Coming off their tough OT loss on Monday night against the Timberwolves in which the MIN duo of Anthony Edwards and Jaden McDaniels took over the game down the stretch and outperformed the Tatum/Brown duo, last night was a great chance to bounce back and stop the bleeding against a team that had been just as dominant as the Celts to start the season. You could even made the case that if the NBA didn't so clearly cheat for Giannis in the opener, the Sixers should have been undefeated heading into last night.
Now with Derrick White back with the team, there really wasn't any sort of excuse. The Celts were healthy, everyone was active, and despite this only being Game 7 taking place in early November, anyone who suggests it wasn't a big game is deflecting. Of course it was a big game, and that would still be true even if the Celts won it. So just because they lost it I don't think you should suddenly change up your tune. In a big spot with a good test against a good team, the Celtics collectively failed.
Once again in a huge spot late in a close game, it was the opposition's duo that made more plays down the stretch. Maxey/Embiid outperformed Tatum/Brown when it mattered most. I'm sorry if this upsets you, but it's simply what happened. Tyrese Maxey (11 points on 50%) had more points in the 4th quarter than Tatum/Brown combined. When it got close and the Sixers needed a dagger, it was Embiid making the big turnaround jumper. In the entire second half, the Jays finished with 14 total points. Embiid/Maxey? 26.
This game was our latest example of regardless of what this team changes, everything always comes back to their two best players. That doesn't mean others don't play a factor in the result, but the reality is as long as the two best players are going to lay stinkers, the Celts are going to struggle to beat good teams, especially on the road and especially when they happen in the same game.
The Celts finish their road trip 1-2, with both losses coming in excruciating fashion. That's maybe how you know basketball is truly back. What we're about to find out is if these are isolated incidents or maybe early warning signs of real issues. Allow me to explain.
- If there's a player I didn't really have a problem with last night, it was Porzingis. He was easily the best Celtic on the floor last night, at least offensively, and I thought he bounced back nicely after his foul trouble game against MIN
You saw the three level scoring, Porzingis finished 10-19 (2-6), and defensively I thought he was more than fine against Embiid. It doesn't take a basketball expert to see what a tough match up that is for Porzingis given how fucking massive and strong Embiid is, and there were certainly times when he pushed KP out of the way with ease, but overall I'll take 6 points on 13 possessions with 1-3 shooting. I was honestly expecting a 50 ball on his head so that was a pleasant surprise.
It was also nice to see KP lead the team in FGA on a night where he was really the only one who could make a shot, and honestly, I have no problem with the play call or the final shot, even if was a brutal airball
This is what everyone was excited for right? Now in a one possession game in the final moments when you know the defense is going to be focused on Tatum/Brown, this used to be a Marcus Smart shot that everyone would cry about. So, to get Porzingis the exact look that was a reason Brad traded for him is perfectly fine. He just missed. Simple as that. Not too different from Jaylen's shot on Monday night. All you can ask for is a good clean look in that moment, they simply missed.
- For a guy who I'm sure is pretty sleep-deprived at the moment, I also have very few complaints over what we saw from Derrick White in his first game back. I throw the shooting percentages out the window because he's probably had 2 hours of sleep in a week, but even with poor efficiency White still found ways to make an impact
I think it's fair to say that for the second consecutive season, Derrick White is the best point guard on the roster. He was also the only one who showed any real sign of slowing down Tyrese Maxey (22 possessions / 2 points / 1-6 shooting), so for me Derrick mostly gets a pass. Would have loved some of those open 3s to drop, but overall Derrick played well.
- The same is true for Sam Hauser. Whatever early funk he was in to start the year, it sure looks like Hauser has clawed his way out. His role is simple. Come in, make your threes, play acceptable defense and that's it.
Well, after starting the season 4-16 (20%) from deep over the first three games, Hauser has responded with a nice 15-26 (54.5%) run while tallying 5 steals and 2 blocks over the next 4 games. That my friends, is called filling your role. Last night he was more than good enough in his 18 minutes off the bench with 13 points on 5-8 (3-6), and of all the problems the Celtics bench has right now, I don't think we can lump Hauser into that conversation anymore.
Honestly, he's the only bench player who is giving this team anything offensively and we're almost at 10 games in.
- If we're going to be truthful, that's really it for this section. Those three guys were really the only positives to take away from this loss, so let's now focus on the real issues.
- To start the season, the Celts have faced 4 teams that I think most would agree have "good to elite" defenses. The Knicks own the 2nd ranked defense this season, the Wolves own the 1st ranked defense, the Sixers own the 5th ranked defense, and the Heat the 12th. Below is how the Celtics offense has performed against each
vs NYK: 112 Ortg
vs MIN: 98.2 Ortg
vs PHI: 100 Ortg
vs MIA: 119 Ortg
That's…..pretty bad. Especially against the top 5 defenses. Granted the MIN game was without White, but so far to start the season the early offensive results against good defenses have not been good enough. When you look closer, it's not surprising to see why. The ball isn't moving and TO's are high.
The fact of the matter is, the new look Celtics, with all this new firepower and talent, have not been able to execute and play well against good defenses through 7 games. That doesn't mean it won't, guys will learn together and get better together, but the early results are a little staggering when these are the types of teams and defenses the Celts were put together to handle. To me, this is a much more glaring concern than the individual performance of any player in a single game. This is the start of a trend, and it's not a good one.
- While he was able to make an impact in other areas (15 boards, 6 assists, 3 steals), we should not be living in a world where Jayson Tatum only takes 14 shots. As someone who has watched every dribble of Tatum's career, I can't ever remember him looking that passive. Was he shook by his 1-5 showing in the 3rd quarter or something? He took only 2 shots in the 4th, and it felt like he was just standing in the corner WAY more than I can remember.
That's obviously an issue seeing as how, ya know, he's their best player. The team goes as he goes. With Brown already laying an egg, I would have thought this would be a game where Tatum was super aggressive, and he just wasn't. Very weird game from him. To finish 6-14 (2-6) with only 3 FTA just isn't going to cut it. Not for a guy that's trying to work his way into being a Top 5 player. The expectations are higher and the standard is higher.
- For me, this game had two different turning points. The first game to start the 2nd quarter. Tatum was on the floor, Embiid on the bench and the Celt were up 5 points. That had to be a stint where they built separation, and it looked like they were on their way after Hauser hit a 3 to put them up 10 just 55 seconds into the quarter (32-22).
From that moment on, it was nothing but disaster. There was no separation. In fact, just 2 minutes later it was 35-33 at the 8:39 mark, Joe called timeout. An opportunity wasted. By the time Embiid came back in at the 7 minute mark, the lead was actually less than what it was to start the quarter (4). Over the final 7 minutes, the Sixers closed on a 25-14 run. From up 10 to down 7 at the half in a single quarter. Giving up 39 points in 12 minutes is some of the worst defense you're ever going to see a team play, and it's what completely changed the momentum of the game.
Then of course we had the 3rd quarter. Remember how bad the 3rd was against the Wolves when they scored 19 points? It's ultimately what cost them that game on Monday night. Well how about this?
I mean what the fuck is that? 17 points, 25/27% splits, and more TOs than FGM with Tatum playing every second? No FTA? I didn't even know it was possible for a team with this much talent to score 17 points in 12 minutes and be that careless with the basketball. Coming off what we saw to end the half, this was why the Celtics lost. They cannot keep having these disaster quarters. It's fine to lose a quarter, that shit happens. But this? Coming off what we saw in the 3rd on Monday? That stuff cannot happen.
- After finding ways to win early in the year when the 3s weren't dropping, the MIN loss and now this loss feel more like what we saw last year. Another game where the Celts were sub 30% for the majority of the night, not being able to capitalize on the Sixers shooting 26% from deep themselves is embarrassing. I thought for the most part their 3PA were good looks, but this is a Celts team that is currently 25th in the NBA in 3P% over their last 3 games (31%), and they sit at 1-2. You can't tell me that doesn't feel familiar.
- While Sixers and Celtics fans don't agree on much, I think we would all agree that the officiating in this game was a disaster, for both sides. The weird fantom foul on Embiid when he was going up for a loose ball with Porzingis, Porzingis getting a hanging on the rim tech when Nic Batum was literally on his back as he dunked it, the miss of the foul on DWhite at the end on Embiid and then of course
Add in what we saw with Giannis in the Bucks game, and I don't think the officiating has ever been worse across the entire league. Every single game is being impacted by the officials making insane calls/techs it's bananas. Honestly, it's hurting the product and Adam Silver clearly doesn't give a shit.
On that final play, what exactly was that ref looking at? She missed the foul on White, and then was staring RIGHT at Embiid's foot clearly being out of bounds and decided to what, just not call it? Brutal showing for everyone involved.
- There's not much more that needs to be said when it comes to the Celts bench offensively. It's a fucking disaster outside of Hauser finding his shot again. This is simply no where close to being good enough
Getting this type of production from your primary backup point guard is not sustainable. They are getting less than nothing from Pritchard to start the season which is a huge problem given the fact that the Celts traded their bench depth to add top end talent. My guess is Brad felt comfortable doing that because he figured Payton Pritchard would at least be able to give him something. How a guy goes from this
to what we're seeing to start the season is insane. There's being bad, and then there's being whatever we're seeing from Pritchard at the moment. I'm not sure it's possible to start off any worse. Considering the other options are Banton or Svi, I don't see how Brad doesn't address this somehow someway moving forward.
But there's also Al as well. He's been brutal offensively to start the year as well. And even though his offense is more the cherry on top of what he gives this team, in a game where he was also getting cooked by Embiid
while also essentially missing every shot he took, the Celts cannot survive with this type of lack of production from their 7-9 guys. It's a long season, and this is how you burn out your stars. This is why Brad traded for Brogdon in 2022. While early, this has now been an issue in basically every game they've played to start the year. It's a glaring concern until proven otherwise.
- I wanted to wait until the final spot because it requires a true deep dive. Of all the issues the Celts had in this game, the performance of Jaylen Brown stands out the most. He was awful. Horrendous. Pathetic. Use whatever word you want. The point is, this was easily his worst performance of the season, and it was a huge reason why the Celts struggled the way they did.
There have been games this year where we've seen Jaylen struggle shooting, but he was still able to make an impact in other areas. The Knicks win comes to mind. Last night, not only was Jaylen unable to make a shot (4-13, 2-7), but he did nothing else. Didn't really rebound (2), didn't really create for others (2 AST), didn't get to the line (2 FTA), and to make matters worse, he fell back into some god awful decisions that only made things worse.
I can survive a poor shooting night from Jaylen. What I can't accept is more poor decision making with plays that he should know by now he CANNOT make. Let's run through them all
Jaylen gets the ball and pushes the tempo. OK, cool. The mistake of course is for no reason he decided to dribble into 4 players. This is something we see a lot when Jaylen's decision making is fucked up. He dribbles into crowds without a plan, then has to improvise which never works out and it turns into a bad turnover. That is exactly what happened on that play. There's no advantage there, just pull it back out and wait for help. Instead, he found himself too deep, Melton went for the steal which forced Jaylen to spin with his left and it wasn't even close. That's not going to help his left hand allegations one bit.
Not even 1 minute later, we once again saw Jaylen drive into traffic without a real plan. This looked very similar to his drives against MIA in the ECF. The Sixers knew to hedge and reach on all his drives, and Jaylen once again struggled with it
Good idea I guess to get Tatum that ball, but poor execution.
As bad as those plays were, nothing compares to his final turnover we saw in the 4th
Again, this is a decision making mistake. Jaylen was being pressured the second he received the inbounds pass. What does he do? Instead of just giving it to a guard, he tries to force things and go coast to coast, dribbling into traffic while being mostly out of control. Give it to Pritchard early, give it to KP once you got close to halfcourt and he was open on the wing. Just do anything other than trying to dribble through an entire defense by yourself.
These are the types of mistakes that Jaylen needs to figure the fuck out. He is not a rookie, he is not a young player. He's an NBA vet at this point, yet sometimes you'd never know it based on his decision making. It has to get better, or at the very least not be a complete disaster like we saw in the second half of this game. It's partly what helped PHI change the momentum. This would be true if Jaylen was making $300M or league minimum. These are losing plays.
So while on one side you could say hey, the Celts lost two close games on the road against two teams, shit happens. That would be true. But the way they are losing these games are in ways that were supposed to be fixed with the roster changes. The two best players getting outperformed by the other team's duos in back to back games down the stretch is a concern. The team struggling against good defenses is a concern. The bench giving nothing is a concern.
It's early, but after passing their first few early season tests, this one was clearly a fail.