Heading into last night's game against the Pacers I was excited to see how the new look Celts would handle Tyrese Haliburton, a player who has absolutely terrorized this team every time they've played. I'm talking Haliburton ate this team alive. Then we learned that he was out due to an ankle injury and we had another Celtics challenge on our hands. Don't play down to the competition. A game against a team like the Pacers without their star player is 100% a game the Celtics overlooked in 2022-23. Your classic "OK we can just show up and win" disaster that would ultimately frustrate everyone since they would somehow lose another winnable game on their home floor.
The 2023-24 version? They won that game by 51 fucking points
No, that is not a typo. No, this was not 2K. No, this was not preseason. This was a real life NBA regular season game that counts and we just witnessed the 2nd best scoring performance in Boston Celtics history. 155-104? Is that real? How is that real?
I'll tell you how that's real. Because this team is a goddamn wagon and I say that with confidence because we've seen previous wagons before and this one is even better. Beating rebuilding teams into the ground and leaving no room for doubt is exactly what title contenders do, and immediately coming off the Wizards game where the Celts had a 37 point lead and then backing it up with a fucking 50 ball is a level we haven't seen from this era at any point in their history together. Hell, this is the first time I've personally seen it since I was a literal child!
Whatever you think the ceiling might look like for this team, I'm thinking it's something along the lines of what we just witnessed. You almost have to stop and remind yourself that this is the worst the Celts will look. They barely have any reps together and look at what is already happening. What do things look like say, after a month together? The players are still figuring out each other's tendencies and yet the talent is so immense that they are still capable of beating teams by 30+.
This was what things look like when every cylinder is firing. Pretty fucking awesome if you ask me. We certainly have a lot to get to so let's just get right into it
- Where do you begin when you have a performance like this? There are several candidates for the top spot of this blog, and after going over the numbers and the film, let's not overthink things. We begin with Jayson Tatum
Remember when Tatum was getting off to slow starts in October/early November? Well, um,…what if those days are over? I ask because the version of Jayson Tatum we are currently witnessing is the best version we've ever seen since he got here in 2017-18. I'll remind you, we still aren't even at this dude's NBA prime yet. Think about that for a second.
Despite that fact, we're watching Jayson Tatum put up 30/9/4 on 56/40% splits with 3.3 3PM to start the season. Those numbers didn't even feel real as I typed them if we're being honest. The easiest explanation for this insane jump in efficiency is Tatum's approach. More post ups, more shots at the rim, he's too big and too strong for essentially every defender he faces. This seems like the first season he actually realizes that.
That's what 3 level scoring looks like folks. The post up production is the greatest difference for Tatum, but him being this good from three to start the season should not be overlooked. Part of this success is because it feels like he's taking better 3s. Less low percentage iso threes and now he's taking them after already getting some confidence with early buckets inside. That inside/outside approach is something we've ALL dreamed of for Tatum, and now he's finally doing it.
30 points in 26 minutes immediately after dropping 33 points in 27 minutes on Monday. What else is there to say?
- When you have the 2nd best offensive performance in franchise history, you get the next spot. I've been staring at these numbers since the game ended and they still don't make any sense
155 points on 56/57/96% with 20 3PM in 4 quarters of NBA basketball is ridiculous. It shouldn't be possible. I don't care if you're playing the worst team in the league, the fact that an entire roster can do this all at the same time doesn't even feel fair. The crazy part is the Celts can play even better! This team never had a quarter under 31 points, their bench and deep bench put up 46 (!!!) points in the 4th, the Celts also had 52 points in the paint and only turned it over 11 times.
Was this a perfect performance? I wouldn't go that far, but it was about as close as you could possibly get.
- I don't know how many times I have to say it, but I will continue to say it every time the opportunity presents itself.
Derrick White is a tremendous Celtic
18/4/3 on 7-10 (4-7) in his 26 minutes, everything thing I would say about Tatum's offensive aggressiveness to start the season I would also apply to White. You can feel his confidence through your television and it has completely changed his game. I have no idea what the extension price was that he wanted, but it's pretty clear that number has now at the very least doubled. We're starting to form a sample large enough to where his new improved shooting might just be who he is now.
How insane has Bald Derrick's start been? How about 64/57% with 2.8 3PM. Derrick White! The biggest difference with his production is now we're starting to see White take those pullup 3s off the dribble with confidence, and when he does it he's barely hitting the rim. It's an automatic 3PM. The defense is obviously still there (1.3 steals and 1.3 blocks), but it's the revamped jumper that has completely changed him as a player. He talked postgame about how he spent all summer in the gym working on it and the early returns suggest that was time well spent.
We're at the point with Derrick where it no longer matters what the extension price is. You pay it. Nobody has earned their money more than White since he got to this team. He's a must keep piece as far as I'm concerned.
- Of course, we shouldn't forget about the other half of the Celts two headed monster backcourt. This team is going to be pretty damn tough to beat when one guard is giving you what Derrick did last night and the other one does this
These last two Jrue performances are why I wasn't really worried about his first few games. It's going to take time for the new guys to not only gel but feel comfortable being themselves now on this new team. What we're seeing is a Jrue Holiday that is starting to feel more comfortable. His role in Boston is different from what he's been used to in MIL, but so far his transition has been more than fine for what I want out of Holiday's role.
The defense has been top-notch since Day 1, the three point shooting is starting to come around (37%), and I don't even really care that he's only averaging 4.0 assists. It's the same shit as Smart where the point guard isn't always the offensive initiator on this team. Holiday probably won't be at the 7 assists we saw last year in terms of average, but that does not mean he's not moving the ball. He takes care of the rock (1.3 TOs), and last night was an example of his ability to kill you at every level. The post up to start the game, the early shot clock pull up 3s, the ability to attack a closeout and take a midrange pullup, these are all things that Holiday has started the year doing at an elite level.
As the new guy with probably the biggest adjustment to make, I would say Holiday has been everything I expected and more. His FGA have dropped from 15 to 9 and you would think that might be an issue for a player of his caliber, but so far nobody seems to give a shit what their volume looks like given how well the team is playing. That's crucial.
- As we look for reasons why this team might be different, I don't think we should overlook the fact that they did not come out in this game and played with their food. There was no fucking around letting an undermanned team hang around. This team went for the kill right from the jump. It was a 20 point lead before you knew what happened. They closed the half strong and then once the 3rd started there was no slow start letting the Pacers back in it. There was only more death. A quick 9-1 run to open the quarter told me that this team was focused. That's a credit to Joe. He's had this team ready every step of the way. He's putting his players in positions to succeed, and they are responding.
This is what matters to me more than the score. Their level of focus seems so much better from top to bottom.
- It's hard to be worse than what we saw from the bench on Monday. Just a tough watch all around from everyone involved (outside of Al, who of course is perfect). I thought it was very nice of the starters to immediately give the bench a shot at redemption, and boy did they respond
Crazy what can happen when the Celts snipers actually make their open looks isn't it? Suddenly the bench doesn't look like a complete disaster. Frankly I think both Pritchard and Hauser needed a performance like this given how they started the year. Every NBA player has a slump busting performance at some point, and I'd say 7-9 from three between those two qualifies. Once Sam Hauser sees one go in and he starts barely hitting the net on his 3s, you know he's locked in.
With Pritchard, while he may struggle with NBA starter level defenders, once you get to the reserves he turns into a completely different player. That's concerning, but also whatever. That's why he's a backup point guard. After his horrific showing against the Wizards, I'll take 15 points and 9 assists with 0 TOs as a response. I imagine last night did wonders for the confidence of both guys, which is going to be important moving forward. Shooters need confidence and sometimes they just need to see a couple drop to snap them out of whatever funk we had to start the year.
- I also continue to really love the OREB chaos we see from Brissett/Stevens. That's exactly why they are on this team and it's really the only thing I need them to do. The Celts are atop of the NBA in offensive rebounding, and high energy plays like we get from those two will only help.
- 27-28 from the FT line. I could cry.
- Call me crazy, but this seems good
- It may be nitpicking, but I do think everyone needs to remember to feed Porzingis. There were stretches in the 2nd quarter where it felt like Porzingis was giving you energy on defense, he was running the floor, and then on the offensive possession he would never even touch the ball. He had only 2 FGA for forever, and the team was still up 20.
My thing is with a big, you always need to make sure they feel engaged. I know there are a lot of mouths to feed and this was a night where they maybe didn't really need KPs offense, but I just want to see everyone realize that hey, it's been a while since KP has had a play ran for him, let's get him a touch.
That's on Joe, that's on the point guards, that's on the best players. I'm not even suggesting KP cares or is annoyed with it, I'm just saying it's the right thing to do. When a big gives you great energy and effort, reward him by letting him touch/shoot the ball. Especially when that player is an offensive unicorn.
- The passing on this team is weird. In total, 27 assists is more than fine. The weird part is no starter having more than 4 assists. The team feels like it's passing less, but still finding mismatches and taking high efficiency looks. It's different, which doesn't mean bad, but the drop in AST% is noticable. Last year the Celts were top 5 in this category at 63%. So far this year, they are 28th at 51.3%.
I know they lost their best true playmaker, but that drop is still a little too massive for my liking. Hopefully things even out as the sample size grows, but 28th in AST% isn't exactly great.
- It of course didn't matter, but allowing 70 points in the paint is also a little concerning. My guess is this had more to do with the fact that the Celts were up a billion, but even still that's a shit ton of paint points. Only 2 blocks for the Celts last night, and it felt like the Pacers were way too comfortable attacking the paint and finishing around the rim.
- Sucks that Jordan Walsh was in Maine and the Celts immediately had another game where maybe he could have gotten some run. It would have been fun for him to get his debut at the Garden, but I guess we'll just have to keep waiting.
- OK don't be ridiculous. The Celts were up by as much as 53 points in this game. This section can have the day off.
As of today, there are two undefeated teams left in the NBA. The Celts are 4-0 with a +20.5 point differential. The vibes are beyond immaculate and there are no signs of slowing down anytime soon. After the type of performances we've seen to start the season I feel comfortable in declaring this team is a wagon, and man does that have my brain going to dangerous places.