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The Celtics Got Their Much Needed Revenge Against The Clippers And Boy Was It Sweet

Brian Babineau. Getty Images.


After the Celtics had lost to the Indiana Pacers to drop their 3rd straight game at home, they reached a crossroads. They were losers of 4 out of their last 5, people were calling them frauds, everyone talked about how the Bucks were actually the best team in the East/NBA, the Jays were overrated blah blah blah. I don't fault the doomers or trolls for those takes, they had to hold them in for the first 25 games so they probably looked like this waiting for the Celts to slip up

At that point, the Celts had a choice. Figure it the fuck out and get back to playing the type of basketball we've come to expect and stop the bleeding, or continue to spiral and undo all the great work they accomplished through the first 25ish games.

Their response?

They haven't lost since. 

I don't know about you, but I don't even remember the first 3 games of this homestand and frankly, I'm not totally sure they even happened. It might have just been a bad dream if we're being honest. It just goes to show you how quickly things move in the NBA. The sky was falling because of a few bad losses like 6 days ago, but after a run of MIN/MIL/HOU/LAC, all being wins, who even gives a shit about the start of the homestand anymore. Guess what, the Celts stopped missing every shot they took including point blank wide open layups and they started winning again. Imagine that! Sometimes shit happens over the course of an 82 game season, and it's pretty clear that little skid was just that. A little skid. It wasn't some sort of referendum on what the Celts are as a team. It wasn't an indicator of what will happen in the Spring (neither are the wins by the way). If that's what you think it was, then what are they after this 4-0 run stretch? Or how about the 26-10 stretch of this entire season?

I'll tell you. The Celts are the best team in the NBA. That was true in October, November, December, and will also be true once we get to January and beyond. Don't get mad at me for it, I don't make the rules, just accept it. 

Last night was a chance at revenge. The Clippers handed the Celts their worst loss of the season a little over 2 weeks ago and were coming into the Garden with all their big guns active. In my opinion, there's a big mental difference between a 3-4 and a 4-3 homestand before they head back out of a 4 game trip, and I wanted to see how the Celts approached this game. Sometimes you can already be looking ahead to your road trip so I wanted to see them get revenge AND stay focused for a full 48.

Did it happen? Boy did it. Let's dive in.

The Good

- In a battle of the duos, I think it's fair to say the Clippers pair won Round 1. I'm pretty sure Kawhi went like 10-12 or some shit. It was one of the most ridiculous robotic displays of basketball dominance I've ever seen. Last night with things shifting to the Garden, it was time for the Celts duo to punch back 


Giphy Images.

Much, much better. The crazy thing about Tatum's night is he had 29/11 and didn't even shoot the ball well. He finished just 10-26 (3-11) which is pretty terrible. The good news is he still not only found ways to get 29 points, but he also found ways to make a positive impact whether it was his work on the glass (team leading 11), his defense, or even the fact that he never really started forcing things offensively once the Clippers started to double him down the stretch. Instead, he loved and trusted his teammates which is EXACTLY what you want from your star player in those moments.

With Jaylen, we're starting to see a trend here when it comes to Jaylen's shifts. He comes out with around 4-5 minutes left in the 3rd quarter so he can come back rested and dominate the fourth. Tatum will be getting his rest at that time, so everything needs to go through Jaylen offensively. Game after game after game he's responded well to this and last night was no different.

In a close game entering the final quarter, Jaylen stepped up and carried to the tune of 12 points on 5-11 shooting. That was pretty important considering Tatum's 0-5 showing, and it really didn't matter who the Clippers threw at Jaylen. Whether it was getting to his midrange shot or all the way to the rim, we're seeing what happens when Jaylen is locked in offensively. For him to turn it over just 1 time despite all that usage in the biggest moments of the game was huge. When it seemed like Kawhi/George were ready to take the fourth quarter over, it was Jaylen who came back and responded each time to keep the Celts afloat. 

That's why having BOTH of these guys on the same team is so awesome. They're the best duo in the NBA for a reason, and we saw that reason last night.

- When you close your eyes and picture the perfect point guard play for this team, what do you see? This


Imagine being someone in 2022 that still tries to downplay the importance or value of Marcus Smart to this professional basketball team. It happens literally every day, and I know this because I spend every day fighting these morons. I simply do not understand why it's so hard to simply acknowledge what the entire world sees. The way Marcus Smart is playing the point guard position for the last 2 years has been about as close to the ideal version of the position that you could possibly get.

It's not just his two way dominance

where you're seeing him effectively guard every position on the floor. It's not just his elite level playmaking and how he knows where every single player on the roster loves getting the ball. It's not just his ability to hit big shots. It's everything. What we're seeing is what the prime of Marcus Smart looks like as a starting point guard and it's basically exactly what everyone wanted.

How many times a game are we seeing Smart continue to pass up open looks for better shots? How many times are we seeing him make a game changing play defensively? It's every fucking game. Since he came back from being sick the Celts have won 4 in a row and here's what they're getting from Smart

9.5/3.5/8.3/2.3 on 45/38% splits with 1.8 3PM a night and only 1.3 TOs

Flawless guard play. That's really all there is to say about it. He's the straw that stirs the drink/ Yes, Tatum and Brown are the stars and the most important ingredients. But it's how the chef in Smart puts it all together that makes this team so devastating. I feel like we're past the point of debate about that. When the Celts are getting this level of play from their 3 core players, it doesn't matter who the opposing team is really. Smart said so himself and he wasn't lying


- I thought Jaylen Brown said it best

Aggressive Derrick changes a lot. When Derrick White doesn't worry about the misses and stays aggressive, it takes this team to another level. There's no doubt that he was struggling big time before his haircut, but since then? We're getting the version of Derrick we saw to start the year

Just like Smart, Derrick has been awesome during this 4 game winning streak to the tune of 12.8/4.3/3.8 on 60/28% splits. OK, the three ball is still a work in progress, but 60% from the field? Yes please. This happens because Derrick is staying aggressive, just look at his shot chart


Almost everything is in the paint! I cannot stress enough how much better things look when this team makes sure to touch the paint. Whether it's a play at the rim or a drive and kick for a catch & shoot three, paint touches are the foundation of this team's success offensively. With White specifically, his floater game is so good that it's no surprise his production has turned around the second he spent more time attacking the paint and less time relying on 3PA. See the ball go in a few times and then let it fly from deep. 

The beauty of how Brad has constructed his guard depth on this roster is he demands you either be a two way player, or shoot 40% from three. When it came time for someone to make a play in a big moment, it was Derrick White's rim protection that was maybe the biggest play of the night. An elite rim protector for a guard, you can see why Brad is obsessed with this type of player. 

Remember when people got mad that Brad included a future pick swap in the White trade? Classic doomers. That will never not make me laugh.

- It was a bit of a surprise to see the Celts dominated the paint in this game 54-42, while also dominating in fastbreak points 17-11. They also won the 2nd chance points battle 13-7 and had 3 more OREBs. It was like an Opposite Day type of game with the Clippers being the ones that made all the 3PA (15) while the Celts struggled. The fact that they still found a way to win despite shooting 28% from deep as a team is VERY encouraging. The fact that they did it with their defense is even better.

- I don't want to go too far, but everything Rob does is perfect. Everything.

Even when he messes up it's a result of him doing something awesome, like that fastbreak where he came out of nowhere to steal the ball and then went coast to coast, only to then get way too excited and immediately turned it over. Whatever, that play ruled. When Rob fouls, it's usually as he goes for some type of incredible block, so whatever. Those small little mistakes are more than worth everything else he gives you. The fact that he's doing all this with a minutes restriction is even better.

Watching him play, I see the same old Rob. Not just from a production standpoint, but just watching him move. That's the biggest thing for me, you can't even tell he had a knee procedure. The bounce is there, the timing is getting better, and as he gets more minutes he'll continue to get in better game shape. Remember, this was only his 6th game back. Whatever the plan is for him in terms of his minutes/role, his body is clearly responding well. It's clear there's no real mental hurdle for him to get over considering he jumps and dives the same way he always has which tells me he's not even thinking about his knee, he's just playing.

As expected, Rob's return takes this team to an even higher level. It's nice to know that wasn't just us hoping it would happen, it's what actually happens.

- I know Al already signed on for 2 more years, but I'm going to need that number to be doubled. Can we just give him an advance extension on his upcoming extension? Who says no?


Nothing crazy, nothing flashy, just your solid Al Horford production. He's there when you need him, he's always ready, and his block at the end of the game was the perfect cherry on top of a fantastic win. If he's going to get back to making his safety valve threes again, even better. If you were curious, he's shooting 38.8% from three in December and 47.8% from three during this 4 game winning streak.

That's the Al we know and love.

The Bad

- Every Celts game we say the same thing. As long as they take care of the basketball, there should be nothing to worry about. Time and time again they continue to prove us right and this game was a perfect example. The Celts turn the ball over just 2 times in the first 24 minutes and for the most part look great. They had a double digit lead heading into the break and things were awesome.

Then the 3rd quarter shows up and things start to slide. The entire vibe of the game changed, and why do we think that was? Because the Celts began to get careless. In that quarter alone they turned the ball over 7 TIMES. That is far too many TOs for a single quarter. Suddenly their 11 point lead looked like a 1 point deficit. It allowed the Clippers to get comfortable and once that happened then the 3PA started showing up. 

Marcus led the charge with 3 TOs and by the end of it the Clippers had 36 points on 63/63% splits. It's hard to play defense when you're giving up transition buckets, and there's no doubt that 3rd quarter was the grossest part of this game.

- It's weird, I thought Sam Hauser did a really good job in terms of his individual defense on both Kawhi and George. He actually somewhat held his own which is a big time win.

At the same time, he's not on the floor for his defense. Anything he gives you on that end is a bonus, as is his legit weakside rebounding. The point is those things are supposed to be added to knock down shooting, and that just hasn't been the case for the entire month of December with Hauser. Another 1-5 (1-4) for him in his 15 minutes, it's just really shocking how cold he is even on wide open looks. It's probably mental at this point.

The same is true with Payton. I feel like I haven't seen Payton make a shot in 2 months. It's crazy that in a game Brogdon didn't play we only saw Pritchard for 5 minutes, but I get why that was. Given his size, it's not like with Hauser where you can get some defense/rebounding if his jumper isn't falling. Payton needs to make shots to stay on the floor, and that's an issue for him right now.


- It fascinates me how Zubac always kills his team whenever they play. It feels like his length always gives them issues, regardless of who is on the floor. I'd definitely put him on the list of random Celtics Killers. For whatever reason they refuse to box him out, I feel like he never misses around the rim against the Celts, and while he's a good player I can't shake the feeling that going up against the Celts makes him look so much better. It's weird.

- You bet your ass it was very annoying watching Jayson Tatum miss 4 FTA in a single game. I didn't even know that was possible. You may say 17-22 isn't so bad, I'm going to say in no world should Tatum miss 4 FTs in a game. Love that he was aggressive getting to the line, hate how me missed 40% of his attempts.

- I really hated how the Celts went into kill the clock mode with about 2+ minutes left. Once they started playing the clock rather than the game, it wasn't surprising the Clippers made a late push. It felt like the Celts went into coast mode a little too early and you have to know that a team like LAC with guys like Kawhi and George are going to keep coming at you for a full 48. I get why the Celts played that way, but I didn't like it. That's how you start to form bad habits. It didn't cost them in this game, but I don't really care. Play the full 48.

The Ugly

- What else is there to say about Tatum/Brown going a combined 3-19 from deep? As a team the Celts finished 11-39. Since the Bucks win, they haven't really shot the ball all that well from deep, hovering around the low 30s or below. On most nights, you get a 3-19 from your two best players chances are you're cooked, so it would be nice if water found its level for those two. I never want them to stop shooting and a few from Jaylen rimmed out, but 28.2% as a team is pretty shitty.

- The Scott Foster fuckery was on full display in this game. What an asshole that guy is. Be more obvious, you can't. 

We now move onto another showdown with the 2x MVP, a pesky OKC team, Luka Magic and the Spurs. No back to backs which is nice for a change, and another opportunity to keep this momentum rolling. Both the Nuggets and the Mavs are really good at home and the Thunder will catch you if you fuck around against them, that's now good SGA is. But I think we can all agree that if the Celts continue to play the right way, they'll be just fine. 

A solid 4 game close to the homsestand was nice, but I think a 4-0 trip would be even better,