I don't mean to be too crass here, but what the actual fuck?
Listen I get it, the NBA season is 82 games long, losses happen, blah blah blah. We all understand that. But again I ask, what the actual fuck?
For the fourth time in five games, the Celts found a way to lose a game in which they were double-digit favorites going in. This time against a Thunder team who was missing their best player in SGA. The Celtics? Fully healthy outside of Rob's rest day. On no planet should that result in one of the most embarrassing losses in franchise history. I don't think I'm being that hyperbolic with that statement either considering last night was the 2nd most points the Celts have ever allowed in a game. Letting a team put up 150 points in regulation is so pathetic my brain doesn't even really know how to process it. I didn't think it was possible to do such a thing let alone see it happen to a team that on paper had a bunch of plus defenders play last night. If one thing has been made VERY clear to start this West Coast trip it's that the Celts did not bring their defense with them. My God have some goddamn pride for me one time.
It's truly remarkable how this team is either one of the most devastating basketball forces known to man, or they are so terrible it's as if nobody on the roster has ever played the sport before. When the Celts play like shit, they are no joke the worst team on the planet. It's both kind of funny and extremely fucking annoying.
I've seen many terrible losses over my 35 years on this planet. I mean I'm a 90s kid, my entire fandom is rooted in the dark ages of this franchise. I know dogshit when I see dogshit and I can't ever remember seeing something like this. It was the largest loss of the Tatum/Brown era, narrowly passing the 32 point loss last year at home to the Raptors. Remember that shit? This was far worse in my opinion.
Perhaps this will be a wakeup call, just like the Pacers blowout was. Sure, that could happen. My question is I thought the IND loss was supposed to be the wakeup call, so why is there a need for another wake up call? At what point are the players going to take some responsibility and stop playing like assholes? I'm not sure if they've noticed, but not stopping clearly isn't working.
We have a lot to get to, let's just dive right in.
- You are out of your fucking mind if you think I am going to waste any internet ink spinzoning any aspect of this shit sandwich. No chance. The players don't deserve it. I'd love to, but my hands are tied.
We move on.
- Let's start with everyone's favorite topic. Joe's timeouts. As is the case people blindly point to timeouts and Joe apparently not calling any as a big issue. Sorry, that's wrong. That is not what happened in this game and anyone who watched it should be able to tell you that.
The problem wasn't that Joe didn't call timeouts, he did. He didn't even really wait too long on most of them when the game was in the balance. The issue is the timeouts did absolutely nothing, with the Celts immediately turning it over nearly every single time coming out of that break. I ask you, what is the coach supposed to do in any of these plays? Here's what the Celts did after each timeout
What the hell is Brogdon doing here? Why is he telling Sam to go get the ball before the inbound? Why is he not handling the ball since ya know, he's the fucking point guard? Then once it's clear Sam is having trouble, where's the help? I highly doubt Joe was in that huddle calling for a play that has SAM HAUSER initiating offense
Next up coming out of a timeout in the 2nd quarter we had this play
Smart in the post isn't a terrible idea. In fact, that set usually works more often than not whether he finds a way to score in the paint or he dishes to a cutter. Instead? How about dribbling into a TO, which leads to a transition three. That's on the coach??
Up next we have another timeout in the 3rd quarter
Again, call me crazy, but I'm pretty certain Joe didn't tell both Jayson Tatum and Marcus Smart to forget how to dribble the basketball. I mean what even is that Smart play? As expected, this lead to more easy OKC points
Down 28, we had another timeout. This time the Celts actually executed, but at that point the game was over
So just add it all up. In Joe's 4 timeouts, the Celtics immediately turned it over in 3 of them, all of which led to OKC points. I'm sorry, but that's on the players. That's an execution and mental focus issue, not a "Joe never calls timeouts" issue. When your starting point guard cannot dribble, and then the point guard you brought in to calm down to offense and prevent runs with the second unit is simply refusing to even go get the ball, it's on them. Period.
- One of the things that was supposed to be a strength of this group was their maturity and mental focus. This is a team that's been through hell together. They've experienced the highest of highs and lowest of lows, and given what has already transpired this season, under NO circumstances should they EVER be overlooking an opponent. So when I saw Malcolm Brogdon give this quote, I legit gasped
Inexcusable. For me, it starts at the top. Where are your two best players to ensure everyone has the right mindset going into this game? They set the tone. It's clear that didn't happen, so let's go down the list. Marcus Smart, where are you in this? You're one of the leaders, the heart and soul. Does that sound like leadership to anyone? Sure doesn't to me.
Al Horford, hello friend. You're the vet leader right? The calming presence who likes to take pride in being that voice of reason. What happened here? I'm pretty sure Al's been around long enough to know you can't be doing that shit. And finally, Malcolm. Wasn't this the EXACT reason you were brought in? Another vet leader who was supposed to prevent this shit from happening, so where was it?
Joe, don't think you're absolved of this either. Could he not tell that the team was relaxed and not focused? While I don't think coaches are responsible for motivating players at this level, it is their responsibility to make sure they are ready to play. It's very clear that did not happen either.
The fact that a team filled with vets and leaders and all that bullshit, coming off a tough loss to DEN the game before, had that collective mindset is very embarrassing and like I said, inexcusable. This is the NBA in 2023, any team can win on any given night, regardless of record. To not be ready to go and understand that without their best player the Thunder would ramp up the energy and effort is pathetic. This is not a team filled with rookies who haven't gone through this shit before. This core has been together for years. Everyone's a vet. Grow the fuck up.
- I think we're learning that awesome as it might be to see Jaylen score 29 on over 50% shooting and Tatum score 27 on over 50% shooting, what makes this team truly successful is what they get from everyone else in addition to that production. This stretch where the Jays are doing everything and nobody else shows up is not going to cut it and last night was another crystal clear example. Go down the list
A combined 34 points from this group is nowhere near good enough. It's not just the percentages, it's that they aren't even making themselves threats. This team's offense cannot be "pray Jayson and Jaylen just make all their shots" because that is not going to work. The "others" on this team need to start pulling their weight.
People look for reasons why things look so different now compared to the first 25 games, and for me it's pretty clear that the dropoff in production of the "others" is a huge factor. Brogdon has sucked for about a month, Sam Hauser hasn't been a factor since like Thanksgiving, White's shot went to hell for a long stretch, Al is old so he kind of gets a pass but not really because his baseline is still more than 2 points on 3 FGA. Grant not taking open looks and also not playing defense has been a huge issue since his hot start.
Depth is awesome, you need it in order to win at a high level. The Celtics have depth on paper, some of the best in the league. But the thing about depth is it only matters if it actually does something. If you look at all of these losses, especially to bad teams, you'll see way too often you're getting a no show from 60% of the starting lineup and then nothing from the main two reserves.
That has to get figured out or else nothing is really going to change.
- When the Celts lose focus, they get careless. When they get careless, they turn it over. When they turn it over, they die. It's a simple formula really. Last night was a game in which they turned it over 17 times which led to 27 OKC points. Please read those numbers again.
17 turnovers. 27 points.
Add in another 16 in 2nd chance points and what does that bring you to? 43 points off self inflicted wounds/lack of energy. How much did the Celts lose by? Oh, 33 points? That seems related!
In basketball, the ball finds energy. When you set the tone and you play hard, good things follow. We know this to be true because that is the foundation of the Celts success. When you do the opposite, you get waxed.
- Another brutal 12-40 (30%) showing from deep, this is now the 7th time in the last 11 games the Celts have flirted with 30% or below from deep.
They were 5-15 on "open" 3PA and 7-21 on "wide open" 3PA. That's 36 of the 40 were clean looks, and the Celts went 12-36. That's horrendous. Not too different from what we saw against DEN when 31 of their 33 3PA were clean looks and they couldn't make shit then either.
The crazy part is someone like Smart only took 2 3PA in this game. The issue was basically everyone else
Meanwhile on the other end, the Thunder shot 20-40. Yikes.
- Even with their offensive struggles the Celts still put up 117 points. That has to be enough to win, it just does. Which is why the real issue in this game has to be the defense. Where the fuck was it? This was different from the DEN game where it felt like the Nuggets were hitting unreal shots. That is NOT what happened against the Thunder.
What happened against the Thunder is their players made your defenders look like children. This was Varsity vs JV type shit where they were bigger, stronger, faster, and more aggressive on nearly every single offensive possession. It didn't matter if it was Smart, White, Brogdon, Tatum, Jaylen, every single one of them was bullied on the perimeter.
That's the best way I think we can describe it. The Celts were bullied. They provided no resistance whatsoever and any Thunder player got to the rim with ease. Just look at this shit
The numbers are staggering. The Celts allowed 70 points in the paint last night. Look at this goddamn shot chart
I get it, Rob didn't play. So what? What does that have to do with horrendous perimeter defense from everyone on the roster. Our 6'4 guards may as well have been 5'5.
Under no circumstances should a healthy Celtics defense give up 88 points in consecutive quarters. How is that even possible? A cool 40 points in the 2nd and 48 points in the 3rd. 48!! The Celts had 54 in the entire first half and the Thunder are putting up 48 in 12 minutes. Instead of getting pissed off and doing something about it, the Celt turtled. There was no "enough is enough" from their best players. When you do that shit, you deserve everything that comes with it.
- To put this into even more perspective, a total of 5 Thunder players had at least 20 points. Five. That tells you it wasn't just one guy or one position doing all the cooking. Everyone was getting cooked. Backcourt guys, frontcourt guys, all of em. A collective team effort in futility.
- I don't care if this was an extremely soft ejection
Marcus has to be better. It's clear this team has an obvious mental issue with a certain ref, we see it in pretty much every game they work. Getting tossed like this while you're getting your ass handed to you isn't exactly the best look and honestly it summed up the Celts night perfectly.
They were mentally weak.
When things were starting to snowball, we saw this team go in the opposite direction, and to me, a huge part of that is mental focus. They were more concerned with everything other than actually playing hard and executing. This isn't the first time this has happened this season and it will continue to be something that limits the Celts ceiling. There's a reason all these losses look somewhat the same, because the Celts keep doing the same shit in each of them. When they play with focus, they are unstoppable. When they don't, last night happens.
Maybe instead of getting mad at the officials, get mad at yourself that you can't get a stop and are getting blown the fuck out by a lottery team. Just an idea.
The frustrating part of a game like this is for the most part the Celts looked like they were past these type of performances. The way they've played about 80% of their season told us that. But now that they've hit a little bit of adversity, we're seeing their bad habits resurface. Tatum TOs, no defense, a lack of confidence, losing their cool, it's all the things we saw before the turnaround last year. I understand the Celts are going to lose games over the course of a season, but they should never be losing games like we saw last night. Not as a team with championship expectations.
Right now they're struggling a little bit with the idea of being "the hunted". Yeah, teams are going to be coming at you every night. This isn't exactly a new concept. If you want to be a contender, you have to learn to handle that every night. There is no off night when you have a target on your back. It seems like the Celts thought that's what they were getting in OKC last night, and they certainly paid the price.
Do that shit tomorrow against Luka and you might lose by 50.