With this win, the Celts notched their 6th straight W in a row. That's good for the longest active winning streak in the East and the second longest streak in the league, trailing only the Grizzlies' 8. As of the writing of this blog we've seen the Celts push their lead as the 1 seed to 3.5 over BKN, 4.5 over MIL, and 5 over PHI and CLE. At 32-12, no team in the league has a better overall record. I think we can all agree that after the horrific and inexcusable performance, we watched against the Thunder, the Celts have woken up and gotten their shit together.
In fact, only the Celtics and the Grizzlies have had two separate winning streaks this season of at least 6 games. It's not exactly all that common, seeing as how only two teams have managed to do it.
Right now, the Celts are in a part of their schedule where they have a great opportunity to continue building on this lead. With the team playing well they entered Charlotte for a 2 game set against the 11-32 Hornets. Even missing Jaylen Brown, I think the expectation is to take care of your business, don't take steps backward and continue to build on this positive momentum. It's not like the Celts lose to bad teams all that often seeing as how they are 16-5 vs teams under .500, but I also know what it's like to see the Celts sleepwalk a game against the Hornets and suddenly they lose a game they had no business losing. We've all seen that game before.
It wasn't always pretty, but at the end of the day, it was another addition to the best road record in the NBA (15-7). Guys stepped up, the team got stops, and the Celts just keep on rolling. There's one more against the Hornets before a rematch with the Warriors on Thursday, but first, let's talk about what we say last night.
- I don't have many rules in my life, but one of them is for sure if you are someone who has the best night of your Celtics career, you're starting the blog off. Have a night Malcolm Brogdon
I need to know if while watching a performance like this from Malcolm Brogdon if Brad Stevens and Mike Zarren look each other in the eye and just start laughing like maniacs. That's what is happening in my brain as I also sit on my cough and laugh like a maniac.
I'm not even going to talk about the 6MOY award. That's a lock at this point. I'd prefer to talk about what this means for the roster and the Celts ceiling to be getting this caliber of talent and production from a player off your bench. That wasn't just a starter level performance from Malcolm last night, that was an All Star. If he keeps playing like this offensively, then I am more than willing to overlook the fact that he hasn't really been guarding anyone all season. Fair trade in my opinion, especially for a team that right now needs efficient offensive production with Jaylen out.
The numbers of his last 6, or basically his entire streak, are as ridiculous as you were probably expecting
Look, I'm trying to remain on planet earth and continue to tell my brain that the 3P% will come and go. But the more games we get of Brogdon barely missing the harder it is for me to not just think this is who he is now. I feel like a broken record at times, but the more Brogdon proves me right the more I'm going to continue to blog about it in hopes that the Basketball Gods are reading.
An aggressive Malcolm Brogdon is a completely different caliber of weapon. His 17 FGA were the 2nd most on the team, it felt like he was looking for his jumper at every opportunity as opposed to being too unselfish. When he had an opportunity to playmake he took it, whether it was a nice kickout for three or that beautiful interior pass to Kornet for the dunk. The difference was he didn't pass up his open looks in order to playmake. Since Brogdon stopped doing that shit, it's completely changed his production and confidence. With Derrick White also going out, Brogdon's production became even more important, and he answered the call every single fucking time.
It's not really a complicated formula for Brogdon's success. Just attack. If this man's foot touches the paint, I promise good things will happen. Either for him or for someone else. This team is going to survive without Jaylen by doing what Jaylen is great at. Getting into the paint and finishing
When a team doesn't really have rim protection, I'm going to need Brogdon to continue to attack just like this. He's too big for the Hornet's guards to handle once he drops his shoulder, and if you want to post him up a few times that's cool with me too.
Monster game from a monster addition, no two ways about it.
- The thing with Jayson Tatum is there's a strong chance he may start a game missing everything he throws up. You better hope that during that time you're able to build an insurmountable lead, because once Tatum sees one go in…
Unfortunately for the Hornets, they let Tatum make one
When it was all said and done, a nice little 33/9/6/0/1 with 1 TO on 12-27 (4-14) in 36 minutes for Tatum. That shooting looks horrendous because make no mistake, his shooting start was very much that, but he finished the game 8-14 (3-7) for 19 points in the second half. Once that third quarter hit, it was like Tatum got all his powers back. His threes were dropping, he actually remembered that he's a physical monster and he started attacking the basket, his post up/face up pullups started dropping, you know all the things that make Tatum one of the most elite scorers in the league suddenly came back.
There is a little concern that this was now the second game in a row without Jaylen that Tatum has started like dogshit in terms of his approach/efficiency, but it's great to see that all it takes is half a quarter to snap out of a funk.
To put it into perspective, Tatum had 17 points in the 3rd quarter. As a team, the Hornets had 19.
In games like this is when you expect your star to put you on his back and make sure the team doesn't drop a game against a bad team, and once Tatum put his foot down and said enough was enough, the energy of the game shifted.
- When Al Horford has a game in which he finally looks his age, I try and remember not to worry too much about it. That those things are going to happen over the course of 82 games. But more often than not, Al won't look 36. Instead, he's going to look 26
I love this man. Add in 6-0 (4-7) shooting to that line and there's no doubt that Al was one of the best players on the floor last night. He did everything really, and here we are over half of the way through the season and by my eyes his legs still look fresh. This whole new approach of Al only taking 3s and rebounding is working, and when the Celts are getting a version of Al that is making an impact in so many key areas whether it's making threes, rebounding, creating, or defending, I'm not sure how they lose.
Heading into this season I was basically going to consider whatever Al was able to contribute as a bonus. I figured after finally playing a full year there would be some normal regression. Nope. This is basically the exact same Al Horford we saw last season, and we all agree that guy ruled. Not playing B2Bs is working, his role is working, and I would argue he's one of the most important pieces on this roster.
- After not being able to stop a nosebleed in the first 24 minutes, I was very impressed with how the Celts cracked down on that end over the final 24 minutes. The Celts held CHA to only 40 points on 34/16% shooting with 7 TOs. The Celts offense didn't really change outside of Tatum waking up, but it was their defense that got them back into this game after trailing by 16 points, and then it was their defense that was the root of their separation.
Watching this team give up 66 points in the first half, I think we all thought this was going to be another game in the 110s-120s. To see them finish at 106 is pretty damn good. The Celts are now tied for 5th in the NBA in defense if you were curious.
- Do the Mazzulla Ball doubters see the light yet? Do you believe?
Another game with 120+ points in regulation. The Celts took 53 3PA, made 19, and finished with 36 assists and 7 TOs while going 9-10 from the FT line. This was some of the most Mazzulla Ball shit I've ever seen and it was yet another example of why you just need to love and trust the system. Joe knows what he's doing.
The principles of Mazzulla Ball were everywhere you looked in this game. How many times did you say these words to yourself watching this game
"Man what great ball movement"
A lot. 36 times to be exact. The biggest component to ball movement is trust, each guy has to trust that the next guy will make the right play. You have to sacrifice your own personal gain for the chance to see your teammate thrive. You have to love and trust.
That is Mazzulla Ball.
You have to have the confidence to take and make a shot when you're open. If that's a 3PA, great. If that's a midrange jumper, great. The point is to generate as clean a look as possible. Sometimes that's going to mean a game like this where 53 of the 99 FGA are 3PA. More often than not, the shooters on this team are going to make a respectable percentage (35.8%). When they do that, opposing teams simply don't have the horses to keep up.
That is Mazzulla Ball.
- Since returning from injury, Marcus Smart is currently averaging 14.5/4/11/2.0 in his 35 minutes, doing shit like this
The shooting has been terrible, just 33/25% in both games with almost everything from deep being relatively short. The good news is the way Smart's passing the ball makes up for it. I would expect that on a night the Celts had their 2nd highest assist total of the season that Smart most likely p[layed a significant role. This is who he's been all season and really the last two seasons if we're being honest. The shooting is going to come and go, that's nothing new. But if that volatility is what gets me everything else that comes with Smart, sign me up.
Like defensively. Just another day at the office for the DPOY
Point guards, SF/PFs, Cs, it doesn't really matter what position you play. Marcus is going to put you in hell.
- Everything about Rob is perfect.
I love that he is willing to die if it means the Celts will win. It's all Rob cares about. He'll sacrifice his body at all times, regardless of the fact that this is just a random game in January, and that's why I love him.
The fact that he's also the best OREB center in the NBA certainly helps as well. Especially for a team that shoots a shit ton of threes, having Rob out there to get second and third possessions is an absolute weapon. Whenever the Celts miss and Rob is on the floor I essentially assume that he's going to at least tip it out.
I watch Rob play and I see the same old bounce, the same old lift, and the same old energy. What I don't see is a player that just had knee surgery, and that's the biggest news of all. We all know how important Rob is, the numbers are undeniable
and remember, he's only going to get better as he continues to get in game shape. His feel/timing is still a work in progress and look at how dominant he already is. What a blessing.
- It really is impressive how mentally tough Payton Pritchard must be. What other player can take DNP-CDs on the chin like Payton does and then when he finally steps on the floor it's as if he's been playing all year. It's incredible. I can say pretty confidently that Payton Pritchard has made a pretty legit impact in both of these games without Jaylen, and the best way I can describe it is when Payton is on the floor he simply makes shit happen.
Sometimes it's a big OREB, sometimes it's a big three, sometimes it's his speed. What I like is that he even finds ways to make an impact even when his three isn't falling (1-6). This is a huge opportunity for Pritchard and if he plays well, maybe you can be a little more cautious with Derrick White/Jaylen's returns.
- For the first time in forever, the Celts finally started a 3rd quarter by not playing like complete dickheads. There wasn't that annoying 2-3 minute stretch where all they do is take bad shots and turn the ball over. Instead, they came out with great energy, they punched first and really never looked back. I'd like to see this a few more times over the next handful of games to assure that those bad starts didn't become a habit, because that's the stuff that will get you killed when it matters most.
- Along those same lines, I would like to see a game where the team the Celtics are playing doesn't start a game with 75/69% splits. What's that about? The Nets basically didn't miss to start that game and then last night it was the same shit with the Hornets. They finished the first quarter with 65/50% splits and the worst part about it was the fact that it wasn't like they were making prayer 3PA or anything like that.
No, the Hornets bullied the shit out of the Celts defense. They lived in the paint to the point where 18 of their first 34 points came from that area. In fact, the Hornets killed them all night from the paint finishing with 60 points. That's way too many for a team that had almost all their plus defenders.
- Very unfortunate that Smart/White had that freak collision. They called it a neck sprain for Derrick and I hope he's doing alright. You never know with those head/neck injuries. One of those freak plays where the ball got poked out just as Smart started running by and White had to lunge down to get the ball. I'd probably sit him tomorrow and let him get a nice break before Thursday.
- Only 5 minutes for Sam Hauser, I think we're seeing a situation where Joe is going to give Hauser a first shift where he'll get 2-3 open looks, and if he's not making his 3PA (0-2), then he's simply not going to play. Especially if someone like Pritchard is playing well and deserves the minutes.
There will be games where Hauser knocks down some of his looks, and he'll probably stay on the floor. But if he's not burying wide open threes, it doesn't look like Joe is going to fuck around and have him on the floor.
- Nope, winning streak is still intact. See ya never.
6 in a row is nice, but you know what's better? 7 in a row. These two game series can be tough, you figure the Hornets will be motivated to respond after what happened in this game, so the Celts can't just assume because they won on Saturday that they'll win on Monday. Respect the opponent, take the game serioiusly, and let's keep this train rolling.
Love and Trust.