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After Dismantling The Raptors With Ease, The Celtics Made It Pretty Clear That They Are Ready For The Postseason

Omar Rawlings. Getty Images.

56 wins. 

Do you remember where you were the last time we saw a Boston Celtics team win at least 56 games in a season? I suppose it might help if I tell you when that was. The year was 2010-11. Coming off a Finals loss in heart breaking fashion (sound familiar?), this was the Celts roster at the time

That was a team that went 56-26, and had the 18th ranked offense, 2nd ranked defense, and 6th best net rating. It's been 12 years since we've seen something like this happen, so for me, that means living in the North End and working some low level marketing job in the Financial District doing dumb shit that 23 year olds do. I lived off Monica's and Umbertos with some Florentine cookies from Bova's regularly mixed in. Life was great. 

It also means this season has been the most wins of the Brad Stevens Era, the Tatum/Brown era, and the 3rd most since Wyc bought the team. If they win tomorrow, the 2022-23 Celtics will join the 1960-61 and 1987-88 Celts as teams that won 57 games. I say focus on the 1960-61 ending. If you're curious, you should focus on the 1793-74 ending if the Celts stay at 56. As of today, this year's group is just 1 of 25 teams to ever win this many games in Celtics history. They've been around for 77 seasons. That seems pretty good! Of those 24 previous teams, 11 won the title. I think we'd all like to see that number become 12.

At this point of the year, with seeding locked in and these games genuinely meaningless, the only thing that matters is getting out of the game with a clean injury report. I don't know about anyone else, but this was a rather stressful 48 minutes, even though the Celts found themselves up by a billion about 15 minutes into game action. I was nervous about every possession, every jump, every fall, every foul. You just never know. 

Thankfully, we survived and also were witnesses to one hell of a show. I know the Raptors kind of stink and this is simply a bad matchup for them, but the Hospital Celtics kick the shit out of everyone they play so it's really not all that surprising. No Jaylen, Smart, or Brogdon? OK no problem! This team is as locked in as we've seen all season (more on this in a bit), and last night was the latest example of how devastating that can be for an opponent.

Let's talk about it.

The Good

- Frankly, I'm still in shock. I'm still not totally sure what I witnessed. I've had to watch these highlights a few times this morning just to make sure they're actually real. I mean I dunno, you tell me

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This really happened right?

I should state that I am still extremely intoxicated via Celts Kool Aid, so that's why I want to make sure this isn't all just my imagination right now. Sam Hauser actually put it on someone's head and then flexed. He went for 26/5/2 on 10-16 (6-12) in his 36 minutes right? I'm not imagining that either? 

I mean holy shit. When you think of Sam Hauser, I tend to go with one of the most elite shooters in the history of the sport while also finding a way to lock any offensive player in the league up on Hauser Island. Many people are saying the idea of the 3&D wing is based on the skillset of Sam Hauser. I'm not saying that, many other people are, but I do kind of see their point. 

As fun as it is to see Hauser not even consider touching the rim on his jumpers, the fact that he morphed into Ja Morant/Prime LeBron/Dunk Contest Vince Carter/Mac McClung in an actual NBA game was some of the craziest shit I've ever seen in my life while watching this team

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There is not a person on the planet that even entertained the thought of something like this being possible. An easy backdoor cut for a two handed dunk, fine, I mean Hauser is like 6'7 or some shit. The beauty of last night was we got so much more than that. We got posters, we got thunder dunks, we got 6 3PM. You could make the case that no player on the roster proved more this season than Hauser as crazy as that sounds.

Remember when Gallo went down and everyone said Brad needed to bring in another stretch wing and he said 

"Hey morons I've never missed once in my goddamn life, we have Sam Hauser. We'll be fine." 

Immediately he was mocked. Sam Hauser? People said he wasn't an NBA level player, that he couldn't defend. Nope, wrong again! He shot 45/41% from the floor on good volume in 15 minutes a night (79 games) and gives up just 0.92 points per iso possession as a defender. He's shown to be more than capable on that end of the floor. Chalk that up as another win for Brad when you alos remember that Hauser is under contract for 2 more years at basically vet minimum money.

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- I would now like this opportunity to discuss Robert Williams. After the Celts came out of the ASB, won their first two games and then dropped that brutal showing at MSG, the next day and I went back and watched Rob. I had this thought

Everyone with a brain and even one working eye can see and understand that Rob is the ultimate ceiling raiser for this team. Not Tatum, not Jaylen, not Smart, not Al, not Derrick, not Brogdon. Pick anyone you want really. None of them raise the ceiling of what this team can accomplish more than a healthy Robert Williams. His health is of the utmost importance to the success we all want to see this team have, so to help ensure that, it was pretty clear the plan was to pace himself. How do I know that? 

Because look at this dude

That's Rob. Not hampered, still kind of injured and maybe a step slow Rob. That's a holy shit this is the most terrifying two way presence in the NBA Rob. The rebounding, the defense, the rim protection, and best of all, the passing. If you watch those highlights and you don't think you're seeing vintage and fully healthy Rob, then I'm not sure you even knew who that guy was in the first place.

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The bounce is back, you can tell he's starting to look more and more in game shape because his fouls are down as his minutes go up. When we watch Rob play, there is no sign of him not trusting his body or being reluctant to jump/contest plays/catch lobs. I think that's the most reassuring thing, because often times we see injury plagued guys have a hard time with the mental side of it. Just ask Gordon Hayward. 

25 minutes last night, and 31 in the game before against the Raptors. We've now seen Rob hit the 30 minute mark in 3 of his last 11 games with another game at 28 and one at 25. The ramp-up is underway and he looks primed and ready for a playoff push. That's….gigantic.

- What I love about Payton Pritchard is the man just stays ready. DNP-CDs, missing a huge chunk of time with a weird heel injury from about a month ago, this most definitely was not an easy season for Pritchard. But when it came time for his number to be called he basically did what he always does.

He caused chaos

22/4/5 on 9-14 (4-8) for Pritchard in his 24 minutes off the bench, it was quite the nice little reminder that oh yeah even the 4th guard on this roster is fucking nails. It feels like forever since we've seen Pritchard play any sort of legit minutes that weren't just the final few of a blowout, in fact, he hadn't played 24 minutes in a game since 1/24. It's April! 

We know Payton can shoot, but last night was also about him actually making plays as a playmaker. I thought he did a great job of keeping his head up on drives, that no look one handed dish to Hauser was sick, and once he saw a few go in from deep we were off and running. I still believe there's going to be a playoff moment for Pritchard, he's just that kind of guy. We saw him do it last year, and I'm thinking if there's foul trouble or a twisted ankle or something, Pritchard is going to have a moment. He stays locked in.

- It's very apparent when Jayson Tatum decides to play with a "no fucking around" mindset. Some even say when he does that he elevates into one of the most unstoppable offensive forces in the NBA. Again that's not me saying it, I'm just here reporting to you all what I hear on a daily basis from people in the know

This is what that looks like

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Of course, the most important thing is that Tatum did not get hurt. Love that for us. 

We also watched him make Celtics history….again

Think of all the legends that have played for this franchise. Some of the greatest players to ever play this game. Not a single one has averaged 30 for an entire season. Jayson Tatum has. Sure, part of that is the evolution of the game, but please tell me where I'm supposed to give a shit. It's looking like Tatum is going to end the year with the most overall points in the entire NBA. No player has gotten more buckets. That may not be the "scoring title", but it's pretty fucking awesome. 

It's pretty clear that we are witnessing a generational Celtic in the making. Every game we learn that Tatum does more and more shit that only Larry Bird and John Havlichek have done. 

We have literally never seen anything like this lol

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As always though, shoutout Isaiah Thomas. What a legend.

- The Celts now move to 37-3 when they score at least 120 points. Call me crazy, but that seems pretty good. This Mazzulla Ball man, I guess you could say it works!

Last night was no different. 

The ball movement in this game was pure Celtics porn. I believe they started off something crazy like 22 FGM on 18 AST, and that 37 number is big time. The 19 TOs were horrible, but listen nobody's perfect. They attacked the rim when they had to, building their 28 point lead at 50-22 despite hitting just 31% of their 3PA, and then once the 3s started raining down, it was curtains. 

Locked in defense, rebounding, ball movement, loving and trusting.

That is Mazzulla Ball, and when this team plays that way they are virtually unbeatable.

- Speaking of the Celtics season, we now have an 81 game sample size to evaluate them on. Here's how they did

Offense: 2nd

Defense: 2nd

Net Rating: 1st

Point Differential: 1st

Wins: 2nd

Wins vs good teams: 2nd

Road wins: 2nd

Clutch: 4th most wins, 2nd best winning%, 2nd fewest losses

AST%: 6th

TS%: 5th

Opponent points: 4th

So no, this wasn't a case where the Celts got off to a great start and then coasted the rest of the year. They've been dominant since the opening tip. I know the doomers out there want you to believe this season was an underachievement or a failure, or that this team has been dogshit since the ASB, but again, this is simply not true

Remember, when the Celts lost 3 in a row on 3/6, everyone said none of the previous games/success mattered, that it was about how you were playing at the moment and heading into the playoffs that truly showed what the team was going to do in the playoffs. 

Well, the Celtics have been the best team in the NBA over the last month of the season, I'm pretty sure that's what everyone wanted correct? 

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The last teams who were top 2 in offense/defense/net rating were the KD era Warriors and the pre-KD Warriors. Those teams were pretty fucking good last time I checked.

- Another 16/6/10 for Derrick in his 27 minutes on 4-7 shooting. Watching how he plays with pace and confidence is such a delight, and it was great to see that his ankle injury isn't anything serious. There were some turnover issues of course, but overall? It was the perfect cap to his breakout season. My guess is maybe they give him a stint tomorrow just so he can play in every game (111 straight), but if anyone on this roster has deserved a rest day, it's Derrick White.

He once again had FVV in jail (3-11), he had the 2nd most rebounds of any starter, led the team in assists, it's just impossible to not love everything he brings on a nightly basis. Big time player.

The Bad

- Given that this is a safe space, I think we can all admit we all got a little tense when we saw the 36 point lead get cut to 18 in just 7 minutes of game action. It's crazy the psychological damage we all have because an 18 point lead is still a very comfortable lead, and yet it felt like it was a two possession game that was practically on tilt.

That's messed up.

But when we've all lived through watching this team blow a 28 point lead, there's simply no resting until the clock hits 0.0. That's just the way life is going to be from now until the end of time. I trust the Celts have won when the game ends and not a second prior. Maybe you don't suffer from this, and if that's the case I sure am jealous. 

- It's never a good sign when you miss every shot you take (0-4, 0-3) and then you also finish with 3 TOs in your 17 minutes. What I just described to you was the play of Grant.

He did do well on the glass (7 rebounds), but overall this was not what I would call a great Grant showing. Dribbling didn't work out so well for him, he couldn't make a shot, and on top of it I'm pretty sure he tweaked his ankle. Not great.

- Only getting 3 minutes of JD/Kab was nowhere near enough. I'm going to need that to be like 33 minutes tomorrow night. I need more JD lobs in my life, we saw the flashes last night.

The Ugly

- It goes without saying that 19 turnovers is fucking disgusting. I know the Raptors are the best in the NBA at forcing them, but way too many of the 19 were just lazy/terrible passes. The Celts opened up this game with about 3 or 4 straight turnovers in the first 3 minutes, and then the same shit happened in the 4th quarter.

I can't be too mad because of who was out and the fact that the Celts demolished the Raptors, but that doesn't mean this shit doesn't bother me. Making smart decisions with the basketball is going to be the #1 storyline to their postseason run. A team like MIA is going to be in your ass just like TOR was, so please do not do them any favors by being unable to not pass the ball to the other team. 

I can't ever remember a time Derrick had 6 TOs in a game, and while I do think he had the right intent with trying to find Rob/lob it to him, the execution part was no where near good enough.

Alright, so with tomorrow looking like it'll be a Maine Celtics day, we can shift our focus to the most important playoff run of our lives. This is it, this is what we waited all year for. This is the opportunity that we've been looking forward too since June. They backed up what we saw last year, they've proven they are a blue chip contending team, and now all that's left is staying focused and finishing the job.

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This is about to be the craziest 2 months of our lives. 

Love and Trust