The Celtics Kicked Off Their Season By Finally Snatching Victory From The Jaws Of Defeat

Nathaniel S. Butler. Getty Images.

After the Celtics thrilling Opening Night win, I think it's fair to say that the more things change, the more they stay the same. New roster, new coaching staff, same old heart attacks. I mean you almost have to respect it at this point. The Celtics are committed to their brand of putting us all through the torture chamber for 48 minutes whenever they step on the floor. We probably should have known a game like this was on the horizon against the Knicks because every matchup against NYK always plays out this way, but for the first time in forever we saw the Celts snatch the victory from the jaws of defeat instead of the other way around. There was still a meltdown, but it wasn't fatal.

Is that progress? It's hard to say right now. You'd like for them to not even be in this position in the first place to have to pull out a prayer-ish win, but on the other hand, I love the resiliency and refusal to quit just because things started to go wrong late. Instead, the Celts locked in over the final 4ish minutes and closed this game out on the road. That's a positive.

But as I always say, perspective is important. The Celts played a whole lot of losing basketball for stretches of this game, and had the Knicks not been a complete disaster from the FT line, we're probably feeling a bit different this morning. I think we can all agree that they are going to have to play much better as the year goes on, and given that this was literally the first game you almost have to take some things we saw with a giant grain of salt when it comes to the new guys.

Having said that, a win is a win and that is all I care about. Win ugly, win by a blowout, I don't give a shit. Just find a way to win. For the Celtics, that means doing it in excruciating fashion. Let's dive in.

The Good

- Listen I don't make the rules, if you have one of the best debuts in Boston Celtics history, you are kicking us off with the top spot. Porzingis was that good


The craziest part of KP's night might be the fact that he dropped 30 all without taking a single post up. Basically, the Celts didn't even utilize one of his greatest offensive strengths and he still went nuts. That feels like cheating. His plays around the rim were dunks/layups and then it was 3PA

Remember, KP ranked in the 89th percentile in post up offense last year, so having that dominant of skillset in your back pocket and then not even needing it rules so hard. Part of that is who they played against, with the Knicks having two bigs clogging the paint, it made sense for KP to operate in space as opposed to on the block, so I'm curious how he switches things up against a smaller frontcourt.

While the three point shooting was insane, I walked away more excited about the 2 man game options with Tatum and Brown involving Porzingis. It's just something we've never seen the Jays have at any point in their tenure. The Celts instantly become tougher to guard with KP now the one setting that high screen, either as a roll/pop option or if the defense focuses too much on KP, it's light work for the Jays. 

Then there's the new reality that you can't really double Tatum late in games anymore. The Knicks tried it with 1:30 left and KP casually hit the biggest bucket of the night. Those two areas show you exactly what problem Brad was trying to fix with this move. It's a little wild it played out this way immediately, but the vision is clear. Then you add in everything he did defensively and holy shit. I think what stood out most to me is defensively KP almost never gets baited with fakes. He just stands there with his arms up and waits for you to shit your pants. He's so tall he doesn't even have to jump, which is very different from the Rob experience. He finished with 4 blocks, but his impact at the rim was more than that. Guys didn't even want to think about putting it up around him, which is some Rudy Gobert type shit.

Oh, and let's not overlook the team leading 10 FTA. That's going to be a very big deal for this offense all year long. They got maybe 10 FTA from Al Horford all year last year. Porzingis did it in his first game.

- On almost any other night, we'd be starting the blog with the performance of Jayson Tatum. The preseason told us we were getting Bully Tatum, and the regular season confirmed it


Finally, we saw Tatum use his size, strength, and aggressiveness to consistently bully smaller players. The second he found a guard on him, it was time to go to the rim. Tatum was efficient (13-22, 3-8) was impactufl on both ends (2 steals and 1 block), and down the stretch in the 4th quarter I thought he was great at playing within his role and not forcing things offensively. He finished with 6 points (2nd on the team), and only went 1-3, but the 3 rebounds and 2 assists were huge. Tatum has always been a willing passer regardless of the situation, but you could tell right away how comfortable he was giving the ball up to KP late to secure this win. 

As the best player, it's on Tatum to set the tone, which is what I feel like he did to start this game. He and Porzingis were absolute forces on both ends to help the Celts build their early cushion. I would of course like to see Tatum clean up his TOs (team leading 4), especially the ones that are just lazy basketball plays. Overall though, this was the MVP type of performance we have grown to expect from Tatum. 

This is just who he is.

- Given the fact that this was his first game as a Celtic and everything is still so new, I'm sort of ignoring the box score stuff with Jrue Holiday. Like, I do not care that he shot 4-10 (1-5), I don't care that he took some early shot clock 3PA, all that stuff will be figured out.

What stood out obviously was his impact on the defensive end. Holiday finished with 3 blocks, and I continue to be impressed with his ability to poke the ball out late on drives. It's some crafty veteran-type shit where he's seen every drive in the book and knows exactly when and where you're going to bring the ball low before going up for the layup. So, even if you think you beat him, he has a knack for still finding the ball.

Then there was his matchup with Julius Randle. Safe to say he had Randle in jail, despite being a point guard

So while the final line of 9/4/2/3 with 2 TOs doesn't blow you away, if you watched him play you could sense his impact. Honestly, a performance like last night is all they really need from Holiday, and considering we know he can play so much better, I'd consider that pretty great. 

- I'm happy to report that Bald Derrick is just as awesome as we hoped. Like Jrue, it wasn't flashy but man was it impactful. White finished with 12/6/2/2/1 on 4-6 (1-3) in his 31 minutes, and really his only mistake was probably that foul on a three point shooter in the first quarter. Defensively he's the same menace we've always seen him to be, and honestly, I wouldn't hate having the ball in his hands more as an offense initiator. Let's just see what it looks like. 

- The Celts winning a game in which they had under 20 assists, shot 30% from deep and gave up 31 points in the 4th quarter doesn't seem possible. Last year they essentially lost every single game they did that stuff in, especially the 30% from deep part. Grinding this game out and finding a way to win is encouraging, especially when you consider the Celts didn't play anywhere close to their ceiling. 


If you can no longer bank on a loss every time the Celts shoot like shit from deep, what exactly is an opposing team going to do when they shoot to their normal averages?

- No real complaints for Joe, which is a win. Maybe he went a little long in that 4th quarter Knicks run before a timeout, but it was like 47 seconds of game time. 

The Bad

- Alright, not the meat of the game. I would like to start with something that I fear is going to be a problem all season long and is something we're just going to have to deal with.

The Celtics inability to limit offensive rebounds.

I mean, this was a disaster. The Knicks finished with 17 OREB, won the 2nd chance points battle 20-4, and finished with game taking 20 (!!!!) more FGA. We saw signs of it in the preseason and even though those games were fake, the offensive rebounding problem is real. It wasn't just Mitchell Robinson either (he had 3). Isaiah Hartenstein had 5, Randle had 4, and pretty much every time it happened the Knicks followed it up with points, mostly 3PM. That shit is losing basketball, we know this. How many playoff games did this team lose because of offensive rebounding and 2nd chance points? 

We can't have a situation where every time the Celts play a high energy team that crashes the glass they get dominated like this. It has to be not only a collective effort on the glass, but also a collective effort to find a body and box out. Too often did we see guys like Josh Hart crash from the 3pt line with no Celtic making even the slightest attempt to put a body on him. That has to be cleaned up.

- While I understand the need for the flopping rule, I hated how it was applied to this game, for both sides. If you're in a close game in the 4th quarter, I don't need the game to be stopped for a flopping tech. The one on KP was terrible and the one on Jalen Brunson 30 seconds after was terrible. The games do NOT need the officials inserting themselves in the big moments late in a close game. They didn't call that shit all night only to go nuts with it in the 4th. Grow up.

- Part of it I'm sure was the 12-39 from deep, but 18 assists is just not the type of ball movement I'm looking for. Only 4 assists from the starting backcourt (3 TOs), it just felt like the ball stuck a little too much at times. Again, it's early and only the first game, but compare that to the 34 assist performance we saw in the preseason where the ball was zipping around. I didn't get that same feeling last night.

- After a Jaylen + the bench lineup closed the 3rd quarter strong and built a 9 point lead heading into the fourth quarter, it was very frustrating to watch the Tatum + bench lineup immediately give up a 13-2 run to start the frame. That was very 2022-23 of them and it was everything you hate to see. Cold shooting, turnovers, no energy, it was the classic Celtics 4th quarter collapse. 

Little did we know things would get a whole lost worse starting around the 7 minute mark.

The Ugly

- Let's talk about the Jaylen CTE stretch. People make jokes that Jaylen doesn't have a left hand, but to me that's not the problem. Jaylen doesn't have a left hand issue, he has a decision making issue. Now, you could make the argument that's 1000x worse and I would tend to agree with you, because there is simply no excuse for these decisions


I can maybe understand what Jaylen thought he saw, Jrue does look like he's open on the baseline here. 

The issue of course is you're throwing the pass from 26+ feet away, which gives the defense plenty of time to collapse. This is a play that while it may have had good intentions, in reality, it's a poor decision in a crucial late game moment.

Immediately following this turnover, there was of course what happened inbounding the basketball

Now if we want to tell the truth, this is just as much Tatum's fault as Jaylen's. WAY too nonchalant both making the pass and receiving the pass. A mental mistake by both of the two franchise guys immediately after one had just made a careless mistake. This stuff cannot happen. Jrue Holiday had a similar situation where he had a steal, and then was lazy with the ball and immediately turned it over. A clear lack of mental focus for everyone involved. 

If that inbounds pass wasn't bad enough, Jaylen immediately following it up with ANOTHER crucial mental mistake, this time fouling a 3pt shooter in the corner


is simply beyond inexcusable. That three play sequence all happening within seconds of each other nearly cost the Celts this game. Fact. I don't care that Jaylen signed for $300M. These plays are inexcusable for a guy on a veteran minimum deal. It wouldn't be acceptable no matter what his contract was. Naturally, some out there will take this too far with Jaylen, that's just his new reality after the ECF. He did some good things in this game, but overall it wasn't anywhere close to good enough. As I said yesterday, nothing else matters with this team unless Tatum and Brown can show they are ready.

I did not see that version of Jaylen last night.

- The bench is a concern. I don't care if it's just one game, getting virtually nothing from your bench is going to be a problem. Pritchard/Hauser not making any of their wide open looks was not great, and I can't help but have the same worries for this unit like I did in 2021-22. You may remember that as the year where the bench offense was so brutal that Brad had to go out and trade for Malcolm Brogdon. 

We know what burnout looks like when the team has to rely on the starters for all the production. During the regular season, you need depth. You need guys to be able to carry the load while the stars sit. We got none of that from the bench last night, and I was a little surprised we didn't see Svi, Brissett or Stevens simply from an energy standpoint. The shooters weren't effective, so maybe switch things up and try and get easy buckets via hustle and energy? 

All I know is 10 points from your bench isn't going to cut it. While it was nice that Pritchard stepped up and made those two huge FTs to seal the win, this is going to be something to monitor all year. Not having consistent bench production is playing with fire in my opinion.

But at the end of the day, a win is a win. The fact that it came in typical frustrating fashion made me both annoyed and happy because it means Celtics basketball is actually back for real. Please just do not do this shit against MIA on Friday.