The Shorthanded Hospital Celtics Once Again Welcomed Another Contender To The Garden And Promptly Kicked Their Ass

Brian Fluharty. Getty Images.

It has become somwhat of a tradition that once we hit Super Bowl Sunday, to most people that's the biggest event of the day. People spend all day waiting of kick off. Me? Super Bowl Sunday generally means one thing (outside of 2019-20) 

Matinee Celtics Basketball.

As far as I can remember, the Celts and Super Bowl Sunday have been two peas in a pod. Can't have one without the other, and in my professional opinion it's a great way to start one of the best days in sports. We've seen it all from insane Rondo performances, to Isaiah magic, to Paul Pierce's final game at the Garden, to Al Horford game winners, there's nothing like the Super Bowl Sunday Celts.

This time around, the 2nd seeded Memphis Grizzlies were coming to town. Considered one of the best teams in the NBA, the Celts were tasked with facing another "contender" while being extremely shorthanded. First there was the fully healthy Sixers that couldn't manage to beat a team without Marcus Smart, Jaylen Brown, Al Horford, or Robert Williams. Yesterday, a mostly healthy Grizzlies team (no Steven Adams) went up against a Celts team that was missing 3 of their top 6 players, with Smart, Jaylen and this time Malcolm Brogdon getting the game off. 

Not only that, but Jayson Tatum made 3 FGM.

The result? The Celts still won by double digits . 

The win marked their 4th in a row, their 6th win in their last 7, and improved their NBA best record to 41.16. Against teams .500 or better (aka good teams), the Celts are now an NBA best 22-9. While some fanbases spend 7+ months crying about how they didn't win because their 2nd best player didn't play, the Celtics meanwhile just keep finding ways to beat good teams without their best players in the lineup.

Did you know their intented starting lineup has played just 29 minutes together this season! 29! And yet, they're 41-16. Interesting. 

Early afternoon games are always a bit of a wildcard for this team, and we saw why in this very game. It wasn't always pretty, there were times that were in fact very annoying, but in the end, love and trust will always prevail. 

That's what this 4 game streak is. It's love and trust not just in yourself, but in your teammates. A true "we not me" approach. It doesn't matter what hand the Celts are dealt, they are finding ways to win, and that is very, very important.

Let's dive in.

The Good

- If it seems like I'm just repeating myself when it comes to Derrick White, that's because I am. What choice do I have if he keeps turning in these dominant performances? 

After securing his first 20/10 game of his career, what does DWhite do? He comes back and drops 23/3/10 on 8-20 (4-9) splits in his 40 minutes. Because few things in life brings me as much joy as looking at this picture, let's have a look at White's current run since Smart went out on 1/23

How good is this? It's basically an All Star level. Those 10 games since Smart went out come out to 19.4/4.9/5.2 on 50/47% splits ith 3.1 3PM a night.

But wait, I said All Star level. How could that be? Well Jrue Holiday is an All Star while putting up 19.1/5.2/7.1 on 46/36% splits. Interesting!

To say White's production (and efficiency) has been massive for this team is a gigantic understatement. Not just because it has directly impacted wins, but it also allows the team to be even more cautious with Smart's ankle. It's a lot easier to give him more rest than he needs to make sure he's 1000000% healthy when he returns when you're getting All Star caliber production from his replacement. This is a guy where before Smart went out, had just 1 game all season in which he took more than 13 FGA. Over these last 10, he has 4. I'd be willing to bet his 39 FGA are the most Derrick White has ever taken in back to back games for this team, and at this point I'm not sure we could be asking any more from the guy.

He's not just showing up in terms of scoring and efficiency, he's defending at a high level. He's moving the ball and creating for others. Most importantly, he's taking care of the ball despite this uptick in usage. He talked the other day about being more comfortable on this team and in this system, and his play is a direct result of that. Derrick is finding the perfect time to call his own number and be aggressive, he's shooting his catch & shoot looks with confidence and zero hesitation once someone like Tatum finds him coming off a double, I could make the case that he's one of the 15 best guards in the league this season and Brad basically got him for nothing. Unreal.

- A few things have happened since the end of January. White has exploded, Brogdon's shooting came back, and then there's the reemergence of Sam fucking Hauser.

There's automatic, and then there's whatever the hell we're watching when it comes to Hauser on the floor

If you thought White's game log was impressive, may I interest you in some Sam Hauser crack?

Giphy Images.

Four straight games with at least 4 3PM. During this stretch (3 starts) Hauser is putting up 15.3/4.3/1.0 on 53/57% splits with 4.8 3PM a night

Uhhhhhh yeah, he's back.

As I've tried to explain to you guys during this fireball streak, it's all thanks to getting back to really only taking catch & shoot 3PA. Since that 2/6 date, Hauser has taken 33 total 3PA. Of that number, 32 have been catch & shoot 3PA and Hauser has gone 19-32 (59.4%).

The proof is in the pudding. When Hauser is given the ball in a situation where his feet are already mostly set and he can just catch and fire, he doesn't miss. No pull ups, no coming off screens, just playing the drive and kick game with perfection. Whether it's the guards, or the wings, as long as players are touching the paint and then finding Hauser once defenses collapse, it's going in.

There's no denying that Hauser's slump lasted about 27 games. He was brutal in December (28%) and January (31%). But he's back to over 40% on the season, and has just as long a run shooting like this (28 games) as he did where he couldn't make shit. I think the same size is big enough to trust his ability to make catch & shoot threes playing next to elite talent.

- I'd like another quick update on Mazzulla Ball if that's alright with you. Let's have a look

119 points in regulation 

21 3PM 

51 3PA 

28 AST 

10 TOs

Yup, still rules

I'm old enough to remember when the haters and losers of which there are still many told me that the Celts wouldn't be able to keep shooting like they did in November. That it was all just a luck hot streak.

Well, last night the Celts made 21 3PM. It marked the 11th time this has happened during the season. Only the Warriors (12) have more, and that nearly 2x the next closest team (DAL, 6). Of those 11 times, 5 have come since after Christmas. 

So, 6 came from their early season start, 5 have come over the last 2+ months. That sort of hurts the idea that the Celts shooting wasn't sustainable right? That it was all just early season luck?

Nope. It's Mazzulla Ball. Either you believe in it or you don't.

- When I talk about how I don't give a shit what Al does in terms of his off nights or maybe taking a few more extra days to rest, it's because he's a gift from God. Whatever we get from him at this point is gravy, and a night like last night is the perfect example of why this man can do whatever the hell he wants if it keeps his body fresh

His jumper had been broken as shit for weeks, and I don't care. I want him gripping and ripping that thing whenever he has an open look. I trust his work. I know that eventually Al is going to snap out of the funk and make huge jumpers in huge moments which is exactly what he did in this win.

First it was his corner three from Grant at the 3:41 mark to put the Celts up 10. Then it was his wing three with 90 seconds left that was basically the final nail in the coffin. By the end of it, Al threw up 16/9/5 on 5-9 (4-7) splits in his 30 minutes. After missing the last two with knee soreness, Al looked fresh and ready which is big considering who is up next.

- Against a physical team like the Grizzlies, you have to hold your own on the boards. MEM is 2nd in the NBA in rebounding and 3rd in the NBA in OREB. Even without Steven Adams, this team hits the glass. It's a big reason why they are 5th in the NBA in 2nd chance points.

Well, the Celts won the rebounding battle 54-34 and allowed just 3 OREB. In terms of 2nd chance points, the Grizzlies only had 8, which is half their average (15.9).

Rob did most of the work (16), but three other players had at least 7 rebounds. Both Al and Grant had 9, Tatum had 7, and honestly it was a collective effort from every player that stepped foor on the court. Owning the glass is huge for the Celts, and you can always tell when they're playing with the right energy and effort by looking at the rebounding numbers.

- I'm sorry, but if you're still crying that Brad traded for Mike Muscala and didn't drastically overpay for someone like Jakob Poeltl, it sounds like you want to be mad just to be mad becaus Moose has been fucking NAILS

I'll remind you, this is the Celts 3rd/4th center. 

Since becoming a Celtic, Muscala is averaging 11/3/1 on 53/46% splits in just 16 minutes a night. He's been a perfect fit for how this team plays.

Granted, watching him try and defend Ja Morant in space was brutal. Muscala didn't stand a fucking chance. At the same time, what 4th center is guarding Ja Morant in space? I heard a lot about how this is what is going to happen in the playoffs in terms of targeting and I'm not sure why that matters.

Last time I checked, we shouldn't even have to see Muscala hit the floor in a playoff series, so I'm not sure why I'm supposed to care about that. As long as he's spacing the floor and hitting his threes while also rebounding and playing with energy, he's doing his job.

- In case you were wondering if things have changed, I am happy to report that no, no they have not.

Rob is still perfect

I really really really wanted his 3PA heave to drop, but alas I guess there's always room for improvement.

What I care about is that Rob's body is still holding up despite playing 30+ minutes every night. Part of me thinks he's saving himself out there which is fine by me considering this limited version is still putting up 10/16/3. I still feel like he's working his way into game shape, and honestly I wouldn't hate if everyone remembered that Rob rules and actually involved him a little more on offense.

I'm not saying give it to him on the boock and clear out, I'm just saying don't go entire games without remembering the lob to Rob is unstoppable.

- Back to back solid nights from Grant. I think maybe the trade deadline being over has helped him mentally because he looks so much better now with that drama out of our lives. Another game where he may not have made his shots (2-6), but he was engaged everywhere else.

- Same is true for Payton Pritchard. He really needed that 4-7 from deep performance given how he's shot the ball lately, and add in 3 assists and 0 TOs, this was probably Payton's best game in over a month.

The Bad

- I'd say Tatum's 3-16 (1-8) shooting fits in this section. I'm not someone who thinks Tatum played poorly in this game, his impact was undeniable. I just think he shot like shit. Both can be true.

It did feel at times like Tatum was settling a little bit, so it was nice to see him snap out of that and finish with 12 FTA, but it's also clear how much his offense is struggling while not having Smart next to him. Over his last 7 games, Tatum's average is great at 26.3. That's the good news. Then bad news is he's shooting 40/35%. During this 4 game winning streak, he's shooting just 38/31%.

It's pretty crazy that while being this shorthanded as a team and the best player shooting this poorly, the Celts are still finding ways to win. That's special.

Something tells me Tatum could use the All Star break. I hope he gets drafted on Joe's team and Joe gives him a quick hook.

- I'm going to have to get an explanation how a ball that VERY clearly hit the rim, was reviewed where it clearly showed the ball hit the rim, can still be called a shot clock violation for not hitting the rim

The direction of the ball changed and everything. Mind you, this came in a 9 point game with 2 minutes left, kind of a big moment. How is it that you can so clearly see the ball hit the rim and then after a review try and tell me that it did in fact NOT hit the rim?

If Adam Silver gave a shit about his product, he would understand this is the shit fans are talking about when it comes to poor officiating. You miss this in real time? Fine. That's why you review. To STILL say it didn't touch the rim was very pathetic.

- Trying to stay in front of Ja Morant seems impossible. He just takes off from so goddamn far and is so goddamn fast. One second you think you have perfect positioning and then the next he's already finished at the rim. What a player.

The Ugly

- Really the only thing that fits for this section was the 3rd quarter. Holy shit was that thing brutal. It started with the Celts going 1-12 from the floor to open things up. Easily one of the most frustrating shot charts you'll ever see

The Celts were so bad around the rim in this game, especially to start that third quarter. What even is that? How is that even possible?

In a blink of an eye they saw their 13 point halftime lead evaporate, Joe didn't call a timeout, fans cried on Twitter, you know…the usual. 

After committing 6 brutal TOs in the 2nd quarter, it was like the Celts traded in one problem for another. They took care of the ball, but then decided to not show up on either end.

Offensively, they finished with 21 points on 29/16% splits. That's, very bad. Defensively, they allowed 33 points on 66/55% shooting. That's, also very bad.

Credit to them for locking in during the 4th quarter, but don't think I've forgotten about a sneaky issue with this team and how they start their 3rd quarters like dogshit. It happened a bunch during the December skids, and last night's 3rd looked a whole lot like those games. No real offense, nobody is making a shot, poor defense, just gross basketball.

And now comes the big one. A rematch with a Bucks team that has won 10 in a row. They're going to be on 4 days rest before the Celts come to town tomrorow night, and who knows which players will be active. After kicking the shit out of MIL on Christmas, this one is huge for a number of reasons. Not only are the Bucks 1.5 games back of the 1 seed, but if the Celts win this game they'll win the season H2H matchup. These teams only play 3 times this year (2 in MIL), and given how close their records are, that tie breaker could be important. Going into that building and find a way to win could have big time implications moving forward. 

Love and Trust.