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The Way The Celtics Manhandled The Sixers In Game 2 Was Exactly What The Doctor Ordered

Maddie Meyer. Getty Images.

How rare was what we all watched last night? We've seen some  dominant postseason performances, but nothing quite like this since the title year (+39 vs the Lakers)

Frankly, it could not have come at a more perfect time considering the Celts season was on the line. What we witnessed was what happens when the Celtics play a complete game for a full 48 minutes. The one thing we all beg them to do they finally did, and holy shit. This wasn't just offensive dominance. This wasn't just putting the entire Sixers roster in defensive hell. It was both. At all times. When a team locks in like that and produces at such a high level on both ends of the floor, it doesn't matter who they are playing, you're going to be up by 40 just like the Celts were able to do. 

Honestly, Game 2 was cathartic for everyone I think. For the players, it was a clear example of them taking out their anger and frustrations from Game 1. For the fans, I don't know about anyone else, but my mental health needed that exact performance. It was the perfect reminder that when this team doesn't fuck around, they can destroy anything and anyone in their path. They can go to levels that others can't. Now the issue is they won't always play like this, and that's something I would like to be figured out because at the end of the day all last night was really was a team that played with force, energy, and with love and trust. They were smart with the basketball, Sure they shot the shit out of the basketball, but that is the rule not the exception. They've done that all year.

It sounds way too simple, but for this team, it isn't. Play with energy and effort for a full 48 minutes, and you have enough talent to take care of the rest. In Game 1, the Sixers punched first. In Game 2, the Celtics punched first, and second, and third. 

At the end of the day, the Celts still need to win on the road to take control back in this series. As I always say, perspective is important even in the good times. There is plenty of work left to do, but the team I saw last night can win Game 3. There will be adjustments to then adjustments that Joe made last night, but as long as the Celts play the way we know they can and should, they are going to be really tough to beat 3 more times.

But let's worry about that on Friday. For now, let's talk about one of the biggest playoff wins many of us have ever seen.

The Good

- I'm at the point with Jaylen Brown where a supermax extension might be an underpayment. Sure he may have his faults or limitations, but when we get to this time of year, I know I can rely on him to not just show up, but to lead. 

They say shit starts at the top and then the rest of the roster follows, well that's exactly what happened. It was Jaylen Brown who set the tone early

All you had to do was watch the first two minutes. Jaylen led us off with a 3PM, then he picked up James Harden essentially full court and fought through an Embiid screen instead of being soft and just waiting to switch. He then forced Harden into a TO, and then finished on the other end.

This was adjustment #1 from Joe, and it worked to perfection. Given that Harden got whatever he wanted in Game 1, after the game Joe talked about ball pressure, and putting someone as strong and quick as Jaylen who also has legit length on Harden completely removed him from the offense. Picking him up early so he couldn't get comfortable and everything was a little rushed/out of whack was the one thing they did not do in the opener. It was both a flawless plan and even better execution.

In 25 possessions against James Harden, Jaylen Brown allowed just 1 point on 0-4 shooting. He took that assignment upon himself and shut it down. 

Then there's the offensive side. 

A team high 25/3/4 with just 1 TO on 9-17 (3-6) shooting, Jaylen was the offense early. First Quarter Jaylen once again put the team on his back to the tune of 13 points on 5-6 (1-1) shooting in his 9 minutes to open this game, and the best part was the team did not ice him out after that quarter. He stayed aggressive which was also important. Part of what happened in Game 1 was I think after all those turnovers in the 3rd quarter, Jaylen didn't want to fuck up. It took him out of the game and robbed him of his aggressiveness. That was not the case last night.

With Tatum in foul trouble all night, they needed the other franchise cornerstone to backpack the team, and Jaylen rose to the occasion. This is the beauty of having both of these guys on the roster. Both can bury a team by themselves when needed.

- There were a lot of reasons why the Celts won this game, but as always, it starts with the defense.

What do I always say? It doesn't matter what you do offensively, if you don't defend…you die. It's that simple.

Well, last night was the first time all season we saw the Celtics hold a team to under 90 points. The Sixers shot 39/20% with 11 TOs. It got to the point where they only thing they could do in order to produce points was to foul bait (which they were rewarded for). That's how you know the defense is locked in.

All that shooting from Game 1? It was taken away. Guarding the 3 point line? The Sixers finished just 6-30 after they could not miss in Game 1. Part of that was open looks not dropping, but the other part was much better closeouts and defensive pressure. The Celts stopped with the drop coverage on Harden and it completely fucked him up. After going 5-6 in Game 1, De'Anthony Melton came crashing back down to earth and didn't make a single 3PM. Their defensive execution as an entire group was practically flawless.

Heading into this game, the Celts had allowed at least 30 points in 9 of their last 10 quarters. It was gross. It was unacceptable. Last night, the Sixers did not score over 22 points in 3 of the 4 quarters, had none over 30, and this is a game in which the league MVP played in. That's pretty fucking good.

- Before the game, Malcolm Brogdon had a ton of quotes about sending a message, being forceful etc. It's one thing to talk about it, and it's another thing to actually be about it. Safe to say Brogdon backed it up and then some

23/6/2 with 0 TOs on 7-13 (6-10), what a performance. The 23 points isn't the surprising part, and 0 TOs isn't either. The best part of this game for me was it looks like Brogdon found his 3 point shot again. That's something that has been struggling all playoffs, and if that's now back to the level we saw during the regular season, that is BIG news. The craziest part of all of this is the fact that Brogdon played the least amount of minutes of any of the guard trio!

His 23 points came in just 24 minutes. It was like an avalanche of offense the second he stepped onto the floor. He's too strong for the Sixers guards and too quick for their wings. When Brogdon is on the floor in this series, the Celts have an Ortg of 136.4. Do you know how insane that is? There are few things I respect more than someone talking the talk and then going out and immediately walking the walk. Especially in such an important game. 

- As we know though, the beauty of this roster is the fact that there isn't just one of these guards. There are three of them.

Let's talk about Marcus. Another massive postseason performance from him on both ends. What he did in in that first half to keep the Celts alive and help support Jaylen since Tatum was out with foul trouble was beyond massive. Defensively, he was once again everywhere. On James Harden, Smart held him scoreless over 11 possessions on 0-4 shooting. Against Joel Embiid, Smart checked him on 5 possessions and Embiid didn't even get a shot off. 

In terms of energy and tone setting, it was Smart diving on the floor to get his team possessions. He was under control, only took what I would deem as one ill advised transition 3PA, but sometimes guys take heat checks. After 6 TOs in Game 1, Smart had just 1 in Game 2. 

So much talk about his offense being a liability, and through 8 playoff games Smart is putting up 15.9/4.5/5.0 on 50/35% splits. This is the best he's looked offensively in legitimately his entire career. 

Will the haters and losers of which there are still many acknowledge this? Of course not. Because they have this weird Anti-Smart agenda where they simply refuse to acknowledge what they see. This doesn't mean there haven't been brutal moments that Smart made mistakes. But on the whole? He's been everything you could have asked for heading into the playoffs and then some.

Then there's Derrick. Man, did he need a breakout game like this

Another guy that couldn't buy a bucket in Game 1, for him to respond with 5-9 (3-6) in his 29 minutes was exactly what the doctor ordered. It wasn't just the makes either, it was the timing of the makes. They were essentially all big momentum plays. The ball was moving, everything was exactly what you want, and those are the open looks you need to make, which Derrick did. I love that despite his struggles he was still aggressive when it came to his 3PA, because that tells me he's not thinking about it. He's just shooting.

The different in mindset is so clear when it comes to Derrick's approach. We all remember the Finals after Game 1. He was doing way too much thinking and not enough shooting. I can only imagine that seeing these big 3PA drop is only going to help his confidence, and if he AND Brogdon are going to get back to their regular season shooting and not live in the 20%'s…the Celts become nearly impossible to beat. 

- If you are someone who spent the prior two days begging and crying for Ime to come back, I hope you feel shame and embarrassment. All the experts on the internet suggesting that Joe can't coach, Joe has no idea what he's doing, Brad made a huge mistake etc

Whoops!

When Joe told the media the Celts needed to take more 3PA, he was clowned for it. Whoops! Wrong again! 

This is what is still so shocking to me. People STILL do not understand Mazzulla Ball. It's not just jacking up threes, it's taking the right ones and not hesitating. We've seen all season how important it is for this team to be aggressive from behind the arc, and this game was the latest example. They took 50 3PA, and nearly all of them came within the flow of the offense. That is what Joe meant after Game 1, but people are so horny to try and make it seem like he has no idea what he's doing or doesn't get it, that they can't understand that.

Then I heard Joe doesn't know how to make adjustments. Well, it certainly looked like there were plenty of adjustments last night didn't it? So maybe he actually does know what he's doing?

The best part of course was how he ended his presser. Nobody talks his shit better than Joe

Now THAT is a mic drop. What a death stare with those crazy eyes at the end. I love this man.

- As a fanbase, we can be hard on Grant. Sometimes it's deserved, many times it may not be, but man is he stepping up when his number is called in this postseason. We barely saw him against the Hawks, and when we did Grant found a way to deliver. Same shit last night

An important 12/4/4 off the bench on 4-8 (4-8) shooting, did you know Grant is currently shooting 56/64.3% this postseason? That 3P% leads the entire field.

If this is the Grant we're going to get, he needs to be back in the rotation. We all remember how valuable he was last year during their run, and this is the perfect series for him. After playing just 4 minutes in Game 1, I think the time has come for Joe to let him out of the doghouse and back onto the floor. Especially if he's going to be knocking down his corner threes again. 

What I loved about Grant's night is he stayed within himself. He didn't try and do too much. That tends to be when we see Grant get into trouble, but it looks like he understands that to get minutes and to help this team, all he needs to do is what we know he can do. Hit open 3PA, hustle, defend, and rebound. That's it. If Grant does that, he'll play.

- How about Payton forever staying ready. What a player

I hope wherever he lands over the summer gives him the minutes he deserves, because the kid can play.

- The defense was great. The offense was dominant. But maybe my most favorite part of the night is the fact that the Celts only turned the ball over 6 times. Crazy what can happen when you don't pass the ball to the other team isn't it?

A huge part of the Game 1 loss was the fact that the Sixers got way more shots, largely due to the 16 Celtics turnovers. Well, with only 6 last night and only 6 PHI OREBs, the shot difference was 92-79. The 3PA difference was 51-30.

It's basically that simple. Stop turning the ball over and other teams cannot hang. Maybe they'll finally learn that one day.

The Bad

- It's hard to comprehend how the Celts could have a blowout win like this while only getting 19 minutes and 7 points on 1-7 (0-3) shooting from Jayson Tatum. I didn't even know that was possible. He was getting killed with foul trouble all night which clearly fucked up his rhythm, and I guess the spinzone is he basically got an off day. We all know how important him getting rest is, I just didn't expect it to come like this. 

If anything, it makes me more excited for Game 3. Something tells me he's going to come back with a vengence.

- This is the NBA's MVP

So embarrassing. Not just for Embiid, but the fact that the officials fell for it and called that first flop. This is the playoffs, what are we doing? I'm not someone who is going to sit here and tell you Embiid never gets fouled, of course he does. But in no world in a huge playoff game should you be baited into calling that type of flop. Have some goddamn shame.

- Joe having Rob on the floor up 30 with like 4 minutes left was arguably the scariest part of this entire season. I held my breath with every jump.

The Ugly

- It's hard to pick something when you win by a billion, but I guess we could go with Al's shooting. Boy was that gross. Just 2-10 (1-8) from the floor, and some of those misses were nowhere close. Bricks like you read about.

On one hand, he needs to keep shooting. It's like Derrick, once Horford starts hesitating or thinking about it rather than just letting it fly, that does more harm than good. But man, I need you to make some of these WIDE OPEN looks, especially from the corners. To be able to win like this with Tatum/Horford going 3-17 (1-11) is a bit of a prayer, and it goes without saying that if they are going to win any game on the road in these next two, both guys need to show up offensively.

The reality is, the Sixers came into Boston and did what they had to do. They got the split. Whether they lost by 1 or 100 last night, that remains true. Now is the Celts turn. Ride this momentum and take Game 3 and the entire vibe of the series changes. The team we saw last night can absolutely do it, we just have to hope they're the ones who got on the plane.

Love and Trust.