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The Celtics Reminded Us There's Nothing Like Finding The Perfect Slump Buster To Help Boost Your Confidence

Brian Babineau. Getty Images.

I know the NBA wanted me to care about the Celts game last night because it was their first In Season Tournament game. I get that. Unfortunately for them, I did not give a shit about that last night, and I say that as someone who thinks the tournament is a perfectly fine idea. Don't mind it at all. But that is not what last night was to me. In fact, I didn't think about it at any point of the day or at any moment of the game.

I cared about last night's Celtics game because I needed them to stop the bleeding. Dropping their last two games, I needed last night to be a get right type of performance. Not because of what it meant for their standings in group play of the tournament, but what it meant for the actual season. The thing we all collectively give a shit about. Now I understand that I'm probably not the demo for the tournament considering I not only watch, but I think every dribble from Summer League in July to the final dribble in the Spring is important. You don't have to convince me to watch random November NBA basketball, that is literally how I survive. I'm already on board. So is it cool the Celts won their first tournament game? Sure? Awesome? I dunno, I care more about how it stopped the bleeding and got their overall record to 6-2. I don't really care about being 1-0 in the IST. 

After already beating the shorthanded Nets 124-114 a week ago, the Celtics beating another shorthanded Nets team 121-107 feels pretty familiar. It's just a tough matchup for the Nets given their lack of size, and if you take away Cam Thomas who is their primary bucket getter this season, you knew it was going to be tough for the Nets to score outside of getting hot from three. Defensively, they're too small for this matchup, even with the Celtics being without Al Horford. This was the perfect slump buster to help them regain their confidence.

So to me, last night really wasn't about who they beat. They just needed to beat someone. This was about the Celts A) Not letting things snowball B) Winning at home C) Guys breaking out of their slumps. Do that and I'm happy.

Good news is, that's exactly what happened.

The Good

- One of the longest standing bylaws of this blog has always been that I do not care who you are, if you are a member of the Boston Celtics and you do something in a game that puts you in a sentence with Larry fucking Bird, you get the top spot and kick us off. Normally, that would mean we're about to enjoy some Jayson Tatum goodness. Today that means we begin with Jrue Holiday.

Yes, that's right. Jrue Holiday was on his Larry Bird shit last night

Let's be very clear about something. This was a fantastic Jrue performance. Not one part of me cares that he was 6-14 (1-5). Why would I? If you finish with 12 rebounds, 9 assists, 2 steals and don't turn it over a single time and are a +26, I do not give a fuuuuuuuuck what you shoot from the floor. Never have never will. If you're also complete clamps on the defensive end

I'm definitely not going to give a shit.

There really wasn't a part of Holiday's game last night that I didn't like. I loved his shot selection, I loved his decision making, I loved his aggressiveness on the glass, I loved how he moved the ball even if I still think he may overpass at times instead of just taking point blank layups, but that's hardly a complaint. It wasn't a night where they needed his scoring, so he filled the gaps everywhere else. Took what the defense gave him, made an elite impact in other areas, and dominated in his minutes. That's the type of impact I think we should be able to expect from Holiday, while also understanding that there are going to be moments where he plays braindead basketball. He's not alone there, but as long as he keeps it to a minimum the upside is crazy. 

That's why I don't think it's really fair to compare how well Jrue fits so far compared to how seamlessly it feels like Porzingis fits. Point guard is a completely different ballgame. We have to allow Holiday time to build chemistry and learn the tendencies of how his new teammates like to play/get the ball/how they see the court. From all his time in MIL and then all the current Celts time with the previous guy, there's a lot of basketball chemistry to still be built. So to get a performance like that this early is pretty encouraging.

- Few players on the roster needed a bounce back game more than Jaylen Brown. Coming off his disastrous performance against the Sixers which if you were to be honest about that game was probably the largest contributing factor to the loss, Jaylen was certainly playing under a decent amount of pressure. When your team has dropped a couple in a row, I believe it's on the best players to say enough is enough and stop things right there. 

This is what that looks like

It's crazy what First Quarter Jaylen transforms into. On the season, Jaylen's averaging 7.1 points shooting 50% from the floor in first quarters. At home, it's 7.7 on 50/50% shooting. This isn't exactly new, as Jaylen was at 7.4 points and 49.5% last year, 7.4 on 52.6/43% in 2021, and 7.1 on 48.9/44% in 2020. He's one of the best early game options on the team, and last night was exactly what that looks like.

12 points on 4-8 (2-3), you could feel Jaylen exhaling when that transition 3PA dropped early. It's like his spirit was instantly lifted, and with that the floodgates opened. What made his start so impactful wasn't just his scoring, even if that was what got the Celts their initial separation. It was how he was passing and moving the ball in addition to the scoring. 4 assists and 0 turnovers in a quarter? I'll take that.

When the game called for him to be aggressive and finish through contact, he did. When there were moments where Jaylen had to show patience and let plays develop before attacking, he did. 

28/3/5 on 10-19 (5-9) in his 29 minutes, we were close to what I would call a near perfect Jaylen game. The only issue was the end of the 3rd quarter when he was with the bench and he couldn't stop turning it over under 2 minutes. That was bad. But everything else? A nice slump buster for Jaylen.

- If you want to talk slump buster performances, the only other Celtics who needed one of those more than Jaylen was Payton Pritchard, and his was just as awesome

Here's the thing about Payton's season. The only thing that's really been a disaster was his shooting. He's playing good defense, getting into the airspace of his man, and having good ball pressure. His rebounding is not only been noticeable, but it's been impactful, and even his playmaking is off to the best start of his career. Averaging 3.1 rebounds and 3.6 assists in just 20 minutes isn't too shabby, but the issue was Pritchard's role also requires him to make his open looks. He can't be shooting 29/18% from the floor and be effective in his role. 

So to see his jumper start falling at home was great. The work he did through the effort plays are what helped get him going, which is exactly what he talked about after the game

That's a great mindset to have, especially for this team and this city. Last night was probably the first time all season that it felt like we got the Payton Pritchard that most of us remember, and it wasn't even a game where he went nuts from three. He just looked like a real NBA player is all. That hasn't always been the case this season, but if this is closer to the version of Pritchard we can expect to see, it changes how the bench looks.

- Someone who has already done is part to change that bench production is of course Sam Hauser. We are currently witnessing why you always trust a lifetime 40% three point shooter. Sam Hauser doesn't know how to not shoot 40% In fact, putting it at 40% isn't even doing him justice considering he's a career 42% three point shooter at the NBA level. After his brutal start, Hauser is now at 42.6% from three on the highest volume of his career (5.9 3PA). 

Yeah, he's back

The fact that Hauser isn't even touching the net on his jumpers isn't surprising. What I continue to be impressed with is how legit Hauser continues to be on the defensive end. That's the thing that makes him playable, not just the shooting. He's not going to make an All NBA team, but he more than holds his own defensively. He does a great job staying in front and contesting, and what's funny is that players continue to look at Hauser and think he's BBQ chicken, only to get forced into taking a low percentage shot with a hand in their face. 

While I love seeing Hauser's 3 come back, it's the improvement defensively that is most noticeable to me.

- How many times are we going to get this long in the blog before we get to Jayson Tatum? Make no mistake, Tatum was also very good in this game

The Celts aren't going to win too many games when Jayson Tatum has one scoreless quarter let alone two scoreless quarters, but that's what we got last night. It wasn't like Tatum couldn't buy a bucket and that's why he wasn't scoring, he just wasn't shooting. He didn't even really touch the ball in the first quarter, which felt weird but also if the team is rolling and doesn't need to rely on Tatum, I say embrace those moments.

Once it came time for Tatum to assert himself in the 4th quarter he did (10 points), and I'll take a night where Tatum only had to play 33 minutes, especially with a B2B tonight. He still made an impact on the glass and was solid defensively, and by the end of the game he was 2nd in FGA with 17 (Brown had 19) not to mention he was a team best +28. He was making an impact everywhere, even without scoring.

- Quick check on Mazzulla ball for those who observe

Nice to see the Celts get back to it after their last two games. Back to making their 3s, back to moving the ball, the turnovers were low and they once again hit their magic number of 120. This now makes them 45-4 over the last season + 8 games (including playoffs) when they hit that number. Given how Mazzulla wants them to play, my guess is we're going to have a whole lot more 120+'s to come. 

- Only 4 FGA for Kristaps Porzingis and yet I loved everything about how he played. That number seems low but he also had 5 FTA that came from exploiting the switch/size issue, and then defensively I thought KP was tremendous. Not just at the rim, but in space as well

This is just how things are going to go sometimes when everyone seems to be eating. Honestly, considering he just had his own offensive explosion against PHI, I doubt Porzingis gives a shit. Why would he? He's playing in basketball heaven. Some nights he'll get a ton of shots, some night's he'll get 4. That's mostly how the game was flowing. It didn't feel like they were icing him out or anything, and he only played 24 minutes. 

Every time he's on the floor it feels like cheating. That's really the only way I can explain how I feel. It doesn't feel fair to have that type of two way skillset in a player that's also 7'3. The KP Experience has been 10/10 with no notes to start the season, and that might even be low.

- We have to give a shoutout to Luke Kornet. With Al out due to being a billion years old, Kornet needed to have a passable performance. What we got was much better than that. He's such a bizarre player when you really think about it. Thankfully he was able to outrebound 6'9 guys (9 REB) which certainly is never a guarantee, but he was also good around the rim, I liked how he moved the ball, defensively he was fine, just a really solid 17 minutes on a night where the Celts needed him to give a solid 17 minutes.

- 29-5 2nd chance points was a little insane, but that's what size does. 

The Bad

- I'm still not totally in love with how the Celts are defending the three point line this season. They're 19th in opponent 3PM, and given that they had just played the Nets and knew what their approach was going to be, it was annoying to see them give up another 15 3PM on 40% shooting. The Celts are also 26th in opponent 3PA, and to me that's playing with fire. You give up so many threes and open threes, teams are eventually going to have big nights against you. 

Just for reference, last season the Celts were 6th in opponent 3PM, and 9th during the Finals run.

- I still can't believe Joe robbed Pritchard of that transition 3PA by calling a timeout. You never call timeouts Joe! You didn't even need to considering Pritchard was probably going to make the shot! What a weird moment that was. At first I thought it may have been because someone was hurt or something, but then everyone came out of the timeout like normal.

Year 2 Joe keeping us on our feet I guess. Still a brutal timeout though.

- It's a little astonishing what a lack of buckets Oshae Brissett has. I mean this man cannot throw a pea in the ocean to start the season. Really we saw this in the preseason, but it's been even worse in the real thing. What makes that annoying is I love absolutely everything else about him. I love his energy, I love his OREB chaos, but Jesus Christ this guy has to find a way to score in other ways than just a putback layup. His 3s haven't been close, he missed a couple FTs last night, there's just a severe lack of buckets to his game. 

- Not the best Derrick shooting performance (4-10, 2-5), but that's really my only complaint for him. He was solid on the glass, moving the ball, and defensively, he just couldn't buy a bucket. He's still on a pass for me given his newborn, but let's not make a habit of shooting 30-40% from the floor.

The Ugly

- Let's talk about the court for a second. I didn't want to put this in the Ugly section, but I'm afraid Adam Silver has let me no choice. I actually think the court didn't even look that bad last night. Yeah it was really fucking weird and my brain only kept wishing it was watching the real floor, but it looked fine. Not awesome, not terrible, fine.

So why are they here? Because Adam Silver is a moron

What a complete slap in the face of the most iconic franchise of your entire league Adam Silver you baffoon. Be more disrespectful, you can't. Hey dickhead, not all NBA courts are created equal. Nobody gives a shit if you change the court in 29 other arenas, but in Boston things are different. To deny the team to have any parquet incorporated for these courts but then also allow this to happen in your league

is despicable behavior. You should be ashamed of yourself. When we first saw the court, having parquet in the middle was the only thing I wish they did. Then we learn the team tried and Silver said no? Get bent dude. 

Now that the Celts have stopped the bleeding, the next step is to start to build momentum. You can do that by backing up last night's win with a win tonight over the Raptors. Now is not the time to take a step back. Take care of the games you're supposed to, stack wins and let's keep this thing moving.