The Hospital Celtics Take Care Of Business (Again), And The Focus Can Now Officially Shift To The Postseason
Recently we've heard Bucks fans cry about having to play on a B2B and 5 games in 7 days as the reason they lost a basketball game, and last night we had LeBron doing basically the same thing
and yet here the Celts are, a team that won their B2B last week (5 games in 8 days) and just won another one last night. This time, they did it without three starters with Jayson Tatum, Al Horford, and Marcus Smart all getting the night off. Last night's win now moves the Celts to 10-3 on the season in B2B games, which is pretty fucking nuts. That ties them with MIL and has them 2 wins clear of the next closest (PHI/MIN/SAC).
The point is, the Hospital Celtics got it done. Again. Just like they seemingly always do, regardless of opponent. Shit, even when the Hospital Celts lose it's a competitive game that goes into OT. It's a great way to highlight the depth of this team and why it will be so important starting next week.
Entering last night, the Celts had been 0-6 when failing to break 100 points in a game. There was the ass kicking by the Clippers on the road, the ORL losses, that MIA OT loss, and the dogshit shooting nights against the Suns and Knicks. In 5 of those 6, the Celts shot under 30% from three and under 44% from the floor.
Well, last night the Hospital Celts scored under 100. They shot 28.9% from three and 42.7% from the floor. And yet, they found a way to win, something the regular Celts clearly struggled with if you read the paragraph above. The win locked in the 2 seed which means we should be getting a whole lot of JD Davison/Kab P&Rs in the final two games, because there is legitimately no reason to play anyone of importance. You can't gain anything and can only risk everything. The top 5 spots in the East are locked, so it's now about rest and recovery before the second season starts.
That's why last night's win was important. The last thing this team needed was the fuck around, drop a game they shouldn't, and force them to play their regulars in one of the final 2 games. Beating the Raptors is whatever, they are 3-0 against them this season. Last night was more about taking care of your business so you can set yourself up for a strong playoff run.
The Hospital Celts did that, and man was it fun to watch.
- Now that we are 80 games into the season, I think you can say we have a large enough sample size to form the following conclusion about Malcolm Brogdon as a player and the season in which he's had.
He fucking rules.
A nice little 29/5/3 on 10-19 (4-6) shooting in his 34 minutes last night, Malcolm Brogdon carried this team. Full stop. It wasn't just offensively either, Brogdon had whoever he was matched up with on the other end in jail, something that hasn't really been the case consistently this season. It didn't matter if they were someone like Fred VanVleet (16 possessions, 0 points, 0-3) who was clearly just too small, or even bigger players like OG Anunoby and Scottie Barnes, who scored a combined 0 points on 20 possessions vs Brogdon, which just goes to show how fucking strong this dude is. You can't post him up, and I'd say his on ball defense is looking better and better over the last handful of games.
To say Brogdon gives this roster exactly what it needs not just from that position, but also in terms of what they'll need in the postseason, I don't know how anyone could suggest his first year in Boston has been anything short of spectacular. The offense is WAY better than I ever imagined, he's a guy that looks comfortable backpacking lineups if he has to, and it's why he's in the top 2 for 6MOY.
Speaking of that….
just something to think about. It's not a "6th Man of the Year Who Also Starts Nearly A Quarter Of The Games" award. It's about the best player who comes off the bench. Given the impact Brogdon makes, the team success, and his individual numbers, it's hard to argue he's not the 6MOY. The way he's fully embraced this role since the second he got to Boston, has been professional the whole way through regardless of if he's on the floor to close games, it's all been better than we could have imagined.
To me, that's a guy who knows the deal. Brogdon sees the bigger picture. If this is the version we get in the playoffs, I think he's going to like what he sees.
- Speaking of guard play, there's a reason I won't shut the hell up about it and why it's so important for this team. I look at it as the head of the snake. When the Celts get good guard play, look the fuck out. With Smart out, that meant both Brogdon and DWhite were going to have to carry the load. Guess what happened?
They combined for 46 of the 97 points, or said another way, 47.4% of the offense. Another strong two way performance for Derrick, who a this point has written his name in pen when it comes to the First Team All Defensive team. There's just no case for him to not make it. He contests the most shots of any guard, he leads all guards in blocks, he locks down his matchup basically every night, oh and then offensively he's going to kill you with either an elite float game or a much improved three point shot.
I will say I got VERY nervous when he stepped on that foot and rolled his ankle. That's why I say give him the rest of the season off, even though he finished the game. He's too important. With so much firepower sitting this game out, it was pretty important that both guards have the right approach in this game, and outside of Poeltl, it's not like the Raptors have all that much rim protection, so seeing a shot chart like this from both guys
is exactly what I was looking for. Derrick was 4-8 on his 2pt FGA, Brogdon was 6-13. When Derrick makes that early floater, that's how you know his touch is feeling good. The way these two were able to pick apart the Raptors zone when sharing the floor together is something to note because chances are given who they may see in the playoffs, those guys are going to have to figure out how to handle breaking a zone. When you have two high level IQ players sharing the floor who are both unselfish and just want to make the right play, things tend to work out.
- I watch Fred VanVleet against basically any other NBA team, and he looks pretty damn good. Yet for some reason, the man cannot do jack shit against this defense. He finished 2-14 (2-12) in this game and is shooting just 17/11% on the season against the Celts. This is notable because usually, we see the Celts struggle to contain smaller, quicker, score first guards. That's the profile of the types of players that tend to give the Celts defense trouble, yet FVV is in hell every time these two teams play.
- As we enter the postseason, I'd say it's pretty important that when you watch Rob play, he looks like Rob. We saw him play 31:18 minutes last night, which was his most since 1/26 (36 minutes). In those minutes it was everything we love about Rob. He owned the glass while on the floor, defensively he was a menace, offensively he moved the ball, he protected the rim, and his bounce looks great.
If there's one player who I most definitely do not want to see touch the floor again this regular season, it's Rob. The mission is accomplished, we got to the postseason with Rob healthy and looking great. Sit his ass and wait for the important games to come. We're always just one jump away from having our entire season completely altered, and given what a difference Rob makes to the ceiling of this team, we've seen enough. He's ready. The load management plan worked. Well done.
- Kind of flying under the radar is the fact that the Celts won their 24th clutch time game last night. They sit at 24-13 on the season, with has them tied for the 4th most clutch time wins in the entire NBA. Of all those teams, their 13 losses are the 2nd fewest (MIL, 8).
I'd say that's a pretty big deal given what we lived through last season (13-22). Even after the turnaround in January, the Celts were 5-6 in clutch time games. As we know, games in the playoffs are most likely going to come down to some clutch time situations, and this year's team has proven that they can execute at a high level in those spots. It doesn't mean they'll be perfect and never mess up, but on the whole they've drastically improved in this one pretty important area.
- He didn't shoot the ball particularly well (12-29, 1-9), but what I loved about Jaylen's night is he didn't allow it to impact the other aspects of his game
Jaylen led the Celts in both rebounds and assists in his 38 minutes, and when the team needed that big bucket late when things got tight, we saw Jaylen go right to his midrange sweet spot and come through.
I'm not going to suggest that 25 points on 29 shots is good, it isn't. But what was good about his night was the fact that he found other ways to contribute to winning, and when the time came for the best player on the floor to do best player on the floor shit, Jaylen rose to the occasion. He didn't disappear late all because he struggled with his shot early. That's growth.
Between his huge midrange bucket and the afterburner layup to seal the win and winning the Red Auberbach award (hmmm), overall I'd say this was a good night for the franchise cornerstone.
- Really strong Mike Muscala minutes too which was a nice surprise. He's such a weird guy to figure out. There are times where you wonder what Brad saw at all, and then other times like last night where it makes all the sense in the world
I mean that was a gigantic shot in a huge moment. That's the same three he kept missing against the Sixers, and I'm at the point now where I'm starting to think Muscala should be getting any backup minutes over Kornet in a playoff series. The defense is basically the same, he did a decent job on the glass, and the shooting is obviously much, much better.
He's going to get burned in isolation the same way Kornet would, so my hope is that these final two games give Muscala an opportunity to show Joe that if he needs to break glass in case of an emergency in the playoffs and he's already gone with Blake, let's give Muscala a look. He's clearly a rythym player, and if he's going to have the stones to make big 4th quarter 3PA, I don't see why Kornet should get the nod over him,
- I love the fact that Pyscho Joe will fight literally anyone at any time in any place
That's the type of mentality I like to see from the guy in charge. Joe doesn't take any shit, whether it's from the media or opposing players. Love that.
- Hand up, I did not know it was physically possible for Sam Hauser to go 1-8 (1-8) from the floor, which almost all of them being wide open looks. I was legit shocked every time he missed.
I don't want to look too much into it, but Hauser is shooting just 23.8% from three over his last 6 games. He hasn't made more than 1 3PM in 5 of those 6. Just something to keep an eye on moving forward. Maybe these final two games can be a chance for him to shoot his way out of this slump, because his shooting is going to be important at some point over the next 2+ months.
- We did not witness what I would call a good Grant game. In fact, it was pretty gross. Not just the 1-5 (0-3) shooting, but also the fact that this man played 18 minutes and grabbed 1 rebound. How many times did we see the Raptors straight up bully him on the glass for extra possessions?
If Grant is going to play, he needs to do 3 things
1. Defend at an acceptable level
2. Knock down his open looks
I'd say maybe we got 1 of those 3? His defense wasn't terrible so I'll give him some credit there, but to have 18 minutes of basically cardio is not going to cut it. Not when Blake can come in and give you 5 rebounds in 12 minutes. Add in the fact that he missed 2 FTA as well and that pretty much sums everything up.
- The shooting was obviously poor (42.28%), and once we got to the 4th quarter for some reason the Celts decided it was a great time to start turning the ball over. A total of 6 of their 15 came in the final 12 minutes, and really that entire 4th quarter was horrific.
Scoring just 9 points in the first 10 minutes, finishing with the same amount of TOs as FGM, Brogdon making insane decisions late in the game/turning it over, I mean what even was that?
If you go by quarter, the Celts scored 31, 25, 23, and 18 points. That's…not great. It made things way more stressful than they needed to be and was a nice reminder of maybe the biggest factor of the entire Celtics season.
When they don't play dumb as shit, they are basketball Gods. When they do play dumb as shit (that 4th quarter), they might be the worst basketball team on the planet. The bar is literally do not play dumb as shit and everything will be OK.
- You should know where I'm going with this. Immediately after going 10-16 from the FT line in a 2 pt loss to the Sixers, the Celts backed that up with a 10-18 performance last night. That's 55.6%. I'll remind you, as a team the Celts shoot like 82%, and are top 2 in the NBA.
So I ask, what the fuck is going on? You cannot keep leaving points on the board like this, and the thing is the struggles are coming from good FT shooters! If Rob or someone misses a FT, fine. That's whatever. But Derrick? Jaylen? Brogdon? Grant? It's time to clean this shit up. It's hard enough to get to the line as a Celtic as it is, once you get there I can't have you missing 6-8 FTs a night. That's pathetic.
With the 2 seed locked, as I said at the top of the blog the name of the game from here on out is rest and recovery. It was quite the regular season for the 2022-23 Celtics, but we can finally turn the page to what REALLY matters. I'll be honest, I'm terrified. It's either going to be the greatest run of my life or one of the most painful experiences since June 2022. I can't wait.
Love and Trust.