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There's Nothing Quite Like When A Celtics Win Gives You A Totally Uncalled For Heart Attack

Ronald Cortes. Getty Images.

While we don't know how many wins the Celts will ultimately finish with, I do think something we can all agree on is there will be wins along that journey that were not perfect. On numerous occasions over the next few months you're going to see the Celts grind out wins. Could be on the road, could be at home, could be on a B2B, but to be an elite team in the NBA you need to be able to win in a variety of ways. Like you, I too enjoy the performances like we saw against MIL or DAL. Who couldn't love when this team plays near perfect basketball and kicks the shit out of someone. But I've also been wtaching this team and this league for a long time. The NBA season is long as shit, a lot is going to happen over those 6+ months and the the goal is to stack as many Ws as you possibly can in any way possible.

On paper, the Celts should have won this game by no fewer than 10,000 points. Once you get into SA/HOU territory, you're moving into the worst team in league category. The Thunder are under .500, but they're frisky and certainly not the worst in the league. The Spurs are in their tank/rebuild phase where they need to avoid losses. With no Devin Vassel or Jakob Poeltl either, things were pointing to another blowout.

In the end, the Celts had to win ugly. They played well, this wasn't a no show like OKC in the slightest, but there were issues that crept up again, especially late. The Celts could certainly play better, I feel confident in suggesting that.

While a 3-1 trip would have been preferred, ending it 2-2 before a pretty big week this week (CHI/NO/@BKN@CHA). With teams around them continuing to win, the Celts need to keep pace and stack Ws. I don't care how they do it, I don't really care what it looks like, just win. That's why I honestly just feel mostly relief after last night. Blowing out the Mavs doesn't mean shit if you immediately lose against the Spurs, but the Celts are going to have to play much better during this upcoming stretch to come out better than 2-2.

With that said, let's dive in

The Good

- There were a lot of worthy candidates for the top spot today. Like I said, this was not a repeat OKC performance where nobody showed up or the energy was bad or they didn't respect their opponent. Tons of Celts showed up and had great games, and I'm not sure too many were more important than what the team got from Derrick White

It makes me happy for Derrick that he played well in his return to SA, that had to be an emotional moment for him. Part of me was nervous he would struggle because of all the emotion, so I was happy to learn he instead had one of his best games as a Boston Celtic.

We've seen Derrick appear in 66 games as a member of the Boston Celtics, and he's done a lot of cool shit over that span. Something he'd never done is have 11 assists in a game. That ended last night. A perfect 11 assists and 0 TOs for DWhite, this was actually one of the more dominant two way performances of his entire season. You add in the 3 blocks, you add in the strips on drives, look at how much better a confident Derrick White looks. I love when we get this version of Derrick, where he uses his great size and athleticism and attacks the paint. From there, I have full trust in whatever he wants to do. If he wants to take the floater, hell yes. Let that shit fly. If he's going to draw defenders, I trust him to make the right read and kick it out to an open shooter. 

Then once he starts to feel that confidence, the threes will fall. He's confident in his release, his form stays vertical and he gets that shit off quickly without hesitation. 

Before we move on we should probably address the biggest thing with Derrick that at this point is not debatable. What's been the driver behind this solid stretch of play recently? The haircut. New Haircut Derrick might just be the perfect player. Something to think about.

- Part of not losing to very bad teams is making sure your star players actually show up. They set the tone, and there was nothing on the other side that suggested either Tatum or Brown were going to have issues getting whatever they wanted. By the final buzzer, they combined for 63 points

For Tatum, it was 34/4/2 on 13-26 (5-10). With Jaylen it was 29/3/4/2 on 12-25 (2-7). I'm not sure about you, but I'm pretty sure you can live with over 60 points in near 50% shooting from your two best players. From a production standpoint, they certainly gave you enough. I wouldn't say this was a game where these guys weren't even willing to get out of bed because there was a bad opponent on the other side. 

What I'm hoping happens now is the 5-10 for Tatum from deep gets him feeling good from behind the arc, and we also shouldn't overlook that in a big spot when the Celtics desperately needed a bucket that it was Jayson Tatum who nailed the baseline fadeaway. Again. That seems like a pretty clutch shot to me, but what do I know.

- There's a strong possibility that we are watching Malcolm Brogdon snap out of his month long slump. It's early, but the indicators are there. See for yourself

The obvious difference you see in these highlights compared to his recent stretch of play is the 3PM. What you just watched was First 25 Game Malcolm Brogdon. The one who doesn't even touch the rim on his open threes that come as a result of great ball movement. Those were the exact shots he hasn't been making for a month. He's now 9-14 over his last 3 games from deep, which obviously is a little unsustainable but it tells me that he's feeling confident again when he lets it fly from deep. That's what I care about.

Basically, this was the Brogdon we expect to see. Take the shot making out of it and just think about how he played. He was aggressive, he was unselfish, and he filled his role perfectly. When Smart went out he had to step up and provide a spark. Brogdon didn't have a single turnover either to pair with his 7 AST, so that means from the two main guards in your rotation you had 18 AST and 0 TOs. That's big time guard play.

My guess is Smart is going to sit for a few games, so getting this version  of Brogdon back would be pretty great. We still have to deal with a little bit of an on ball defense issue, but that's a different story.

- Something I've been very adamant about is the fact that Rob looks like Rob. I can't tell that man had knee surgery and you can't either. His bounce is back, his conditioning and getting better as is his defensive timing. Our latest confirmation of this can be seen below

Rob is perfect. No notes. 

I'm only half kidding. Every single time this man steps on the floor, he only does the right thing. His impact is immediate and it is nearly always positive. Try and convince me that Rob's 10/11/3/2/4 on 5-6 shooting wasn't flawless? We saw everything. Elite rim protection, offensive rebounds, beautiful assists, his vintage 3P block/coast to coast combo, the list goes on and on. We saw players literally shit themselves whenever they had the ball anywhere near the rim. Nobody wanted to do anything knowing Rob was lurking, which is a huge part of his overall value. 

When Rob is out on the floor, you feel him. 

The huge debate will now be whether or not Rob should start. I can certainly understand the thinking, shit I'm someone who loves the original starting five. To me, keeping perspective is still important. It's still very early in his season, just because he looks incredible and is playing fantastic basketball does not mean it's time to deviate from the plan. If the plan was to start him once he got to this level and get him back to his normal rotation, cool. If the plan is to keep Rob on a maintenance plan until the Spring regardless of how dominant he looks, that's also cool.

As long as the current starting five continues to woork, for the moment I say keep things as they are. I know Al is regressing a little bit at times, but don't be a dick the man is like 4000 years old. He's still a positive impact player. It shouldn't be about who starts anyways, I would just prefer a good portion of Rob's 20 minutes a night to either be with the current starters or the current starters w/ Grant instead of Al. It's pretty clear the second unit needs his energy, so they get the first shift with Rob, but from there I'd like to see Joe give him lineups next to the regulars since those are the reps that truly matter.

But I think we all agree Rob looks great. Such a fun player to watch.

- Quick update on Mazzulla Ball for those who maybe lost a little faith during the skid. 

Another game with 120+ in regulation, the team took 34 3PA and made 16 which is good for 44.1%. The ball movement was sensational with 30 assists, and the TOs were relatively low at 14. The Celtics never trailed, the game was only tied twice, and when it came time to get stops the Celts found a way to lock in.

This win and the Mavs win are a nice reminder that games like DEN and OKC were not about the process, it was about the execution. There's no real difference in how the Celts moved the ball or the 3PA they took in the two wins compared to the two losses. The difference was they didn't shoot a horrific 25%. The goal of Mazzulla Ball offensively is to generate open looks through movement and unselfish basketball. It's then on the players to pull their weight and convert a respectable percentage of them. When they do, this offense is a juggernaut.

The Bad

- The only thing I've been thinking about all day is the health status of Marcus Smart. They said knee bruise or bone bruise or something but I don't believe that shit for a second. How can I? I was told KG had a knee bruise and look what happened. It goes without saying that losing him for a long stretch would be pretty significant. Praying it it is just a bruise and we see him tomorrow night against CHI (who is playing well), but we'll see.

- Things on the offensive end looked great. Defensively? I'm not sure how you could call giving up 116 points to the 27th ranked offense who just to happened to be missing their best players. Especially coming off a game where you held the Mavs (6th ranked offense) to under 100. How does that make any goddamn sense. Chalk some of it up to the end of a 4 game trip, but even still that is far too many points to be giving up. 

I've seen this team play good defense, and I'm pretty sure not giving up a quarter under 27 points qualifies as good defense. A total of 70 points in the paint, there wasn't too much resistance when it came to stopping Spurs players from getting to the rim with ease. Romeo Langford was bullying people for example. As a team, they shot 49%, and the lack of defense was a big reason why the Celts never really broke this game open. Most of the game we saw things be in a 7-13 point range, and the poor defense certainly was a factor why.

- While the 14 TOs are a good enough number for a team, Jaylen having 6 of them himself was not great. Some out of control TOs, some boneheaded ones, the ball security needs to be much better. Once either Jay gets up to around that total things usually go sideways, so fortunately that didn't happen. 

- Not the best I've ever seen Al defensively. Guys looked like they had no fear whatsoever going at him at the rim, and that's probably because I don't even think Al challenges the shots. He sort of just let everyone take a layup. Far too many times did we see plays like this during Al's minutes

Maybe he's just saving himself which I can understand and fully support, it's just that in a game that needed some defensive juice, Al was more the problem than the solution. At the same time, I have no doubt he'll be awesome against the Bulls. This is part of the ups and downs of an older player. You have to pick your spots I guess.

The Ugly

- What the shit was this. Seriously. What the hell was this

How is this physically possible? I've watched this a million times and I cannot process how it might be possible. This was the 2nd TO the Celts had while inbounding the ball after a basket. That's shit that doesn't even happen in Biddy Basketball and here we're seeing the Celtics do it in a real life NBA game. How embarrassing. 

- There are few things in life that make me more upset than when the Celts stop playing and go into some sort of prevent offense in the final 3-4 minutes of a game. I despite it with every fiber of my being. I cannot explain why they continue to play this way considering EVERY SINGLE time they do their lead immediately evaporates. It's maddening. 

JUST KEEP PLAYING

Up 9 with 3:49 in this game, the Celts did the opposite. They went into watch the clock mode and suddenly their offensive sets wouldn't start until under 10 on the shot clock. Once the initial option would be cut off, how you're left with an end of shock clock low percentage look that helps spark a run. They kept going for the knockout three off isolation instead of just playing their normal offense. 

Shit, if Sochan makes this WIDE OPEN look, they probably lose this game as a result of playing that way

Everything about the final 4 minutes of this game was very bad for the Celts. Couldn't get stops on one end and played like a buch of dickheads on the other. Thankfully Tatum bailed them out with that baseline bucket but this team needs to get much better at closing games out. That's on Joe, that's on Tatum/Brown as the best players, you cannot keep semi-choking at the end of these games and think things will always work out in your favor.

A big week ahead, the hope is the Celts are able to keep building. We're almost at the midway point and things are as close as ever. Exhale after this win and turn the page. A much better effort will be required tomorrow night.