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The Celtics Decided To Play Like Gigantic Assholes And Blew The Largest Lead In The NBA This Season For Their Most Embarrassing Loss Of The Year

Omar Rawlings. Getty Images.

When the Celtics bench lost to the Bucks in OT, the feeling after that game was more about being bummed, but not bothered. Going down swinging like they did and the effort and energy they played with was commendable. In their loss to the Knicks, that one was more frustrating simply because of a lack of execution. The process was great, they generated a billion open looks, they just didn't execute. You can live with that.

This? Last night? This loss was nothing like the previous two. There is no positive takeaway like the Bucks game. There is no good process/bad execution like the Knicks loss. No, no, when you pull off the biggest collapse of any team this season and the 14th biggest collapse in NBA history (regular season) by playing like gigantic assholes, there is no spinzone. There is no positive side to the coin and to say last night was embarrassing doesn't even really do it justice. While this was 1 of 82, I have to ask…..what are we doing? It's March. There are under 20 games in the season where every single one is going to be very, very important. That doesn't mean the Celts are going to go undefeated the rest of the way, don't be dramatic.

But is it too much to ask for them to be able to hold onto 28 point leads? I feel like that should be a compromise. No, the expectation isn't that you are going to win every game. That's not realistic. But in games when you are up 28 FUCKING POINTS at home to a now rebuilding Nets team, that's one I'm going to need you to win. Given the talent on the floor, that shouldn't be too crazy of an ask. Considering teams were like 1-138 this season when trailing by 27+, I get the sense that a win in that situation is possible, so what the hell? 

I think what makes last night so much worse is what also happened at the end of the CLE win. A 20 point lead down to 4 in the final moments of the fourth quarter because this team decided to fuck around. Well, this time they fucked around to the point where they found out what happens when you do it with more than 3 minutes left in a game. Something like this doesn't happen often, and this is the first time we lived through it in the Post-Kyrie era

but I'm not sure that matters. What matters is we are not in December. Given where the race/seeding is over this home stretch, the Celtics are in no position to be giving away wins. They need to be stacking wins, so to have a collapse like they did last night at this point in the season is the extra twist of the knife. It's unacceptable and a complete failure by everyone involved. Players, coaches, they all played a role in this shit sandwich of a loss. 

So what next? You take it on the chin and move on. Whatever slander might come the Celts way over the next few days is warranted. If you don't like it, don't blow 28 point leads, it's that simple. 

Let's dive in.

The Good

- I thought about maybe putting Jaylen's highlights in here , or maybe that first quarter as sort of a palate cleanser, but I woke up in no mood. I decided instead to come up with a new blog rule. You know how we have the long standing tradition of skipping the Ugly section once this team wins 5 in a row and we skip it until they lose?

Well we're skipping the Good section any time the Celtics blow a 28 point lead. Someone has to put their foot down and make it crystal clear to these guys that last night was unacceptable. If that has to be me and my decision to remove the most coveted postgame section on the internet, then that is what I am going to do.

Grow up. It's 28 points. Hold the fucking lead.

The Bad

- In my opinion, we should be past the point where the Celts get up big and then stop playing. I think that's what truly bothers me about this game, the Celts know better. To me, this starts at the top with your best player. The Celtics go as Jaylen and Jayson go, and when Tatum has a performance like he did in this game, you can understand how a collapse like this happens. That's not to say he is the sole reason for it, but everything starts with him. Approach, energy, effort, all that. He's the tone setter.

So let me ask you, did it feel like Tatum was engaged in this game? Hell no. He was passive, he settled, and his lazy play was everywhere you looked. Whether it was a lazy pass like like to Grant that led to a TO

Or how about his defense on the final possession of the first half? What exactly is he doing?

Did this feel like a game where the best player was engaged for a full 48? No chance.

Offensively, Tatum settled way too much. When this team plays the Nets, there is no excuse for Tatum to have 2 FTA given the fact that he's bigger than any wing defender the Nets have. How many times did we see Tatum hunt Seth Curry the second he was on the floor? These two teams have played a few times before, we know the formula that works. 

So tell me on what planet it it acceptable that Tatum only had Curry matched up on him for 3 total possessions in this game. Guess what? He was 1-1! They shared the floor for all 7:51 of Seth's 2nd quarter minutes and then all his 3:55 minutes as well. Instead, Tatum settled for 3PA (0-8), the Celts offense disappeared and the Nets dodged a bullet. I view this as not only a player issue, like, where were the guards setting up that mismatch, where was Tatum hunting for it etc, but also a coach issue. Whether it's Joe or an assistant, isn't it their job to exploit mismatches? As a staff, they collectively failed with this as well.

There's a reason Tatum was a team worst -19 in his 38 minutes. It's because he was arguably the worst Celtic on the floor last night. I know his line says 22/13/5, but he played like shit if you watched the game. He didn't guard, he wasn't aggressive offensively, he couldn't make a shot, and he also turned it over 4 times. This kind of stuff simply cannot happen, it doesn't matter who the opponent is.

- Now let's talk about Joe specifically. To me, this was probably his worst game of the year, and for a few reasons. 

First, his rotations. We saw Joe make only 1 sub in the final 7 minutes of the 2nd quarter. What he did do is what everyone wants and call timeouts when leads start to shrink, which we saw him do at the 6 minute mark after a little mini BKN 8-0 run to cut it to 21. Unfortunately, the players he had out there started to really fade around that 7 minute mark.

This wasn't a case of poor bench play either, this was a starter issue in that 2nd quarter

I know there may be a temptation to get on the Kornet/Muscala/Grant's of the world, but they were not really why this game started to turn. From Smart to Al to the Jays, they were all very bad in that 2nd quarter, all while being on the floor for the majority of it. There's a reason Joe went back to the end of this quarter after the game

He's right, we all could feel the momentum shift at the end of that 2nd quarter. These are still NBA teams, and when you give them life and hope instead of stepping on their throat, this is what happens. 

Perhaps playing Derrick more than 4 minutes in the 2nd quarter might have been the way to go given his strong start, so I didn't love that from Joe.

I also didn't love how they didn't attack Cam Johnson early in the 3rd with his foul trouble. He's a guy that had 17 second half points and was a big part of their comeback, playing 23 minutes. He eventually fouled out, but the damage was done. They didn't attack him at all in the 3rd (0 fouls), he found his rhythm (10 points) and that was it. Much like the lack of targeting Curry, not hunting Johnson in that 3rd quarter was a big miss.

And most importantly, I don't know why Joe didn't go small more. There was no lineup adjustment once it became clear how the Nets were going to attack the Celts defense. They were going to force the switch with a big, and attack it. Whether it was Al, Rob, Moose or Kornet, the footspeed simply wasn't there, yet Joe stayed big

The double big lineups had all sorts of trouble when it came to these dribble drives, and the same was true for when there was one big, but it wasn't a small ball big like Grant. Here's why this is something to keep an eye on. 

In the playoffs, things slow down. Things become about exploiting mismatches. It's becoming pretty clear after the CLE game and now this loss that one of the ways to key in on the Celtics defense is to attack their bigs in space, especially if the Celts are going to be a switch heavy team. This is no different from not Donovan Mitchell and Garland did the other night. This is what teams are going to do offensively against the Celts defense now that it's clear it works.

- The problem is pretty much everyone up and down the roster has taken a step back in terms of their isolation defense. As a team, they rank in the 24th percentile when it comes to defending isolation. If you want to know where that ranked last season, the Celts were the best team in basketball at defending isolation offense, coming in at the 100th percentile. That's a HUGE dropoff, and this was a game that showed by this is an issue.

- Why is that? Because if the Celts can't guard their yard, Joe is going to have them double. When they double, that leaves wide open looks. Just look at how they defended the biggest possession of the 4th quarter

As you can see, because Al is too slow for Dinwiddie, Tatum has to double over and provide help. That leaves DFS wide the fuck open at the top of the arc, and he buried it. He had all the confidence in the world from previous possessions where doubling left him wide open, so it wasn't a surprise he made one in that spot.

- When you have to become reliant on doubles, you become predictable. We know this to be true because the same thing exists when we know teams are going to double Tatum once he crosses half court. When you know the double is coming, it's easy to break and you're leaving good shooters wide open. There is a time and place for trapping and sending extra guys, but I'm going to need every player on this roster to sack the fuck up and be able to guard their man effectively without help. 

The perimeter defense has been dogshit since the break when it comes to limiting dribble penetration, whether it was the Pacers, Knicks, Cavs, and now Nets. Until that gets solved, the Celts defense will be easy to crack.

- One of the easiest ways to blow a 28 point lead is changing the pace in which you play. When you get up big and start walking the ball up the floor or waiting until there are around 15 seconds to get into your offensive sets, things immediately go down hill. Too often we saw Tatum walk the ball up and too often did this team not get into their sets quick enough.

When you do that and then maybe the first option gets cut off, well now you're taking a poor quality shot at the end of the clock. Think of how the ball movement looked to start compared to the second half. It was a completely different game. 

- We are now back to praying that Rob's hamstring issue isn't serious, but my guess is he's about to miss the next few. That's not great.

The Ugly

- Obviously, the 28 point collapse is fitting for this section. We just broke it down above, but it needed another mention given how pathetic it was. 

The entire second half was maybe the worst overall performance on both ends of the entire season. It's a pick your poison of futility when you step back and look at it

I'm not sure what makes me want to vomit more. Is it the 60 points allowed and 8 3PM? Is it the 43/16% shooting? Is it the 41 points in 2 quarters? How about 12 TOs, that seems like winning basketball. How about 11-0 2nd chance points? I mean jesus christ what are we even doing?

If one sequence summed up this game, it was this

The Nets played harder. Fact. That is very embarrassing at any moment let alone a game you're blowing on your own floor. We can bitch and moan about Joe all we want, this is on the players too, if not more so. How do you possibly defend an effort like this?

Add in 19 turnovers, the most since 1/23 (Celts are now 1-4 when they do that), and it's pretty obvious that when the Celts play like assholes and play losing basketball, they lose. A wild concept, I know. 

The important thing now is to keep perspective. Now down 1 full game to MIL (could be 1.5 if the Sixers lose), the Celts margin for error is now even slimmer. A rematch with NYK (8 wins in a row) and CLE are up next, and neither of those games were going to be easy. What I do know, is if the Celts play in those games like we did last night, there will be no 28 point blown losses, they will just be 28 point losses. Time will tell if they learned their lesson from this disaster, but man is it frustrating to be throwing away games like this at this point of the year.

Then again, if loving and trusting was easy, everyone would do it.