Watching Jaylen Brown And Jayson Tatum Make History Is One Of Life's Greatest Gifts

Brian Babineau. Getty Images.

Letdown games are not a new concept. They happen all the time to teams all throughout the NBA. Over the course of 82 games, you're bound to have a handful here and there where you wake up the next day shaking your head, unable to comprehend how your favorite team maybe lost a game they had no business losing. 

Coming off the huge win against the Bucks and playing a feisty Rockets team who was on the second night of a back to back, this had all the makings of a letdown game for the Celts, and that was before we learned that Joe wouldn't be coaching because his eye exploded or some shit. That thing looked nasty in his pregame interview, no chance he could see out of that thing. Pink eye (or something) like you read about.

I think most of us entered last night with the same mindset. Confident, but cautious. I've seen the Celtics play basketball a few times in my life, I know they are susceptible to a letdown loss or two throughout the year, and given how this homestand started I wanted to see how they respond coming off that Bucks win high. Would they be able to turn the page, move on, and take care of business or would they play down to their competition, not have focus, and somehow end up on the wrong side of a score against a Houston team that plays extremely free. They're a team whose record might be terrible but they do have wins over DAL/PHX (2x)/PHI/MIL so if you fuck around against them, you'll find out why that's a bad idea. They'll getcha if you don't play focused and for a full 48.

Thankfully, there was no letdown. A competitive game for about 3ish quarters too, so while it may look like the Celts completely dominated this game by the final score, that really wasn't the case. This was another game where they had to continuiously execute. As I said against the Bucks, I don't mind games like this. I want to see the Celts challenged on a nightly basis, I want to see them respond in situations that are going to most likely come up in a playoff run. Get the reps in now so you are calm in those high pressure situations later, that's how December basketball can be meaningful.

The Celts now stand at an NBA best 25-10 and are winners of 3 straight. If the Nets lose today, they'll own the longest active winning streak in the East. They close out their homestand tomorrow night against the Clippers, but before we think about that revenge, we first must talk about last night.

The Good

- How many times do I have to say it? Please, just tell me. I don't mind doing it, there's no amount of times that will be too many for me, so please, just let me know. Here it is one more time.

The best part about having Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum on your favorite team is the fact that you have BOTH Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum on your favorite team.

Exhibit A

Exhibit B

As a Celtics fan in his mid 30s, my entire fandom revolves around Celtics duos. I started in darkness, and was brought to light by Paul Pierce and Antoine Walker. They were Tatum and Brown before there was a Tatum and Brown, at a time when the Celts roster desperately needed a #1 and #2. Those games were electric and those teams were a huge part of any mid 30s Celts fan's life. Toine and Pierce helped mold us. 

That duo died after the 2002-03 season, and it would be a long time before the Celts would ever draft an elite, young, franchise cornerstone duo.

Things have reached the point where we need to begin to accept conversations where the focus is on this pair of Brown/Tatum being among the greatest Celtics duos, ever. They are on their way to becoming generational Celtics. Not just Tatum, both of them. To do that, you need titles. That's why we're all here and we all understand that. Every legend before them had the same expectation and nothing is different in this new generation. But to see this journey from the beginning to where it is at the moment is what means more as a fan. I've seen every single dribble both of these dudes have ever taken at the NBA level, and I'm not sure I even expected to see this. 

You know who knew this was possible? Danny. He picked Jaylen when nobody else had him that high on their board, he had Tatum #1 on his board when the entire world had Fultz. This is why Ainge was so stubborn and never fell to public pressure to trade one of them for a star in the in the early years. He knew you can't split Tatum/Brown up, they're the future. 

The crazy part is, nights like last night are normal now. The Jays had over 70? They literally did this same shit 3 days ago in their last game. There's a chance we see it again tomorrow night against the Clippers. That's the beauty of all this and frankly what makes it rather insane. Each Jay dropping 30 in the same game has become normal. Something that is very much not normal seems like it's the baseline expectation now and that's fucking nuts. 

It's not overly complicated. If nobody is going to be able to stop Tatum and Brown, the Celtics are going to win. Nobody on the Rockets could stop Tatum and Brown, so the result shouldn't be a surprise.

- Everything Robert Williams does is such a delight. Everything. Every rebound, every lob, every pass, every bock, every rotation, it's all incredible

We're now 5 games into Rob's return and a few things stand out.

First, it looks like his body/knee is responding well to playing. That's obviously the most important thing with Rob. It's one thing to look good in practice, but how do you look after a week or two of playing? The early answer is fantastic. He looks quick, he looks bouncy, watching Rob run around and jump around at no point has my brain said this is a man who just had knee surgery. That's a huge positive.

Next, despite only playing in limited minutes, his impact is undeniable. Take the offensive glass for example. Since Rob came back on 12/16, the Celts have had the 9th best OREB% (30.0%) in the league. Before then? The Celtics were 30th. Dead fucking last. The only thing that changed was Rob returned to the lineup and you went from dead last to top 10. I'd say that's a pretty massive difference. 

Why does that matter? Well, the Celts are 4th in 2nd chance points per game since Rob returned (16.7). Before Rob, they were 28th. Given the Celts shooting issues as of late, I'd say that too is a pretty big fucking deal. The Celts are no longer a one and done offensive team as long as Rob is on the court. Chances are you're going to get a handful of offensive tap outs/put backs.

Defensively, we're already seeing Rob bring what was missing to start the year. Now when people get into the paint against this team, they actively shit their pants worrying about where the hell Rob is. They know he's going to come flying in from somewhere, so their focus is on Rob and not finishing the play. That's a weapon that you see with elite defensive big men. When opposing players are more concerned about where the shot blocker is than the actual play, you've won. Players look downright terrified to even consider putting anything up around Rob, and that is NOT something that any other big on the roster possessess. 

- While Joe was out, we still had a full on Mazzulla Ball display. Another game with 120+ in regulation, over 50% of the Celts FGA were 3PA, they made 20 3PM, had 32 AST and only turned the ball over 10 times. That's Mazzulla Ball to a T.

The difference is now we're starting to see the Celts add in elite level defense to an already best in the NBA offense. Since Rob's return on 12/16, guess who has the best ranked defense in the NBA? OK fine I'll tell you. It's the Boston Celtics. Their 107.2 Drtg tops the charts over these last two weeks. Pretty good!

- Felt nice to finally see a good Brogdon game. I'm at the point now with Brogdon where I'm not above bullying him into being more aggressive offensively, especially against teams with poor rim protection. His 8 FGA were the 3rd most on the team and I thought he gave the Celts a little but of everything with his 6 rebounds, 8 assists and only 1 TO. An aggressive Brogdon is the best Brogdon in my opinion, because so often his live ball turnovers come from when he leaves his feet and tries to overpass. Just take the floater man, you're really good at it!

Everyone needs a slump buster at some point in their lives, hopefully the Rockets can be that for Brogdon, because we're going to need this aggressive version against the Clippers. When he's playing like this and not making very random boneheaded decisions with the basketball, he's filling his role to perfection.

- Only took 3PA, but other than that it was another rock solid performance from the starting point guard Marcus Smart

It got to the point where you had to beg Marcus to take a shot in the early stages of this game. He simply refused to do anything other than assist hunt and create for his teammates, even if he was wide open. If you can't tell a difference in his approach these last 2 years, I'm not sure what you're watching. 

Defensively, we saw him cover every position per usual. It will never not be amazing to see Smart, as a point guard, take a big like Sengun on in the post with no help and completely eliminate him as an option. What point guard is doing that? Then, he's chasing around and effectively guarding one of the fastest and best scoring guards in the league. That versatility is a weapon, and when you add it to the positive impact he's making offensively, you can see why Smart is the straw that stirs the drink. The way he's been playing the guard position has been near perfect for this team to start the year, and it should surprise no one.

The Bad

- Sam Hauser's jumper still appears to be a little broken I'm afraid. Since we got to December, Hauser's at a brutal 28% from deep. Over the last few games we've seem him brick even the WIDE open ones which is a little concerning. I'm not someone who thinks Hauser has no value if his shot isn't falling, he actually played pretty well last night at doing everything else, but the shooting is why he's on the roster. I need him to at least be league average, not sub 30%. 

- Another game of over 10+ OREB for the opposition. I feel like that's been a pretty glaring trend since the West Coast trip, and in the minutes Rob wasn't on the floor the defensive rebounding was pretty dogshit. You can't be getting outworked on the glass by a team that played the night before and doesn't even really have that much height. Jaylen and Smart with only 1 REB each, that shit's not good enough and will come back to haunt you against a better team.

We know this because we've seen it in each of their recent losses. You have to protect your own glass.

- Ball security in the 2nd quarter was arguably some of the worst I've seen all season. I think there was 3 or 4 straight possessions where the Celts did nothing but turn it over. They finished with 5 in the quarter and so much of it was due to careless decision making. Jaylen losing the ball, Smart trying to be fancy with a behind the back play on the break, just play normal. Thankfully Tatum bailed them out on the other end, or else that could have been quite the disaster.

- The Celts never really figured out how to handle Green's speed offensively. Felt like he got to the rim whenever he wanted and while part of that is just who Green is as a player, it felt like nobody outside of Smart really made it tough for him. Same thing with KPJ, too often did we see him just dribble through the entire defense and finish a wide open layup. 

This is concerning because one early weakness of this team was dribble drive guards. Whether it was Mitchell or Garland or Herro or Steph, this team has a type of player that gives them issues. Since that tape now exists and other teams can copy it, that's something to watch out for. Quick/shifty guards give this team trouble. Fact.

The Ugly

- Thank Christ for Jaylen and Jayson because when you get this type of showing from 60% of your starting lineup, most nights you're cooked

Al Horford: 1-5 (1-4)

Derrick White: 2-6 (0-4)

Marcus Smart: 3-7 (3-7)

Combined, the three finished with just 18 points. Neither Al or Derrick were particularly close on any of their missed 3PA, and I think we can all agree that moving forward there needs to be way more help for the Jays. The goal is to avoid burnout, and to do that the "others" need to show up. Last night, nobody could buy a bucket. 

- The Celts may have finished with 35% from three, but they were around 30% entering the 4th quarter. In the first half, they were back to 27%. They were able to shoot themselves out of it, but there's no denying the first 24 minutes of outside shooting was beyond ugly. Open, contested, from the corners, none of it mattered. Nobody could make a shot, something that has been all too familiar this month.

But hey, 3 in a row is 3 in a row. Ride this wave of momentum and get your revenge against the Clippers tomorrow night and you salvage the homestand at 4-3. It looks like the Celts have made it through their skid, but now is the time to keep on building.