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Jaylen Brown Continues To Put The Celtics On His Back, This Time Carrying Them To A Much Needed Win In Minnesota

David Berding. Getty Images.

When you head out on a 10 day, 6 game West Coast road trip, weird shit is going to happen. It's not going to be easy, you're probably going to have to win ugly in some games, and most importantly you have to be locked in for a full 48. At the halfway point of their trip, the Celts sit at 2-1. While I think most teams would take that to start a trip, the annoying part is who that one loss came against. That was pathetic. The important part though is what came next. It was pretty crucial in my opinion that this team immediately responded, because one bad loss could quickly turn into 2 which could then snowball into 3, and now the trip is more of a disaster than anything else.

I'm warning you, more weird shit is on the way. Just look back in history to how games go in POR and in UTA. By no means are the Celts out of it yet, in fact you could make the case that the toughest part of this trip still remains. At this point of the season though, it's not about style points. It's about wins. Blow someone out, win by 1 point, I don't give a shit just give me the green W. 

Since that OT collapse to CLE to lose their 3rd straight, the Celts have responded by winning 3 of their next 4. That's important when you look around and see what's happening with the teams both ahead and behind them in the standings, which is why each one of these games during this trip is so important. Calling them must wins may feel strong, but they are kind of must wins as long as everyone else around them is also going to be winning at the moment. The Celts have to keep pace.

That's what last night was about for me. I wanted to see how they would respond to without a doubt the worst loss of the year. I wanted to see if they could get back to not playing like assholes, and for the most part that's what happened. The shooting was horrific, but that shit happens. The fact that they didn't let their poor shooting impact their performance is what matters more to me than the end result, even though it was a win. The Celts were tested in another high pressure situation, on the road, against a team fighting for playoff positioning, and they came through. That's called progress last time I checked.

As always, before we look ahead to what's coming next on this trip, we first must talk about last night. Even if there are parts that will make you want to vomit.

The Good

- How do I say this in the clearest way possible…..

Jaylen Brown is carrying the Boston Celtics.

Actually, let me rephrase that if that's alright with everyone. 

All NBA Jaylen Brown is carrying the Boston Celtics. 

How about a little 35/10/1 on 12-24 (5-8) shooting in his 37 minutes? As a "#2" option I'd say that's pretty fucking good. In fact, since Jaylen's returned with the mask, he's been the best player on the team

This is exactly why every single one of us was excited when we learned that Jaylen was going the black mask route. That thing has legit powers. It worked for LeBron, it worked for Kobe, it worked for Embiid, and it is now working for Jaylen. I've reached the point where unfortunately I am not going to allow Jaylen to ever play without it for the rest of the year. The sample size paired with the production is simply too hard to deny. 

If you want to talk consistency, just look at what Jaylen has done since returning. This is the very definition of consistent

One thing I always respect about Jaylen is not only is he vocal about how things need to start with him (and Tatum) at the top and they set the tone for the rest of the team, and then he goes out on the floor and immediately backs it up. That's a leader. 

In last night's game when it came time for someone to step up and come through in the 4th quarter, that person was once again Jaylen Brown

What we're seeing is why it's so valuable to have BOTH Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum on the same team. When one struggles, no worry, just give it to the other #1 option. We're at the point now where I think you can pretty much pencil Jaylen in for one of the three All NBA spots and we all know why that's so important to happen THIS year as opposed to after next. 

Outside of his scoring, I also feel as though Jaylen's defense has been so much better as of late, especially off ball. We're not seeing him fall asleep nearly as much and lose his man, his weakside help has been on point, and he's also doing a great job of actually guarding his yard. Anthony Edwards only had 4 points on 20 possessions against Jaylen in this game, and that is more of the same of what Jaylen's done on the defensive end since he came back.

- So much of the Celtics success comes down to whether or not they take care of the ball. They aren't alone in that, but you can pretty much bank on them winning a game if they don't turn it over 15 times or more. After just 9 last night, the Celtics now move to 8-0 on the season when they finish with under 10 TOs. 

When they keep things to under 13, they are 29-4. If they go over 13, they're 14-14. Over 15? 4-9. 

This is an issue that shouldn't surprise a single person. When this team takes care of the ball, they are nearly impossible to beat, and it's easy to see why. Without the live ball turnovers, you're not dealing with teams scoring in transition. Defensively, you give yourself a much better chance to be effective now that guys can get back and get set. It's something so simple, like yeah, not turning the ball over is good. Everyone knows that.

But for this team, it's literally one of the biggest determining factors to how things play out. When they aren't careless with the ball, you really don't have a shot. When they are, they can lose to the worst teams in the league.

- It was a "quiet" night for Al, but coming off a game against HOU where he took just 3 FGA and was basically a non factor, it was great to see him back to being involved

Nothing crazy, he finished 4-8 (3-7) and the 3 rebounds in 32 minutes is a tad concerning but again, Al is pacing himself. It's just pretty obvious that this team needs him to at least provide SOME production in his minutes, unlike what happened on Monday. It's not just his shot making, but his overall involvement that has this team at its best. The way he can facilitate offense as a passer is a skill this team needs to not forget about, and outside of losing Gobert a couple times on some lobs, I thought defensively he looked much more like the normal Al.

- I know you see 102 points by the Wolves on 44/33% shooting and think this was a defensive clinic, but I'm not so sure I agree it was as lock down as those numbers suggest. It was good enough to warrant being in this section, but if you watched the game you know MIN missed a TON of wide open looks. That's how it went for both teams really.

But what I can say is the energy defensively was a billion times better. You could feel it watching them play, this was NOT a game where the Celts thought they could just show up, step on the floor and win. They earned it. 

- After calling his defense mediocre this year (which might even be too generous), I thought Marcus Smart played a big role in that defensive energy. It's no surprise that in a game where he finally looked more like himself, the Celts quickly built a double digit lead, even with Tatum struggling. This is what I mean when I say how Smart plays basically dictates how the team will play. When he's good, it changes things. When he's bad, it doesn't really matter what the Jays do, that caliber of play sabotages everything.

When the game was close and in the final 3 minutes, it was Marcus Smart that showed up with big time buckets by attacking the rim and not settling. Tough night for the "Smart shouldn't be closing crowd" but then again that's not surprising when it comes to the anti-Smart weirdos

Time after time we saw him get back to passing up good looks for himself for great looks for a teammate. His 5 assists tied Horford for the team lead. His individual defense was much better. He shot the ball like absolute shit (4-12, 0-5), and yet he was a +5 in his 34 minutes. Why? Because he got back to doing everything else that makes this team successful. 

- The same is true for someone like Derrick. He didn't exactly shoot all that well (3-8), but he did everything else. He knocked down his 3PA with confidence, he had 4 assists and 0 TOs, and you can also add 2 blocks to that line as well. The biggest thing for me with Derrick in this game is how much better he continues to look when he doesn't hesitate before his 3PA. When he just steps right into it and lets it fly, things tend to work out like they did in this game.

- Listen, if people are going to kill Joe every chance they get, you should probably also give him his props for when he pushes all the right buttons. His timeout usage was great, his lineup choices paid off when it came time to the closing lineups, and his weird substitution patterns early in the game clearly worked.

- For most of Grant's 26 minutes, he was pretty bad. Just 1-5 (0-3), his minutes were tough. But when it mattered most Joe loved and trusted him and guess who came up with the biggest OREB and clearly stolen tip of the game? Grant. Who knows, maybe this is the redemption that snaps him out of his funk, but there's no denying that OREB in the final seconds was absolutely massive. 

The Bad

- There are a few things that really confuse me when it comes to Malcolm Brogdon's season. On the whole, it's been spectacular. He's giving this team way more than I thought was going to be possible when he first arrived, and he'll probably win 6MOY.

But, his rim production is still baffling. He had more missed open layups last night, and then there was this whole situation

Where for some reason he decided easy points weren't a good idea? Very weird decision for such a high IQ player. 

That brings me to my next really confusing part of Brogdon's season. What is going on with these end of clock situations? We've had multiple situations in the last few games where he has the ball with around 10 or so seconds left in a quarter, and the Celts don't even get a shot off. It's bizarre. He'll have it, dribble a shit ton, and then try and make something happen with like 2 seconds on the clock which almost never works. This was the play last night. After dribbling around not really doing anything, the ball got poke loose and this happened

These are the moments Brogdon is supposed to thrive in right? That was the whole idea was it not? I have no problem with the bll being in his hands in these moments, I am just asking him to make better decisions. This is not a one time thing, this has been an all season thing when it comes to these end of clock situations for him.

Overall on the night I thought Brogdon was pretty good. His offense carried early when both Jays were on the bench. I just think it's weird that such a smart and talented player has these types of brain farts on a regular basis it seems.

- The late game OREB issue is still a problem. If you're curious why this game was close to end the 4th, just look at the OREB/2nd chance points. Two more OREBs, both coming under the 4 minute mark. The Wolves had 7 2nd chance points in the frame, and I don't know how many games the Celts have to lose due to shit like this before they figure it the fuck out. Al Horford had 0 rebounds in his 9 minutes. Smart/Brogdon had 0 rebounds in their minutes and they played 9 and 8 respectively. Grant had 1 rebound in his 7 minutes, and none came on the defensive glass. 

This is the type of bad habit that is going to lose you a playoff game. Period. Joe can really only do so much with this. He called the team out about it to the press after games. Everyone knows it's an issue. It's on the players to wake the hell up and stop this shit from happening every single game. The reason you are in these pressure situations is because you are losing focus on the glass in the most important part of the game. That is inexcusable.

- It seems odd to me that in a game where you couldn't make a shot to save your life, Sam Hauser only played 2 minutes and did not attempt a single FGA. Given that shooting is what he does, maybe give him a couple looks.

- I don't think I'm breaking any news when I suggest that 40/30% splits for an entire game is pretty terrible. Just 12-40 from three, and the annoying part is almost all of the 3PA came off good process. The percentage may suck ass, but 33 of the 40 were either "open" or "wide open". Those are looks I want everyone to be taking. The issue was they finished 10-33 on those shots. That's gross.

- We already know Adam Silver doesn't care about his product or his officiating problem, but man was last night really bad for everyone involved. There was no consistency, the Wolves got boned like 4 separate times, and then at the end the ref who basically sucked all night got in his feelings because he was called out for it and tossed guys. 

I know I shouldn't care about this because it helped my favorite team, but that's not what this is about. This is about the league having a big time issue on their hands and simply refusing to do anything about it. We're going to see playoff games be impacted by this shit and that's a problem.

The Ugly

- I'm not sure where else you could put Jayson Tatum right now. Another 4-16 (0-8) showing including another 0-3 performance in the 4th quarter, there's no doubt about the fact that Tatum is slumping HARD right now.

Since the break, he's shooting just 43/29% with 3.2 TOs and just 5.7 AST. Over his last 2, he's at 31/11% with 3 TOs and 4 AST. He's missing layups, he's missing wide open 3PA, outside of his rebounding and maybe his defense at times, nothing is really working for Tatum at the moment.

Given he's their best player, that's kind of a big deal. To me, he's basically having his normal October production in March. He has a stretch like this every season, only usually it comes before Thanksgiving. I know people want to point to the wrist or the minutes and all that shit, but I reject all of that.

He's just playing like ass. Period.

It goes without saying the team as a whole is cooked if this is the version of Tatum we get in a few weeks, but the good news is there is plenty of time to play his way out of this slump. I'm not overreacting to it now because I've lived through this stretch every year for the last 6 years. It'll pass. But in the meantime, man it is tough to watch.

I will say it was good to see him be aggressive and get to the line 16 times, but for the love of God just make a goddamn layup every once in a while. It cannot be this hard. 

- While it didn't cost them, I'm still not loving the end of game offense. Not enough player and ball movement for my liking. So far we're basically seeing one ball screen at the top of the key, then a guy trying to make it happen on his own. Last night Smart was able to get to the rim, but I didn't love the process. At some point, the players need to understand this is not how they need to play in these tight moments and get back to the brand of basketball that they play for the previous 43 minutes. 

There are too many good players on the floor in these moments for them to be so predictable. Their overall clutch record stands at 23-11 which is the 2nd best record in the NBA, but it feels like they make things way harder on themselves than they need to in those moments.

So now we move. A rematch with POR after they got their ass kicked in the Garden not too long ago, you can't assume the same will happen again. You have to be locked in and ready to go. Do that, and keep this momentum rolling into UTA. Love and Trust.