In Typical Celtics Fashion, They Followed Up One Of Their Best Wins Of The Season With Easily One Of Their Most Embarrassing Losses Of The Year
After what I think most would consider one of their best performances of the season as we all watched the Celts kick the shit out of the Nets by a billion points to the point where Kyrie ended up demanding a trade, life in the NBA sure does come at you fast. Last night, we experience what had to be one of their more embarrassing losses on the season, where this time they were the ones getting their ass kicked and it was coming via guys who weren't even in the NBA earlier this week.
The Suns were without 4 of their top 7 scorers, they had just lost at home to the Hawks by 30+ and had just flown across the country for their East coast trip. Yes CP3, Ayton, and Mikal Bridges played, but let's not sugarcoat this performance. It was dogshit. It was embarrassing. Quite frankly, we're at the point in the season where things like this can't really happen. Sure, losses are going to come up over the course of 82 and all that bullshit, but part of me isn't as bothered by the result of the game as I am with the effort and execution (or lack thereof) that we were forced to watch. It wasn't there.
I talk a lot about keeping things in perspective, so let's do that. After winning 9 straight, the Celts have gone 2-4 in their last 6, and that's not factoring in what could have been had the NBA decided to employ officials with working eyes. What was once a 4.5 game lead over the 2 seed will be down to 1.0 games if the Bucks (won 6 straight) beat the Heat tonight. The point is, teams around the Celts are handling their business, so in a game where you have full health (minus Smart), I'm going to need you to take care of a massively shorthanded Suns team who was 8-17 on the road coming into last night.
For the most part, I think we can all accept nights when they aren't shooting fireballs from deep. Games where the Celts are going to have to win ugly. I'll never be upset over shots not falling, that's basketball. Some games you get the BKN performance and sometimes you get the PHX one. What should never change is your energy and effort. That's something you control, and it starts at the top. The best players need to set the tone and everyone else needs to follow suit, and when that doesn't happen and this team plays like a bunch of assholes, not only are the shots not going to drop but they somehow morph into the worst basketball team on the planet.
We're not in December anymore. The trade deadline is next week, the All Star Break soon after. This is starting to get into nut cutting time of the NBA calendar, so in my professional opinion giving away games where you are a 9 point favorite at home seems like the opposite of what you should be doing right now.
With that said, let's dive in.
- Of all the players to see the floor last night, I would say one guy who we didn't have to worry if he even showed up to work was Jaylen Brown. Jaylen clearly came ready to play, and his energy was noticeable considering he was one of the few that actually looked like he had a pulse.
If we're being honest given the way Jaylen started (12 points on 4-8 shooting), I thought we were in store for another monster Jay performance and blowout, but then unfortunately I saw the rest of the roster. Scoring only 20 points in a quarter with one guy accounting for 60% of it usually isn't the best.
There was a little disappearance factor in the 2nd quarter (2 points, 1 FGA in 8 minutes), but on a night where nobody really showed up on both ends for a full 48 and nearly the entire roster had energy issues, I have none of those complaints for Jaylen. When one of your best players and leaders is saying shit like this after the game
I find that unacceptable.
- You may not have noticed because he might be the quietest person in the history of people, but Derrick White has been playing some really solid basketball for some time now
Since Christmas (20 games), White has filled his role perfectly, putting up 11.6/3.6/4.0/0.6/1.1 on 46/37% splits. If you're looking more recently, over his last 11 games those numbers bump up to 13.4/3.7/3.4 on 45/41% splits. Whatever slump he was experiencing in December is clearly over, and that's a big deal. He's not flashy, he's not going to have a ton of highlight plays, but he's the exact connector that every contending team needs. His defense has been great, especially around the rim, and I'm convinced a huge part of this resurgence is because White continues to play inside/out. He did it against the Nets and he did it again last night
Once White starts making his floaters/plays around the rim like he did in this game, the confidence it gives him when it comes to his three point shot is undeniable. His form is great, he shoots with confidence and doesn't overthink and hesitate and the results speak for themselves.
It'll be great to slide White back into the second unit once Smart gets back, but in terms of holding down that spot with the starters? White has given this roster more than enough to win.
- If I've said it once I've said it a thousand times and I will continue to say it as long as it's true.
Robert Williams is perfect
Sure that line doesn't seem all that crazy, but watch him. That's the Rob of old. I really only care about 2 things when it comes to Rob this season.
1. Does he look like himself while he's on the floor
2. Does his body hold up and respond well to playing basketball
That's it. That's all that matters with Rob. The good news is the answer is very clearly "yes" to both of those things. His timing continues to get better and better as he starts to get in better game shape, and so far unless someone dives into his knees, his body is holding up. That's a GREAT sign for when the games truly matter. Another game with 30 minutes, we're officially back to normal Rob usage/rotations.
- Annnnnnd we're done here. We can move on to the meat of this blog.
- In the NBA, when a team gives you an opportunity to bury them and you decide to do the exact opposite, that's never a good sign. You have to step on throats when you have the chance, just like we saw them do against BKN.
Well, the Suns started this game missing their first 9 SHOTS. They did not score a point until the 7:35 mark. You would think the Celts took advantage of that right? God no. They choked away that moment. Over that same period, the Celts only managed to score 7 points. That's….very bad.
Of course, you know what happened next. The Suns saw one drop and immediately went on a run. Before you knew it, it was 8-7 (and Joe called a timeout! See!). That came at the 5:45 mark of the first quarter.
The Celtics never even tied it again for the rest of the game. Not once. No ties, and no lead changes in the ensuing 42 minutes.
Joe's timeout clearly didn't work as the Suns ballooned that run to 12-0 and the next thing we knew the Celts had lost all momentum and actually lost a quarter in which the other team went nearly half a quarter without making a shot. If that's not embarrassing, what is?
- It's hard for me to really be upset with Al. He's a gift from God. What he's giving this team at his age is unreal, and with that you know there are going to be some stinkers along the way and boy was last night one of those stinkers. Tough to see him finish 1-6 (1-6), he wasn't exactly moving what I would call "quickly", and while he was good on the boards (9), it's tough for this team to win when they're getting nearly nothing production wise from that spot.
There seems to be a common theme on this team that when a player is bad, it's not as if they are only kind of terrible. They're horrific. Whether it's Tatum, Al, Grant etc, when they are bad they are BAD.
- What these last 6 games (2-4) have told us is that Marcus Smart is clearly more important than his haters want to accept. Now let's be clear about something with this. That does not mean the Celts still can't play well without Smart, I mean we just all watched the BKN game, but look at the entire picture.
In these 6 games, the Celts have failed to break 100 in 3 of them. Their offense ranks 21st in the league with an AST% of 22nd. As you can imagine, their 111 points a game are also 22nd. The defense? That's been fine. Elite even. But Smart's value to this team is just as crucial on the offensive end. How many times did you see the Celts just standing around last night/in all these losses?
The Celts finished with just 18 assists in this game. They have just 6 instances all year where they finish under 19, and 3 of them have all come with Smart out. That is not a coincidence. The issue we're currently experiencing is with Smart out, nobody is really commanding that facilitator role. Brogdon and White have been more scorers than offense generators, and we're seeing some lineup combinations that are straight up not working while they try and get by without Smart
Take last night for example. The starters were actually pretty damn good. The rest? Woof
I think we're seeing that a Jaylen/Brogdon second unit is not proving to be successful for whatever reason. Those two actually have a negative point differential while sharing the floor together. Last night as you can see by the graphic above, those lineups really struggled.
- Usually, when the Celts play like shit, we can guess where they fucked up. Turnovers? You betcha. Another 14 last night that led to 16 points.
Getting killed on the boards? That's more often than not an energy thing, and the Celts were crushed 53-43 while allowing 10 OREB, including 2 huge ones in the 4th quarter. That's losing basketball.
Missing all their 3PA? I'd say 10-38 (26%) fits the bill.
Missing FTs? A brutal 5 missed FTs in the second half, all coming at times where the Celts were making a comeback
That's basically the Celts Loss Blueprint. No energy, careless with the basketball, miss all their 3s, miss FTs. We got all 4 in this game and wouldn't you know, they lost.
- Every time the Celts got close (3 or less), it never felt like they did enough to get over the hump. They never found a way to get that big momentum stop and bucket to swing the game. Instead, they turned it over or gave up an AND1, shit like that. All game, after working their way back from being down 20 you could tell the building was waiting for that final push. It never came.
- Depth in theory is great. Every title team needs quality depth. The Celtics at times have shown to have just that, but it also requires their depth to ya know…actually do some depthing (?). OK, I made up that word but you know what I mean. Depth is only valuable if it actually shows up and helps. When it does nothing but hurt? What good is it really?
We all want rest for the Jays right? Well to do that you need to be able to trust the 2nd unit to not be complete dogshit in their minutes. It's fine if they play the other team even, just don't get demolished until Tatum can come back.
What do we think happened in this game?
It starts of course with Grant, who has been going through it for some time now. Honestly, the reaction is a little much if we're being honest. It feels a lot like Year 2 Grant reactions and those were clearly overreactions. He's been bad, he was very bad last night, but let's not get out of hand. He just needs to wake the fuck up and stop being a negative on the court. If he's on the floor for 20 minutes, he cannot finish with the same amount of points as Marcus Smart, who did not play. That play where he saved the ball under his own basket only to lead to PHX points was the icing on his shit sandwich of a performance, and if Al is going to be bad then Grant can't also be bad. That's an issue.
- At the same time, it felt after the game that a lot of people were giving Brogdon a pass because he made some layups at the end of the 1st quarter. My question is why? He was a -28 to Grant's -24. The whole point is supposed to be that Brogdon comes in and keeps things afloat in the 4th quarter while the Jays rest right? Well then explain the 11-0 run to start the fourth, with all the Celts bench players (including Brogdon) getting outplayed by Two Way players?
After Brogdon's 3-5 start in the first quarter, he was just 2-7 the rest of the way and was a -10 in his 3 4th quarter minutes. That shit cannot happen on a night when they desperately needed their bench to be productive.
- But of course, the biggest issue in this game was Jayson Tatum. Where was he? The final tally was as awful as you think, just 3-15 (3-10) on the night and he did not score in this game until 2 minutes left in the first half. He wasn't aggressive, he wasn't playing with energy, just compare that performance to what we saw against BKN. They are completely different players.
This is what I mean when I say it starts at the top. Tatum cannot no show like this. Even though he brought them back with his 10 points in the 3rd quarter, this was easily one of his worst performances of the season. I don't know what the deal was, but for some reason, he decided to settle for jumpers way too early. He didn't take a FTA in the entire first half! That wasn't because he was getting boned by officials, it's because he wasn't playing aggressively and asserting himself on the offensive end. He was reactionary, which tends to end with these types of performances.
When you are in the MVP conversation, the expectations are different. When you're on a title contending team, the expectations are different. That's life. I'd say for the most part Tatum has risen to those heightened expectations, but his stinkers are pretty damn hard to overcome, especially when the players who you expect to help are also playing like shit.
The hope was that the Celts would build off that momentum from the BKN win, but instead it was the opposite. They took two steps backward. It's annoying, it's frustrating, but the good news is they're still the best team in the NBA. They just need to actually play like that and not a Lottery team and things will be fine. This will hopefully be a lesson for them as they head to DET tomorrow, because the Sixers come to town on Wednesday and you know they'll be ready to play.