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The Celtics First Loss Of The Year Was A Reminder That Old Bad Habits Can Be Tough To Break

David Berding. Getty Images.

Well, it was bound to happen at some point. I went back and did the research and you'll never believe this but no team in NBA history has ever gone 82-0. Shocking, I know. While there's certainly no shame in losing to a good MIN team that is 4-0 at home, owns the best defense at the moment in the NBA, and just beat the healthy defending champs in this very same building not too long ago. Especially when you yourself mostly play like shit. The first loss of the season on the road to a good team is most certainly not even close to something to panic over, so let's try and keep perspective here.

At the same time, I think it's totally fair to be annoyed with how the Celts lost their first game of the year. Mostly because it was in an all too familiar fashion and sneaky the exact way their massive offseason was supposed to prevent. Old habits die hard I suppose. The annoying part isn't just the result, it's the fact that we've already seen the Celts play the exact opposite way in other close games against good teams to start the season, which they won. We know they can do it!

And look, there are times over an 82 game season where you lose a competitive game on the road. Shit happens. I hate to be the one to break the news, but the Celts are going to lose more games throughout the year. When they do, they're probably going to play like shit and do things that we know they shouldn't. But last night was also a reminder that the roster and the coaching staff can change as much as it wants, at the end of the day the players still need to execute and play the right way. When they don't, endings like last night happen.

We have a lot to get to, so let's dive in.

The Good

- It's a shame the Celts ran out of gas/pooped their pants in OT, because to get there in the first place we saw some pretty dominant basketball from the two best players. That's partly what made last night so annoying. The Jays for the first 48 minutes gave you more than enough to win, starting with Tatum

In most cases, if Tatum is throwing up 32/5/2/5 on 12-22 (2-8), the Celts are probably winning that game. Don't let OT make you forget that this team was down 5 entering the 4th quarter and it was Jayson Tatum that put this team on his back with a massive 12 point fourth quarter on 4-7 (1-3) shooting while playing all 12 minutes. He nearly carried this team to victory by himself. Unfortunately, it didn't carry over to the extra 5 minutes, but overall I would not consider this a "bad" Tatum performance. There are things he needs to be better with (that we'll get to), but I think it's important to separate the two parts of his night. The first 48? More than good enough. The final 5? Gross.

And I know it's a small thing, but what the hell is going on with Tatum at the line? Every night it seems like he misses 2 FTs (6-8 last night). That 4th quarter missed FT proved to be pretty valuable I'd say, and on the season he's shooting just 82% from the line. That might seem good, but this is a guy who has been 85-86% over the last 3 seasons. 

- Just like Tatum, we also got more than a good enough performance through 48 minutes from Jaylen Brown. Coming off his 6-22 (2-11), Jaylen immediately responded with a 10-21 (3-8) in his 39 minutes

Not only was the shooting/scoring right where you want it to be, but this was another game where Jaylen was able to make his impact in other ways than just putting the ball in the hoop. His rebounding, his passing, that all continues to look better as the year goes on.

It sucks that his poster on Gobert was ultimately wasted, and it also sucks that Jaylen's huge 3PM with 2 minutes left in the 4th to put the Celts up 3 was also wasted. That's partly why I have zero issue with the no timeout/Jaylen's 3PA at the end of regulation. That is a shot we have seen Jaylen make 100000000000000 times in his career, he had just hit a three, and I am in favor of not letting the #1 defense in the NBA have time to set themselves and lock you down coming out of an ATO. This is as clean a look as you're going to find

If you're upset about this play, you just don't like the result. The process was fine, the shot was fine, he just missed.

The thing is, just like with Tatum, we saw some issues in OT with Jaylen that sort of undoes everything we saw in the first 48. But I'm not going to sit here and try and make it seem like the Jays weren't the only ones who really showed up last night

- Despite being in foul trouble most of the night, I was impressed with how Porzingis still found a way to make an impact. Even on a night when his shot wasn't falling (5-14), he was still productive

Why? Because the man is a foul-attracting machine. Another game with 10 FTA, that element is such a blessing to have at the big spot. I can't remember a time a Celts PF/C was having multiple games with 8-10 FTA, but boy do I welcome it with open arms. Normally if a Celts big went 5-14, they finish with like 12 points and the Celts get blown out. As long as everyone remembers that Porzingis is on the team and actually passes him the ball, good things tend to happen. 

I thought offensively he had a good mix of inside/outside looks, I just wish he was actually involved more down the stretch. Porzingis had 0 FGA in the 4th quarter and OT. That, is pretty inexcusable in my opinion considering he played 5 4th quarter minutes and every second of OT. His lack of involvement down the stretch was a major contributing factor to how things ended, and something I think they'll be able to correct with a simple film session.

The Bad

- Where to begin? I suppose the offense as a whole is a decent place. It's hard to win on the road against a good team when you throw up 39/28/76% with 16 TOs. The Celts had been able to escape a few games with wins when they shot like this, but that's usually the exception and not the norm. At some point, poor shooting and careless turnovers are going to catch up with you, especially when you are playing a team that is capable of making you pay for those mistakes.

If you knew nothing about how this game went and someone told you that stat line, you'd assume the Celts lost 100% of the time. Overall, they played like shit and paid the price for it. It's just one game, but that's the truth.

- Easily the worst we've seen Jrue Holiday play as a Celtic. A brutal 4-16 (0-4) with 3 TOs and a team worst -19 in his 41 minutes, including a can't have it turnover in the final moments of the 4th quarter. 

The frustrating part isn't that Holiday took "bad" shots, in fact, there was probably only one or two shots that I felt were bad decisions. The frustrating part is how many bunnies he smoked. This is a shot chart/offensive approach I think most of us would take

he just had a tough time finishing.

I also didn't see any sort of calming presence or veteran direction down the stretch, which I was told was supposed to be something that was solved with the trade. It reminded me of when Brogdon was here and everyone said finally that problem was solved, only for the same shit to happen even with him on the floor. It felt more like Holiday was more comfortable just deferring to the best players instead of running the show, and I think at the end of the day that's the root of all these late game issues. 

- Outside of the IND blowout, we continue to see a not so encouraging trend from the 2nd unit. The production is nowhere close to good enough. Getting shit like this on a nightly basis is not really sustainable over the course of an 82 game season

16 points on 4-14 (3-9) isn't going to cut it. The issue here continues to be similar to what we saw in 2021-22. Payton Pritchard's best role is as an off ball shooter. We know this. Well now that he's in charge of being a distributor and offense initiator for the second unit, it's completely removed him from what makes him valuable. I don't see a start to the season like this

and think Pritchard sucks. I see a run like that and think it's pretty clear he is not being used in the correct role. The problem of course is Joe has no choice but to have him as the primary backup ball handler, given what trading away Brogdon meant (and no White last night). It's not as if there are a ton of better options available.

We all know what burnout of the stars looks like, which is why Brad traded for Brogdon in the first place after the 2021-22 season. That's probably my biggest fear with the second unit right now. Joe has no choice but to play his starters big minutes because they continue to get jack shit from the bench. Does it surprise anyone that the Celts are 29th in the NBA in bench scoring? Only the Lakers have been worse. Granted they were only 20th last year, but they were averaging 32 points as a unit in 2022-23. This year that number is down to 24.

- 8 missed FTs as a team in a game you lost by 5. Cool cool cool.

- 6 TOs from Jayson Tatum is of course way too many. So much was made about Jaylen's turnovers in the ECF, well Tatum is off to a start where he's averaging the same amount of AST (4.2) as TOs (4.2). Those 4.2 TOs are the highest of his career, and Tatum is too important and has too high of a usage rate to be this careless with the ball. I'd say almost every other part of his season has been awesome, but the ball security is an issue.

Both he and Brown lead the Celtics in clutch time TOs as well, both with 3.

- In most cases, I forgive Al for any mistake he makes. The guy is a billion years old. At the same time, this cannot happen

Remember, this came IMMEDIATELY after the Jrue Holiday turnovers from above. Just brutal mistakes being made by guys you don't expect to be that careless in the biggest moments of the game. I mean, Al can't dribble with his right hand? Since when? Was that a dead spot on the floor or something? Very strange and pretty terrible.

- I thought Joe's end of game management in the 4th was pretty spot on. The hack-a-Gobert worked to perfection, he had his team in a position to win late as long as they executed, all that. 

I cannot say the same thing about his game management in OT. I know it's easy to say after the fact, but given how momentum was swinging, I think it's fair to wonder why he didn't stop the bleeding with around 2 minutes left in OT once the Wolves went up by 3. He didn't, the Celts did jack shit on the offensive end and then Edwards came back down with the dagger 3PM and that was that. 

- Speaking of Edwards, he was the best player on the floor last night. Fact. It didn't really matter who tried to check him, pretty much every Celtic got cooked

He killed the switch, he had no problems with Jrue, and in the biggest moments of the game, it was Edwards who came through. He deserves all the credit in the world for that. Not only was he the one making shots, but he was also the one locking up the Celts' best player down the stretch. Hell of a game for him.

The Ugly

- Alright, let's talk about the OT and why this loss was so frustrating. Mostly, because it was everything we've seen this team do when they have these horrific closes. 

Once again, the approach was to get Tatum the ball at midcourt, set a fugazi high screen, and then just stand around and watch. It happened in two critical situations, both of which had bad results

Take the first clip. In this spot, you have momentum. You have a chance to assert yourself and get some separation. In this spot, in my opinion, you should be looking for as high a percentage look as you can get. The Celts have that option, and his name is Porzingis. Use him! Instead, what did we see? Everyone watching Tatum dribble, which leads to a poor possession. 

Then down 5 in a big spot, same thing. You need to punch back with a quality look. What do we get? A whole bunch of standing around watching Tatum who settles for a tough contested iso 3.

Here's the thing. It's not that Tatum can't hit these shots. Of course he can. And we would all love those possessions if those shots went in. The problem though is what good are all these new additions if we aren't even using them in these moments? The challenge is going to be that even on nights when Tatum and Brown have it going offensively, can they stop themselves from falling into these bad habits? 

This is why I said it doesn't matter who the coaches are, or who the point guard is. At the end of these games, it ALL comes down to the decision making of Tatum and Brown.

Jaylen isn't exempt from this either by the way. Down 7 with 1:22 left, now you are getting desperate. Things are starting to get wonky and panic is setting in. So what do we see? A low percentage turnaround over Rudy Gobert

No look to KP. Again, this is a shot we know Jaylen can make, but time and situation is important. This is a low percentage look at felt more like letting go of the rope than trying to execute. There's plenty of time left if you find a way to get a good shot and then lock in defensively, but once Jaylen missed that shot you sort of felt the air come out of their comeback attempt.

Just compare this to say, what we saw in the NYK 4th quarter comeback. Or the 4th quarter against MIA. Those were games we actually saw the new guys get involved and have a more diversified offense. What's the point of having these weapons if the two main guys are still going to play the way we know leads to struggles more often than not? It's not like everyone can blame Marcus Smart anymore, it all comes down to these two guys.

So while this was just 1 loss and nobody should be freaking out, it is fair to walk away last night annoyed. This was a winnable game, even without Bald Derrick. All it needed was late game execution and the Celts are sitting 6-0 right now. Unforunately they didn't get it, and now will have to settle for still being atop the Eastern Conference. Life sure is tough.

We now turn the page to a red hot Sixers team who is also 5-1 and also is undefeated at home. My guess is they'll be pretty motivated given how last year ended, so this is our first chance to see how this version of the Celts are able to bounce back. Go into that building and take care of business and we'll forget all about what we saw last night.