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Few Things Are More Enjoyable Than Watching The Celtics Continue To Bury The Process Every Time They Play

Mitchell Leff. Getty Images.

Happy Sunday everybody, how are we all doing on this fine day?

I'm going to apologize at the start if it seems like I'm still stuck in cloud nine a little bit, but you have to understand where I'm coming from. I'm still very drunk on that game winner buzz given what took place yesterday. Saturday started with my beloved alma mater Arizona State going on the road and taking own their rival with a halfcourt prayer that was purer than the first morning after a snow storm

and then it ended with my beloved Boston Celtics going on the road and taking down their little brother with a Jayson Tatum game winner. You can imagine what this has done to my body, and let's just say we are WAY past the 4 hour mark. My doctor had no answers, that's simply the power of game winners I guess.

As we talked about after the Pacers win, everyone knew what this game meant in terms of the standings and the stretch run. Not only did it win the Celts the season series (3-0), it basically gave them a 5 game lead over the Sixers. Technically it's 4, but with the tie breaker now, it's really 5. You could make the case that up 5 with 21 to go and given how the Celts are playing that they essentially locked themselves into a top 2 seed last night barring something crazy. 

But in addition to that, it was also fun enjoying my favorite tradition when it comes to playing the Sixers. You see things usually follow a similar path before these two teams play. Think of each matchup this season, how has it been setup and then gone? To start the year, we heard about how the Sixers actually had the best offseason in the NBA because they brought in the 2017 Rockets in 2023. This was the year The Process was different and a title contender. In Game 1, the Celts kicked their ass and Embiid was a non-factor. Before their second matchup, Embiid beat Jokic and was crowned the MVP. You turned on the TV and heard people say the Sixers were actually the best team in the East. In Game 2, while fully healthy that MVP and the supposed best team in the East lost to a Celtics team missing 4 starters. Embiid was once again a non-factor.

Before Game 3, the process repeated itself. The Sixers had a win against the Grizzlies, Embiid was crowned the MVP, the Sixers were talked about as a team that was in the same tier as BOS/MIL etc. In Game 3, they blew a 15 point lead at home and allowed Jayson Tatum to bury them at the buzzer.

It's almost as if the Celtics are like the punch of reality that the Sixers need every time they start to feel good about themselves. That has to be tough, but here's the thing. It's not their fault. This is a situation very similar to the Celts dominance over BKN. This is a matchup problem. The Sixers just don't have the right mix to match up with the Celts options now that they're at full health. Few teams do, so don't take it too personally. The 2017 Rockets can't guard the 2023 Celtics, who could have possibly seen that coming.

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With that said, we have a lot to get to. Let's dive in.

The Good

- Today's top spot was not an easy choice let me tell you. But I have to go with my heart, and my heart is madly in love with the quality of basketball currently being played by Derrick White.

Let's keep it simple. Derrick was one of, if not the best Celtic to tough the floor last night. Whether you want to look at his 18 points on 7-9 (2-3) shooting or his +/-

the Celts do not win this game without the performance of Derrick White. As a reminder, this is a player that comes off the bench. What I love about Derrick is that you often hear he's the ultimate glue guy. I've thought about it more, and it's almost like DWhite is more Play Doh than glue. You can just morph and mold him into whatever type of player your roster needs that night. Do you need a #1 scoring guard? OK, Derrick will go out there and get you an efficient 20+. Do you need a secondary off ball shooter? OK, Derrick's new and improved jumper will give you 2+ 3PM easy. Do you need a guy to defend and do all the little things while waiting for his opportunity to shoot once everyone is back? OK, no problem.

Derrick molds into whatever this team needs on any given night, and then he thrives. It's fantastic to watch. Just look at his game log since the Smart injury. Once guys came back, he slid back into his reserve role and has been just as awesome in that role as he was when he needed to be THE GUY. What a blessing this is to have on your team.

It cannot be understated how massive Derrick's 11 points on 4-5 shooting in the second half was to this win. He was a team best +20 in his 13 second half minutues, and there's no denying that the lineups with him on the floor were some of the best of the night. To have the luxury to mix and match with this type of elite guard play almost doesn't seem fair. If I had to go up against this roster I'd be so bullshit. There's never a break at any point of the game. It's crazy.

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- I'm starting to think Jaylen might enjoy playing with the mask. I can understand why, everyone knows the mask brings a type of power that can make a player unstoppable if unlocked correctly. That's NBA 101. To my eyes, it would appear that Jaylen has figured out how to unlock that power. Watching this game early, it was very clear that the Sixers do not have the type of wing defense that can consistently stay in front of Jaylen, and once he knows you can't guard him, it's over for you

26/4/3/3 on 10-21 (2-4) shooting, not only was it clear that Jaylen is not shying away from contact, it was also pretty clear that he recognized the Sixers don't have nearly enough rim protection to prevent him from doing whatever he wants in the paint/at the rim. Only 4 3PA on the night and everything else like this?

This is what I meant about being a matchup problem. As you see in the video above, once Jaylen gets by his perimeter defender, he's not afraid of Joel Embiid. Sure Embiid might block some, but Jaylen is also strong enough to finish right through him, as he did with ease late in this game. As of now, this is the Sixers best and only rim protector.

On the perimeter, you're seeing lineups where George Niang has to try and guard Jaylen Brown. That's just not fair for Niang. Jaylen is too quick and too strong once he gets his shoulders past you. Tobias Harris can't do it, PJ Tucker can't do it, and Melton is too small for either Jay. It's no accident that outside of the game where Jaylen had to leave because he broke his face, he's dominated this PHI team.

Game 1: 35 points on 58% shooting

Game 3: 26 points on 48% shooting

They simply cannot guard him, and I don't see how that changes.

- I just know Al Horford loved every second of this game. I'm sure he loves beating the Sixers no matter where they play, but if I know Al like I think I do, he especially loved throwing dagger after dagger right into their hearts in their own building. His three point eruption saved the game. Period. Without that personal 9 point run after the Celts got down 15, they don't win this game. It's why we love and trust

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You can't tell me these performances aren't filled to the brim with spite. I don't get why Sixers fans are so mad at Al. It's not his fault that organization seems to be the only organization in existence that couldn't figure out how to use AL HORFORD of all people. He looked good in ATL, BOS, OKC, and now BOS again. Sounds to me like that's a Sixers problem not an Al Horford problem. Now he burying dagger threes right in those fan's eyeballs. You gotta love it.

- Let's talk lineups, because these are the things you need to pay attention to and mark down in the event these two teams potentially play in a playoff series. You need to understand what does and doesn't work. 

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That starting group was ROUGH holy shit. As expected, the second unit lineup's numbers match the eye test, but something that also stands out is the lineup with Grant being the second big. Look at all the instances of it and how those lineups did

Smart/Jaylen/Tatum/Grant/Al: +56.6 net rating

Brogdon/White/Tatum/Grant/Rob: +90 net rating

Brogon/White/Tatum/Grant/Al: +165 net rating

stand out most to me. This is what I think we learned last night. I'm not sure PHI is the team for the double big lineup in terms of Al/Rob being the two bigs. The spacing is kind of fucked up. Grant provides the defense, rebounding, and floor spacing to match the Sixers lineup with Tucker playing the small ball four. I just look at all the lineup options we saw last night and almost all the good ones had one big, Grant, and then one of the bench guards on the floor.

- I suppose we can talk about the Tatum game winner now

You can always tell when someone is doing an act or just trying to be a contrarian troll when they talk about how Jayson Tatum doesn't have that "killer instinct" or that he fails to show up in the "big moments" like a "true superstar". It's predictable when you hear it and all it does is just expose that person as someone who does not actually watch the Boston Celtics play basketball. Does that mean he's perfect and always comes through? No. He's human. He has his struggles at times just like anyone else.

He also does this

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He is literally the most clutch player in the NBA. That's not me saying it, that's the actual data. Go cry about it. I would be so embarrassed if I ever uttered that "killer instinct" bullshit before let alone said it with conviction. How pathetic. 

We can all agree that for 95% of this game, Jayson Tatum was playing brain dead basketball. Just gross stuff from an efficiency standpoint, a turnover standpoint, it was brutal. But when it came time to show up, Tatum delivered. That three from the wing to make it 102-97. The tip in to go up 107-103, and then the game winner. Not to mention he assisted that huge Al 3PM with 90 seconds left. 

If the final play looked familiar, it's because we've seen it before this season. The first time, Tatum was clearly robbed of an AND1 that would have most likely won the game

so this time he decided to cock it back and let it fly. I imagine Tatum has worked on that shot no fewer than a billion times, which is why for my money Tatum is allowed to take whatever type of game winner he wants. I've seen him make every type of shot under the sun, if he wants to do a pullup, cool! If he wants to take it to the rim, also cool! If he wants to take a fadeaway, awesome!

That final play was the epitome of Love and Trust for everyone invovled. Joe for the love and trust of running that for Tatum despite his offensive struggles. Smart for the love and trust of throwing the perfect pass in the perfect spot where he knew his guy needed it. And finally, Tatum, for loving and trusting his hard work and ability at that moment. It was beautiful.

- Very quietly, Rob threw up a 14/8 on 7-7 shooting in his 31 minutes and was a starter best +10. Much like with Al, we saw Rob be way more effective as the solo big, and I thought his midrange jumper in Embiid's eyeball looked pretty damn smooth

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My thing with Rob is still the same as it always has been. All I care about with him is that his body holds up. The more the regular starting five plays together the better it will look, they've only had like 8 games together so far. Just be patient with that. The more important thing is how Rob's body is responding to consistently playing 30+ minutes a night. So far, so good, and that's big moving forward.

- Heading into this game, the Sixers owned the 7th ranked defense in the NBA. On a night where Jayson Tatum couldn't buy a bucket, the Celts still finished with 110 points on 50/44% splits and 16 3PM. That's pretty good.

The assists were a little low (20) and but thankfully they finally started to take care of the ball in the second half (4 TOs), but I think what I love most about this win offensively was the fact that the Celts beat the Sixers in points in the paint 50-40, 2nd chance points 17-9, and fastbreak points 25-17.

I mean, no matter how you want to look at it the Celts sliced the Sixers defense up every way you could.

- Imagine getting a 35-12 FTA advantage and still not winning. How embarrassing.

The Bad

- Pretty pathetic to wish someone tears their ACL in my opinion

The funny thing is, the Celts would still beat the Sixers even without Jaylen Brown. We just saw them do it. But I guess when you can't seem to beat this team your only hope is praying one of the opposing players suffers a serious injury. How sad.

- I'm starting to get pretty annoyed with this whole start slow out of the halftime break thing. It's happened enough to the point where I don't think it's an accident, I might be ready to call it a problem. If you keep doing that shit in a playoff series, it's how you find yourself playing multiple 7 game series. The Celts come out with such a lack of focus/energy it makes no sense. While it's true they tend to figure things out over the back half of the quarter, they need to figure their shit out in these first 3-4 minutes. Last night? A disaster

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- While he made the assist of the night, this was a pretty bad Marcus Smart showing given the level we expect him to play at and know he is capable of. It almost felt as if he was a little too caught up in his emotions, which tends to happen whenever this team plays PHI. He looked like he was sped up a little too fast, which hey at least he was playing with energy, but the results weren't great. I feel pretty comfortable saying he was the 3rd best guard on the floor, and that's the beauty of having this type of death. Now the Celts are equipped to handle these Smart off nights, which is nice.

- I will say though, I need Brogdon to get back to not missing so many fucking layups. This was bad

- I suppose this is a good spot for Tatum's 7-17 (3-8) with 5 TOs performance. Again, the game winner was awesome, but on the whole I think we can all agree that Tatum needs to be much better. He can't keep having these games where he has more TOs than FGM for about 3/4 of the way through. He was active on the glass (13) and did move the ball well (6 assists), but offensively they need to find ways to get him going with easier looks.

It didn't feel like Joe or the team really utilized Tatum on the block vs their guards nearly enough, and that never really made sense to me, He has such a clear advantage there, on a night where he was struggling to make anything, get him some close looks/FTs. Tatum took just 2 FTA in this game, that's unacceptable.

The Ugly

- You can always tell right away when you play the Sixers what type of game it's going to be when it comes to the whistle of Joel Embiid and James Harden. In a game like this, already down 0-2, at home, with Embiid MVP/Sixers hype running wild, there is no a person out there that was surprised with how things turned out.

The Sixers entire offense relies on the bailout foul. It's that simple. When you actually force them to make baskets, their offense craters. The final tally of 35-12 is one thing. Joel Embiid taking 18 FTA to the Celts 12 is one thing. But it's how blatant things are that is the issue

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Without the officials help, this game is probably a Celts blowout. It took being +20 in FTM points just for the Sixers to be tied. Time after time after time they do nothing for 20 seconds, Harden or Embiid drive into the defender/flop, and they're rewarded with FTs. 

Just look at each game these two teams have played. 

Game 1 in BOS: 28-28

Game 2 in BOS: 20-10 advantage PHI

Game 3 in PHI: 35-12 advantage PHI

I'll have you know, in all of those games the 3PA numbers were basically identical. Games 2 and 3 were relatively close, why do we think that is? Because the officials make it very obvious that they know they need to help the Sixers if they want the game to be competitive. Without it, these games are blowouts. 

The more important aspect of last night is it kept the Celts on pace with MIL. We all wanted a strong start out of the break, and so far it's hard to be better than 2-0. Tomorrow night brings a Knicks team that's playing really well at the moment, and we know how those games can be (see last month). Meanwhile the Celts have won 9 of their last 11 and can play even better.

Love and Trust.