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The Celtics First Round Series Win Was A Reminder Of Why It Is Important To Love And Trust

Adam Hagy. Getty Images.

At this point of the season, there's really only one thing that matters.

Survive and advance.

It's not always going to be easy, there will be plenty of times where this team will make you crazy, but that's why we love them. The fact that we willingly sit down for 2.5 hours of emotional warfare to the point where you experience every human emotion possible all within the span of a 48 minute game is rather insane, but I wouldn't have it any other way. As I always say, if loving and trusting was easy, everyone would do it.

And let's be honest, when the Celts choked away Game 5 through some of the worst decision making and execution we've ever seen from them in such a huge spot, a lot of people jumped ship. Marcus Smart was the devil, Jayson Tatum was soft and didn't have a killer instinct and isn't the guy, Joe is a terrible coach etc etc. At the first sign of adversity, a lot of people out there forgot what loving and trusting are all about.

The Celtics are not perfect. They are going to fuck up in ways that are going to drive you mad at the worst possible times. Sometimes they are going to lose. I hate to break it to you, but the NBA Playoffs are hard. Just because fans predict and expect a series to be easy, doesn't mean it's going to be easy. Give the Hawks credit, they made their adjustments after Games 1 & 2 and played well. There's nothing wrong with being tested in a playoff series, and you could make the case the Celts are coming out of the first round better for it.

What this series reminded us of is to trust what we've been watching for over the last 100+ games. If you are someone who loses faith any time the Celts lose a game, that's your choice. If you find yourself forming opinions based on subjective takes that have no real evidence to support them, go nuts. 

More often than not, this team gets it done. At home, on the road, it tends to not really matter. The Celts are now 9-1 during the Tatum/Brown era when they have an opportunity to close out a series.


As we know, it only gets harder the deeper you go in the playoffs. But before we start worrying about that, let's talk about the biggest win of the year to date.

The Good

- It goes without saying that the Boston Celtics are only going to go as far as their best players are able to carry them. Sure the depth matters, guard play is important, and coaching plays a role, but at the end of the day, it comes down to the two franchise players.

In a game like Game 6, on the road, with the other team gaining confidence, that is a situation where your two franchise guys need to show up on both ends of the floor for a full 48 minutes. They set the tone, and as we know the best part of having Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum on your team is that you have BOTH Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum on your team.

I think it's safe to say they more than delivered

I want to begin with Jaylen. A team high 32/5/2 on 13-25 (6-8) with only 2 TOs in his 39 minutes, Jaylen was heroic in this game. He exploded in the 2nd quarter for 13 points on 5-8 (3-4) which they absolutely needed since the team wasn't all that interested in playing defense yet, and he then followed that up with a near flawless second half. Jaylen was efficient (6-10), he was active ( 3 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 block) and he took care of the ball (0 TOs). 

When it came time for HUGE plays down the stretch, guess who delivered? The gigantic 3PM to tie it at 113 when it looked like maybe the Celts were going to let it slip, the huge defensive block to spark the run that effectively ended the game, we're starting to learn that when this team needs him, Jaylen shows up. That's why Wyc is going to cut him that supermax check, because this team is not who they are without the play of Jaylen Brown. Period. 

And then there's Jayson Tatum. You know, the guy who apparently doesn't have a "killer instinct" or a "dawg mentality" or whatever the hell those sports radio losers keep trying to say. I dunno, this seems pretty killer instinct to me!

Pretty good list imo.

The thing about Tatum's night is the approach wasn't all that different from Game 5 offensively, the execution was just way better. This is why I never really understood the "killer instinct" argument. Game 5 was an execution issue, that's really it. Of his 20 FGA, 10 were 3PA just like in Game 5. This time, he shot 40% instead of 10%. He took 2 FTA in Game 5 and 4 FTA in Game 6. Tatum had 8 drives in Game 5 and 9 drives in Game 6.

See what I mean? It's not a matter of if Tatum has a "killer instinct" or  "dawg mentality". It's whether or not he executes. That's it. How many more times do we need to see him go into someone's building in a huge Game 6 and have these types of performances before people just accept that? It doesn't mean he's always going to be perfect. It doesn't mean there aren't going to be nights where he shoots the ball like shit. But time and time again he has proven that he's the guy. The way Tatum was under control and assertive down the stretch when the Hawks started to double him late was great to see, and it tells me they went over that during their film session on the off day. The entire team was MUCH more prepared for it, and that starts with Tatum.

What made his night so special wasn't just what he did on the offensive end of the floor, it's the fact that Tatum is an elite two way player. He held all Hawks players to just 4-16 shooting last night and had perhaps the best defensive showing in months, exactly when the Celts needed it most. 

As a team, the Celtics are now 22-1 all time when both Tatum and Brown score at least 30 points. Frankly I think they should just decide to do that more often, but maybe that's just me.

- There is no denying that Marcus Smart's play down the stretch of Game 5 was a huge contributing factor to how that game ended. Terrible situational awareness, careless TOs, it wasn't great.

There is also no denying that they do not win Game 6 without the play of Marcus Smart

To start the game, Smart was everywhere. The fact that they were even able to get out to a 12-2 lead in the first few minutes was basically all Smart. 

He was literally involved in all 12 of their points. You could tell right away that he was hell bent on redeeming himself for what happened in Game 5, and boy did he.

Defensively, after Trae Young obliterated the Celts defense in the first half, the Celts adjusted to have Smart take care of that assignment, and immediately Trae was no longer a factor offensively

He held all Hawks players to just 4-12 shooting, and his defense down the stretch was immaculate. Offensively he was once again in control, he was once again efficient (6-12, 2-5), and when it came time for someone to step up and make big shots late, Smart delivered.

The way Smart navigated the final 6 minutes of this game played a huge role in how things ultimately turned out. After all the crying about how Smart shouldn't be in to close games and that he only plays because he holds the organization hostage or whatever couldn't be further from the truth. It was his decision making and execution that helped put this game away, and this is going to be important because you bet your ass other teams are going to double Jayson Tatum late.

Joe's adjustment to have Smart be the safety valve at the nail and then shooters all around him is how you counter that. Getting him the ball in the paint where he can either take it to the rim or find open shooters is exactly what they need to do, because more often than not he's going to make the right play. I love the fact that after he missed those 2 3PA at the 6 minute mark Joe took him out, he recharged and then was nails over the final 3 minutes. That was perfect management by Joe, and perfect execution by Smart.

At the end of the day, Smart ended this series shooting 49/38% putting up 16.7/4.3/5.2/1.7 and just 1.7 TOs a game. If this is the version of Smart they are going to get for this entire run, I think we're going to like the results. 

- Huge minutes of Grant. I'm not kidding. A big 3 late, a huge steal, some OK defense, it was great to see him have some positive moments despite barely playing in this series. He's going to be a much bigger factor against the Sixers I imagine, so anything that gives him some confidence is huge.

I know he had that one boneheaded turnover, but nobody is saying Grant is perfect. There's a reason Tatum called him out after the win, because he was huge in his opportunity and contributed to winning.

- Quick check in on Mazzulla Ball for those who observe

A much better performance from Joe in Game 6 in my opinion. Good timeout usage when the game was tight, good rotations, especially in the 4th quarter, and overall it felt like the Celts were very well prepared for this game. They were ready for the doubles, they made halftime adjustments defensively, and so far Joe has passed every test he's had this postseason.

The goal is to win and advance, and that is what Joe has this team doing. 

- If I could make one request for the rest of these playoffs, it's that every team the Celts play has someone that talks shit to Al Horford. Please. I am begging you. Talk shit to this man.

When they needed him most, Al Horford was there. It felt like he hadn't hit a jumper in FOREVER, and yet when the game was in the balance, Playoff Al was ready. Defensively he was awesome. The Celts had a 106 Drtg when Al was on the floor in this series, and overall the Celts had a +14.0 net rating with him on the floor. When he stepped off, it dropped to -12.8. That's a +26.8 swing!

The way Al hit the glass late was crucial because the Hawks finally stopped getting 2nd chance opportunities which allowed the Celts to get their final separation, and now he gets to rest up before an even more important series against Embiid. 

Having Al being able to stretch the floor and pull Embiid away from the rim is going to be a huge factor in this next series, because outside of Embiid, there's no real rim protection with that starting unit since they play PJ Tucker at the 4. It's not all that different from the Hawks and Capela, and we saw what that did offensively by creating all that space. 

- What I loved about Game 6 was the fact that no matter how many punches the Hawks may have thrown, the Celts responded every time. They didn't panic, they didn't fall into hero ball and try and take over through selfish play. They stayed the course. They played the right way, and found ways to execute.

This is important because in a playoff game, things aren't always going to go your way. There are going to be times where the other team just goes on a roll no matter what you try. Can you stay committed to the goal? Can you stay the course and continue to play the way everyone knows you should, or will you lose your composure?

They lost it in Game 5. They kept it in Game 6. The results of each should then not be surprising.

- Despite his 3 point shooting being under 30%, the way Malcolm Brogdon still found a way to impact this game offensively is the exact reason why Brad traded for him

A huge 17/2/4 with 0 TOs on 6-13 shooting, I loved how aggressive Brogdon was since the second he stepped on the floor. As you look around the playoffs you see guys who are absolutely unstoppable from midrange. The KDs, the Bookers, the Jimmy Butlers, the Jaylen Browns. You need to be able to get into high efficient zones and come through.

That is what Brogdon does. Given his speed and strength, he can find his way into the paint/15ft zone and to me, that's an automatic 2 points. There are some issues defensively in terms of on ball defense, but nobody is perfect. What I care about is can you thrive in the role you are given and when it comes to Brogdon the answer is yes. 

His importance next series comes with how he does in the non-Embiid minutes. When these teams go to their second unit, that is where Brogdon needs to dominate. 

The Bad

- If there's one thing I want to see this team be much better at in the next series, it's guarding the 3 point line. The Sixers are MUCH better from deep as a team, and I did not love what I saw at all from the Celts in this area defensively.

Another 15-35 showing for the Hawks, this wasn't a case of Game 3 where they were making uncontested 3PA at an insane rate. This was another game of practice shots. John Collins, a 29% shooter, getting all the wide open 3s he wants. You or I could make wide open 3s like that. This team needs to be locked in when it comes to closeouts and they need to stop giving up so many corner 3PA. Stop helping off the corner shooter when you don't need to, it's only asking for trouble. 

If the Celts are going to double Embiid at all, this becomes even more important. In Round 1 their three point defense was dogshit. In Round 2 if that's how they defend it, things won't go well. 

- He's been so awesome all year that it doesn't really matter, but this wasn't the greatest Derrick performance. Just 3-9 (1-5) and the only starter with a negative +/-, to me it was more just an off night than anything else. Everyone has em at some point.

What I did like was that even though they missed, he still shot the ball with confidence. That means more to me than the result because the sample is large enough to where we know if he plays like that, the shots will drop.

What we need to avoid is that lack of aggression in the event they don't. So the way he still let it fly despite the struggles will be important. Trust in your work and preparation and live with the results, but this team needs him to remain aggressive.

The Ugly

- There's no sense in trying to spinzone it, the Celts team defense was dogshit for 75% of this game. Allowing 34, 33, and 33 points in the first 3 quarters is not going to cut it. Thankfully they decided to play 6 minutes of defense to ultimately win the game, but they are giving up WAY too many points.

Since Game 2 when they allowed just 106, the Celts went on to give up 130, 121, 119 and 120 points over the final 4 games. That is…horrendous. At some point their offense is going to go cold, which means defensively they need to actually show up and prevent buckets. This game was a perfect example of what we all know. It doesn't matter what you do offensively if you don't defend.

All game the Celts offense was nails, but they were in a dogfight because of why? Because they couldn't get stops. Once they got stops, they pulled away. It's a simple concept, but something they clearly struggled with this series.

- Then there's the offensive rebounding. Jesus Christ was this shit annoying. Another 12 OREB which led to 24 2nd chance points, the Celts inability to clean the defensive glass made no fucking sense. Even with Rob on the floor, they were still giving up OREBs at an alarming rate. You can't have games where you're allowing the opponent to have 30% of their offense come on 2nd chance points. The Hawks started this game by securing 5 of their first 12 misses. That's losing basketball.

And for the love of God, will they please communicate on rebounds? If I told you the Hawks scored on this play, would it surprise you?

Add in 13 points off turnovers, and that's 37 points off self inflicted wounds. If you do that shit as you get deeper into the playoffs, you're cooked. 

And now here we go. 4 down and 12 to go. A chance to knock the Sixers out of the playoffs for the 3rd time of the Tatum/Brown era. My advice would be to ignore everything that has happened in the past between these two teams. None of that matters. Do not to the same stupid assumption shit that many did with the Hawks. The playoffs are different. Nothing is won on paper and nothing is won based on what happened in the past. It's about executing in the present. Take care of this series, and MIA/NYK are the only thing standing in the way of a trip back to the Finals. Time to lock in.

Love and Trust,