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The Celtics Performance With Their Season On The Line Was Some Of The Most Pathetic Shit We Have Ever Seen

Megan Briggs. Getty Images.

Collapsing. Choking. Failing. Pick whatever word you want, we're all saying the same thing.

I've lived through my fair share of disappointment watching the Boston Celtics over the course of my life. I lived through the Rick Pitino era, I lived through losing a franchise record 18 games in a row in 2006-07. I lived through KG's knee injury in 2009. I lived through losing Game 7 of the NBA Finals in 2010. I lived through the 2018-19 Celtics. I lived through the 2022 NBA Finals. 

In fact, the majority of my life with this team has resulted in some sort of disastrous disappointment.

But few things match up with what we are currently watching. 

The 2022-23 Celtics had the best regular season we've seen a Celts team have since 2008-09. They had more than enough talent, a formula that proved to be successful when they followed it, a top 3 offense, defense, and net rating, the list goes on and on. After years of praying, we finally got a fully healthy playoff run. There was no Rob injury, or Smart turned ankle, or Jaylen wrist injury that took him out, they had all their guys for the first time in what felt like forever. Add in how the playoff field was breaking around them, and there was truly no excuse to not get the job done.

So what have they done with such a great opportunity?

They've fumbled it. Hard. I can understand losing close games, that shit happens. Sometimes a player's individual greatness takes over and there's nothing you can do.

That is not what we saw last night. Not even close.

We saw a Celtics team quit. In the biggest game of their season, with everything on the line, they played by far their worst game of the season both from an execution standpoint and a do you even have any balls standpoint. I mean Jaylen said it best

Yeah, you're goddamn right it was embarrassing. You're goddamn right you let the fanbase down. Listen, nobody is more love and trust than yours truly, but that is a two way street. You have to give us fans a reason to love and trust you. To come out and have the type of performance we saw last night is about as gutless as it gets. Every single flaw we've seen the Celtics have over the last few seasons showed up in this game at the worst possible time

- A lack of strategy

- A complete loss of mental composure

- Turnovers

- Cold shooting

- Complaining

- Star no shows

- Depth no shows

- A lack of toughness

You can point to several moments throughout Game 3 where you see all those things (and we will). 

As I said last night, this is not a "The Celtics blew it the Heat didn't win it" type of series. No no. Not even close. The Miami Heat have been the better and more complete team since the opening tip of Game 1. What they are doing is not a fluke. It's not like a James Harden 40 bomb. They have completely and utterly outplayed this entire roster. That is why they are up 3-0. The Celts are playing this way because the Heat are forcing them into it. I would say their 3-0 lead is about as deserving as you could possibly get. They are playing like a team that understands what is at stake and what opportunity currently exists. 

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The Celts are playing like…I don't even know what.

Whatever talk there was about being the tougher team heading into the series, thriving off last year's pain, through 3 games it all appears to be talk. You know what isn't all talk? This

Let's begin

The Good

- The same way we basically skip the Ugly section when the Celts would win by 30 because what could possibly have been that bad, there's no way we could possibly have this section in a game the Celts get dickstomped by 30 with their season on the line. What was possibly good in this game? Rob's effort maybe? 

Cool. Let's move on.

The Bad

- It didn't take long to see the warning signs that things were starting to crack in this game. I can point to one specific play midway through the first quarter that gave us our first look at the root of their problems 

The Celts had gotten off to a "decent" start in a sense that at least they were keeping pace scoring wise. They weren't the easiest of buckets, most of them were tough Jaylen jumpers, but you could sense given the early whistles that they were starting to lose their focus and put their energy on the wrong shit.

As we know, that is a Day 1 basketball no-no. Especially in a game like this.

So on this play where we see Jaylen be aggressive and Max Strus commit a blocking foul that isn't called, look at Jaylen's immediate reaction. His arms go up and he complains. He doesn't bust his ass back and get into the play. What happens as a result? The same exact thing that always happens when the Celtics do this shit

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Boom. Momentum shifted. How do I know the Celts were losing their composure? Because Joe immediately took a timeout after that Strus 3PM. It was obvious. Think whatever you want about Tony Brothers and how this game started, but who gives a shit. It's on the players to be mentally prepared for noncalls/bad calls and play through it. You know what doesn't work? Complaining about it. Losing your focus from what you should be doing. That's when an opponent knows they have you. The Celts were more interested in barking about calls than they were actually executing on either end.

That is losing basketball.

From there, things only got worse in this regard. Once the lead started to balloon, the Celts got into it even more. They lost sight of what was important and what they had to do to win. Like this Smart tech for example

Sure, maybe he was just trying to stick up for Rob who he felt like clearly got fouled, but that's not the point. Things are already slipping away, being focused on Tony Brothers is not the way you climb out of it. Giving away free points isn't going to help you. 

But when your best players are doing it, and your longest tenured player is doing it, it bleeds into everyone. Now your mindset is completely fucked. This was clear as day by a sequence just a few minutes later

Derrick White drives into the paint, gets some contact, and there's no call. Fine, OK, that's whatever. Butler immediately goes down and gets pretty similar contact and gets the whistle.

Look at every single Celtics reaction. They immediately start complaining about the no call on the other end. Even if they have a point, that's not what is important. Through that entire first half it was clear that this team was losing their mental composure. Maybe it was the combination of poor offense, no stops, and then some tough calls, but this team has been in enough big playoff games where that shit cannot happen. For you to pick THIS GAME to have that type of mental breakdown over the officiating is loser shit.

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In the 3rd quarter, there was more examples of a lack of composure. 

I mean, what is Smart doing here? I honestly thought he probably should have been tossed for that. He clearly threw his elbow and just missed. My guess is given his earlier tech, that's why they called this a common foul, but it was just another example of this team losing their focus. You're down 18, the wheels are starting to fall off, and that's the move? Come on. 

- Last night was one of those games where once things started to not go the Celtics way, they cratered. There was no snapping out of it no matter how many timeouts Joe took to change things up. They were as mentally soft in this game as I've ever seen with this team, and that starts at the top. 

Where's the mental toughness that we've seen from this team? The same team that found ways to come back from multiple 3-2 holes? The one where Tatum can be 0-billion and still find a way to show up in the final 4 minutes? Because what I saw last night was a bunch of guys who played soft. Who cared about complaining about the issues rather than stopping them. That is why they deserved everything they got.

- It should surprise exactly nobody that in a game the Celtics did not play a lick of defense, they got their ass kicked. It's been that way all playoffs. If this team plays no defense, they stand no chance.

No quarter under 30 points in Game 3, just look at the point total in this series. In Game 1, it was 123, in Game 2 it was 111, and last night 128.

I'm sorry, but that is pathetic. For a fully healthy team with this many quality defenders? Have some pride for me one time on the defensive end. 

That obviously starts at the perimeter. As we saw all season, the perimeter guys need to be able to hold their weight. Does this look like it was happening in this game?

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it was like this virtually all night. Why this is so important is because if you don't stop dribble penetration, you set yourself up for easy drive and kick 3PA. We know this because that is how the Celtics usually thrive offensively. The Celtics were not able to stop dribble penetration, and it led to easy wide open 3s the Heat were able to take in rhythm. No shit those were going in. 

There is no adjustment you can make if players aren't going to accept the responsibility of actually playing defense. 

- On the offensive end, it's easy to see why the Celtics are in this hole. The entire roster's ability to shoot the ball has disappeared. I mean just look at this shit

It doesn't matter who the coach is or what the strategy is if your entire roster is going to disappear.

The top 5 3PA players on this team has only ONE guy shooting over 25%. This team is not going to win a game where Brown/Tatum/Horford/Brogdon are all at 25% or under given their volume. Of all the times to go this cold, they could not have picked a worse one.

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For the series, the Celts are making just 10 3PM while shooting 29%. Take a step back and look at the entire playoff field, and you see a common theme

Again, this is not an attempt to say the Heat's shooting is luck. It is not. They are simply out-executing the Celtics by miles and miles

This is not a situation where the Celts aren't generation good looks, they are. They just have missed 71.5% of them. As you can see, the Heat have taken advantage of their looks and they deserve all the credit for that. 

- When the Celts are shooting this poorly while also not defending, you usually know what comes next.

Turnovers.

Nothing about this is surprising. The Celts have disaster turnovers issues against MIA, and it costs them games. Notice a trend?

A total of 45 turnovers in 3 games, is that good? No. No it is not.

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Of that 45, Tatum is responsible for 12 and Jaylen 11. Your two best players accounting for 23 of the 45 is an issue. Things didn't get much better with Smart (7), and honestly even having a more integrated White and Brogdon on the roster made no difference. Did Brogdon look like he helped solve the zone at all or be that playmaker everyone begged for? Not to me. It looked the exact same.

Jaylen falling over while trying to dribble in the middle of the paint, Tatum losing his handles 30 feet from then basket, I'm sorry but when you're the two franchise guys, you cannot be this careless…..again. Against the same exact team we just watched this shit happen with last year. 

- Add in a brutal 0-6 (0-3) performance from Brogdon and this is what I mean when we saw another complete collapse. 

- I don't think I've ever seen a game in which the Celtics airball at least 4 different 3PA. I didn't even know that was possible. 

- I wouldn't go as far as to say Joe was anywhere close to what I would call "good" in this game, but it's hard to even tell because when you get down by 30+ and your entire roster shits the bed, what sort of adjustment are there to even make if the players are going to quit?

The early timeouts didn't snap them out of their funk, they just kept complaining. There was a brief moment where doubling Butler worked to end the half, so maybe they should have stuck with that, but even the execution of those doubles was dogshit in the 3rd quarter. It wasn't anywhere close to quick enough, and at the end of the day, it just left hot MIA shooters open.

- Speaking of bad habits, when things started to slide what did this team do offensively? They went back to playing the exact way they shouldn't. Where was the ball movement? Where was the cutting? Where was trying to generate quality looks? Instead it was more of the same. Some dribbling around by the Jays and forcing shots, and then with their confidence now shot, none of the clean 3PA dropped. That's not an accident. When this team doesn't play the right way, they pay the price. 

On the other end, we saw the Heat do the very thing that leads to quality offense and better production. 

The Ugly

- As it always does, things start with the two franchise players. They set the tone for everything on both ends, and when you get this type of performance from both guys

Tatum: 14 points on 6-18 (0-7) shooting with 3 TOs

Brown: 12 points on 6-18 (1-7) shooting with 3 TOs

I'm not sure what type of result you expect. Gabe Vincent outscored both of these players combined in the biggest game of the year. On what planet is that even close to acceptable? This wasn't just a no show, they both played defeated. 

I mean, what the hell is this?

Jaylen's performance in this game and this entire series really feels just like Kryie vs MIL in 2019. Is he selling? What the hell is going on? The truth is, Caleb Martin has drastically outplayed Jaylen in this series. That is WAY more of an issue than anything coaching related. Your franchise guy cannot be getting outplayed by a Heat role player. There has to be a baseline expectation there.

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With Tatum, his box scores may have looked nice early in the series, but late in these games who came through? Tatum or Butler? In a game like last night where the team needed Tatum to be assertive, efficient, and set the tone, that's the performance we got? Embarrassing.

This does not mean breaking up the Jays. I don't think things always need to go to that extreme. But at the end of the day, how can anyone sit here and say the series that both of these players have had is anywhere close to good enough? Jaylen is shooting 10% from three. Tatum 25%. They're just as careless with the ball as ever. The defense, especially Jaylen, was nowhere to be found to the point where Duncan Robinson is beating people off ball. 

It does not matter who the coach is or who the role players are or any of that shit. This team goes as Tatum and Brown go, and both were nowhere near an acceptable standard last night.

- Putting all the actual basketball stuff aside, the most disappointing part of this game and this series really is the quit factor. There was no punching and fighting until the end. The Celts tried to light a spark to start the 3rd quarter, got it to 12, the Heat went on a little run as a response and that was it. The entire roster collectively quit.

When things got tough, there was no punching back. There is simply no defending that. With the stakes as high as they were, to go out how the Celts did in Game 3 was as pathetic as it gets. 

At some point in history, there will be a team that comes back from being down 0-3. There is just nothing the Boston Celtics are showing us right now that tells us they can be the first one to do it. Not playing like this, that's for damn sure. Only 3 out of the 149 series that had a team up 3-0 even went to a Game 7, so to say it's a pipedream is a little disrespectful to pipedreams.

They had everything in front of them heading into this series, and instead of making the most opportunity the Celts have fumbled it away. Again.