Not a small, tiny exhale either. A giant "I probably would have done something I regret if the Celts lost 4 in a row" exhale.
You woke up this morning with the Boston Celtics back in first place in the East and owners of the best record in the NBA. That was a long few days there huh? It's actually pretty crazy that the Celts have gone about 2 weeks playing the worst basketball not just in the NBA, but on the entire planet, and here they sit, back atop the throne. You would think losing 4 of 5 would cause you to slide down the standings given the fact that for those two weeks the entire top 7 in the East was on a billion game winning streak, but that just goes to show you how great the Celts start was.
Beating a team like the Wolves is whatever. They are not the point. There was no KAT, the Wolves struggle on the road and will maybe be a Play In Team out West. This isn't about them. This is about the Celts simply finding a way to win a goddamn basketball gane. Before we can start talking about Christmas against the Bucks or the playoffs or any of that bullshit, the Celts needed to show that they actually were capable of winning a real life basketball game regardless of the opponent. When you drop back to back games against ORL and then a 3rd against the Pacers, all at home, it's time to go back to square one.
Just get a fucking win. I don't care how you do it or who it comes against, you just find a way to get your ass back in the win column.
Is that maybe a little sad and a clear sign of how down bad we all have been these last few weeks? Uhhhhh yeah man, have you not been paying attention? I'm not sure the Celts have even been playing the same sport as everyone else these last 10ish days, so to see them get back to looking like the team we all remembered last night was such a relief.
While I think we can all agree that what we see tomorrow against the Bucks (currently lost 3 of 5) is going to have to be 100x better, we can worry about that shit tomorrow. For now, let's finally get back to having some fun in this blog because lord knows it's been a long ass time since we have.
- I've decided to switch things up for the coveted top spot. You're probably thinking this was going to be reserved for Tatum or Jaylen or Smart, but nope. I'm going with a guy that DESPERATELY needed a performance like we got last night, and someone who I thought was an absolute stud on both ends.
We begin with Derrick White
The man got a new haircut and I'm convinced it changed everything. There were no more buckets in that old hairstyle, so I commend Derrick for taking accountability and doing something about it. The results were basically Derrick's best two way performance in over a month.
The three point shot may still be broke as a joke, but that's fine. We know Derrick is at his best when he's using his size and athleticism and gets paint touches. The annoying part about this in a game like the Pacers was the fact that despite getting to the paint/rim whenever he wanted, the man simply could not make a layup/floater to save his life. Last night? He got back to normal
Wild what a difference it makes when a team decides to not miss every layup they take huh?
A team best +23 in his 32 minutes, in a game that was all about regaining confidence, it felt like that's exactly what happened with Derrick as soon as he saw his first few layups drop. While I don't think it's fair to expect 8-13 shooting every night, the point is more around his approach. There was no hesitation, no overthinking. He simply played. Defensively he was just as solid as ever, but having guys that continue to attack the paint and either look for plays at the rim or drive and kick is essentially the foundation of the Celts offense. For a while there it looked like Derrick was mostly out there to get some cardio, but last night I would say every single one of his 32 minutes was impactful.
- In life, we all search for validation on some level. Think about your own life, I'm sure there are things you want validation for and I'm also sure it feels damn good when you get it.
That is how I feel about Marcus Smart.
Wednesday, this team looked gross. The offense stalled, the defense was pathetic, and they played with no focus and no passion or energy. Friday a certain someone came back and let's have a look at what happened
A perfect 10 assists and 0 TOs. DPOY caliber defense
Perfect shot selection and decision making offensively (5 FGA). For the billionth time, you saw why Marcus Smart is so important to this team. It doesn't mean they won't ever play like shit when he's active, I mean he did participate in the ORL games, but when you watched the Celts last night, did you think they were lazy? Did you think they played without passion or energy?
No. No, you didn't. Why? Because Smart set the tone right from the jump.
Suddenly this team's offense started to look like we remembered. The ball was back to moving, guys were engaged and made quick decisions, and the ball never really stuck. That starts with the head of the snake aka your PG. Smart struggled with those things in the ORL game and as a result, the team struggled. Last night was pretty damn perfect and look at the results.
Remember, there are real life people out there that declare Smart is not a natural enough passer to be a starting point guard. That he's not a good enough playmaker. These are real things people say and still believe to this day. They're down bad, and I'd feel bad for them but I don't. We've told you this for years and you still want to deny it. If last night isn't proof of Smart's importance to the success of this team, you simply refuse to accept it.
- I suppose this is a good spot to also mention the fact that this happened
That Jordan/Pippen duo was pretty decent you could say. If you don't think my brain has already started looking at the schedule and finding a way for Tatum/Brown to also pass Kobe/Shaq this season you are out of your mind. When they're doing shit like this
it's on the table.
When looking at each of their nights, you saw the benefit of having these two dynamic two way talents who find ways to dominate the game in their own way. With Tatum, it was a more consistent dominance. Both were mostly "meh" in the first half, some good plays here and there, but you didn't get the sense that they were putting their foot down and asserting themselves given the fact that the Wolves hung around and actually went into the break with a 2 point lead.
Then we got Jayson's third quarter dominance. He played all 12 minutes, put up 15/3/3 on 5-8 shooting, and essentially carried the Celts. He and Derrick White were the reason the Celts survived being down by as many as 9 in the 3rd, and having a player like Tatum that can own a quarter like that is so important. Especially when Anthony Edwards was matching him shot for shot, this wasn't a situation where Tatum made shots and the Celts went up a billion. They had to keep executing and keep finding ways to score because they sure as shit couldn't stop Ant from making jumper after jumper.
In the fourth, Jaylen woke up. Up until then, after a 1-6 third quarter Jaylen's night was pretty dogshit from an offensive standpoint. He was just 5-15 (0-7) entering the final frame, which was pretty far for the course during this slump. Then
Jaylen was brilliant, I don't really know what else could possibly describe it. It was as dominant a performance as you can see someone have in 11 minutes of floor time. An inside/outside display of dominance to the tune of 23/4/2/1 with 1 TO on 8-14 (3-6) shooting. To put this into perspective, the Wolves scored 23 points in the entire quarter…..as a team.
Jaylen did that himself.
As terrible as he was through three, and he was bad, that's how incredible he was when the Celts needed it most. In the highest pressured situation, Jaylen responded. That's what I care about and it's what you should care about too. This team needs late game reps in close situations where their best players need to find a way to step up and carry. That is what you got from Tatum and Brown last night, and that's exactly what they'll need tomorrow.
- It was nice to see the Celts get back up to 121 points, even on a night where they still couldn't make a three to save their lives. You do that by getting your ass out on the break and find ways for transition buckets. The Celts are a team with elite transition finishers who also sometimes go into three point shooting slumps, so getting those guys easy buckets is how you have to do it.
That's basically what happened. Celts owned the fastbreak battle 24-10, and that difference is what kept them afloat despite missing everything from deep. They finally got back to causing turnovers (16), which got them out on the break. It's not complicated, get stops, get out and run, and eventually, once you have a stretch where the shots do fall (4th quarter), you're going to get that much needed seperation.
- When I wake up on the day of a Celts game, I immediately start thinking about one thing. Will they take care of the basketball? Anyone who watches this team knows, it all comes down to ball security. Turn it over, you die. If you can't turn the Celts over, you're going to get crushed. The sample size is large enough where we can say if the Celts turn it over around 15 or more times, they're cooked. They stay under that, chances are things will work out.
I'd say 11 TOs as a team, with just 3 in the second half is what we're all looking for. Keep that shit low, wins will follow.
- At a time when you could sense that whenever things started to go sideways the Celts began to panic. Your classic "oh shit not again" mentality where you're more and more tense after every miss that it fucks everything up. Why do you think both Jaylen and Tatum mentioned it over and over in their press conferences? Because that's how they were playing. We didn't see that free flowing style because guys were freaking out about misses rather than digging in and getting stops.
The difference last night is the Celts punched back. Given the fact that they repeatedly found ways to give up 8-10 point leads, they had to punch back on multiple occasions. Think about this in the context of their slump, this is a Wolves team that was .500, you'd lost 3 in a row and if you didn't execute, it was going to be 4. So to see the Celts continue to respond like that was nice, especially since that same lack of execution is why they were in this skid in the first place.
- Love when we see Al get back to normal
From his big shots late from three to what he did on the glass in the second half and his overall defense, this was vintage Al Horford. When you get the performances like you saw above and then you also get to add this version of Al, the Celts are fairly unstoppable when that all happens.
Maybe I'm in the minority, but once Rob is over his cold I'd like to see the Smart/Jaylen/Tatum/Al/Rob starting lineup from last season. Let's lighten Al's defense load a little bit to keep those legs fresh because his importance as a safety valve three point guy in this offense is gigantic. He needs to be able to stay fresh and have legs for those swing corner/wing 3PA, plus that unit fucking rules. Rob's proved he's ready in terms of how he looks on the floor, I say let's see it.
- We mentioned it up top, but Jaylen's 1-3 quarters was the poster child for this section. Gross forced jumpers, couldn't make a three, felt like he was settling rather than being aggressive, just all things you don't want to see. Thankfully he snapped out of it, but up until he did was pretty tough living. When Jaylen is air balling wide open corner threes, you know something was up. Whatever snapped him out of it, thank you.
- A really surprising part of this homestand is the fact that the bench continues to do absolutely nothing. Role guys are supposed to play/shoot better at home right? Well, where is it?
Depth is great. You need depth in today's NBA. But the key thing about depth is that for it to be considered good, it actually has to do something. For this entire homestand have you felt like the second unit has shown up? I haven't. The whole key to making sure Tatum/Brown don't burn out by the Spring is that they can find moments to step off the floor. If the bench is going to continue to play like this then Joe is going to keep those guys out there and the minutes will add up.
14 bench points is pretty shitty, I think we can all agree there.
- In typical Celts fashion, they continue to give up end of clock buzzer beater prayers. This time it was DLo right before the half which capped off a quick 8-0 run. When you're slumping like this, those are the plays that always seem to find a way to happen. Chris Duarte had 2 in the Pacers loss, DLo again last night, it's annoying as hell.
Given how the final 1:46 went, I don't think there was a single person that wasn't convinced DLo was hitting that three in Brogdon's face. We've all seen that collapse a thousand times. Up 6 to down 2 in like 100 seconds. Man that was annoying.
- Way too many OREB/2nd Chance points allowed. Celts can't keep giving up 10+ OREB and 15+ 2nd chance points every game they play. I know Rob didn't play and Gobert had 4 which is expected, and I get that the Celts won the overall rebounding battle, but OREBs/2nd Chance points have been at the root of all of these losses. Given the fact that this game was close through 3 quarters, a big reason for that was OREBs/2nd Chance points. That has to be cleaned up.
- At this point all you can do is laugh when it comes to the overall team three point shooting. It's truly astounding how they continue to miss at such an alarming rate. Another game under 30%, this time a stellar 13-46 which is 28.3%. The run that this is currently on is reaching pure insanity.
That's the Celts last 7 games. Under 30% in 3 of their last 4. Under 32% in 6 of the 7. Do you know how bad 32% shooting is as a team? That's what the Hornets shoot (32.6%). They're 30th in the NBA. So, in other words, the Celts haven't even been able to match something that the worst 3P shooting team in the NBA is doing. Jesus Christ. You want to say they're not going to be a historic three point shooting team, fine. No argument there. But I'm also pretty sure they aren't going to be the worst three point shooting team in the NBA either. Water has to find its level already, what the fuck is going on.
So now we move on. Christmas against the Bucks. Pretty big game I'd say. Both teams will probably be at full strength, the top two teams in the East and arguably the NBA. Last time the Celts had a test like this, it sent them into a spiral. Now the Bucks are going to be coming in motivated given what happened last season as they attempt to do what you couldn't do in GS. A win tomorrow would certainly go a long way into making everyone feel a little bit better about the Celts coming out of this skid.
Love and Trust.