. Rob potentially is back in a few days. While it's very disappointing they played like shit in such a big game, they're fine. Losses happen. What matters is how you respond to them, and this is a team that has responded every single time. Sure, ESPN and the like will be loud about this game after not really talking about the Celts all year. Who gives a shit. Turn the page, take care of business in LA and then you return home for a long homestand. Just breathe.
Steph Curry is still the devil though. What the hell.