Of all the teams the Celtics play during the year, there's just something about their games against the Knicks that feels different. Maybe part of it is the fact that these two teams play mostly close games against each other, and I know last night turned into a bit of a blowout but that certainly was not the case for the first three quarters. In fact, 6 of their last 10 meetings have been decided by 7 points or less, including 2 2OTs and 1 regular OT. So not only can you kind of bank on getting a good game whenever these two teams play, but I also love what the Knicks force the Celtics to do once the games start.
They force the Celtics to not play like a bunch of bitches. You have to be tough when you play the Knicks. You have to perform under pressure and maintain your physicality for 48 minutes. I like teams that bring that physicality out of the Celtics and force them to play with it or else they have no problem blowing you out. The Knicks are not really a team the Celts can just show up against and have an easy win without breaking a sweat. That Thibs defense is always going to be a good test, and it feels like every win recently against this team is one you would say the Celts had to work for.
I believe Kevin Garnett once said it best
That's what games against the Knicks feel like, even with them not having RJ Barrett. These games are always tough, so it's great to see the Celts handle their business in both meetings to start the year. Not only that but after dropping those two on the road to MIN/PHI, the Celts immediately responded with a perfect 3 game homestand. That's the type of bounce back I think we were all hoping to see.
You also never want to lose your getaway game. With the Celts now about to start a 4 game road trip that begins tomorrow in Philly, you want all the momentum in the world heading into that trip. Admit it, had the Celts dropped that game last night it would have changed things a little bit. But now they enter the big rematch with the Sixers feeling good, and I think that stuff matters. Winning the games you're supposed to win is all part of building the resume of a contender.
With that said, let us begin
- I think there are times when we as fans sort of take Jayson Tatum for granted. We're so used to seeing him do insane shit on a nightly basis that you can sometimes lose perspective of what a truly special talent he is. You have to constantly remind yourself that what we are watching with him is not normal.
A few things have stood out to me about Tatum's start to the season. Most important of course is his consistency. If Tatum was going to take that leap into being a legit MVP guy/top 5 player etc, he had to address his consistency issue. Players that reach that level don't just put up big numbers, they do it every single night. When was the last time you ever wondered if Jokic was going to show up? Never. For years, especially at the start of the season, we all wanted to see Tatum take that ever important step toward being a more consistent player. To me, this is what that looks like
28 a game while taking less than 20 FGA a night on 52/39% splits, this is easily the best Tatum has ever looked to start a season. You know who else is doing that?
That's it. It's almost as if we're getting March Tatum in October/November. What a welcomed sight that is.
Last night was also our look at what this new version of Tatum looks like once you piss him off, and that player might be the most unstoppable force in the league. What Tatum did to the Knicks after he got that weak ass tech was the stuff of legends, and I love that he basically leaned into it postgame. He admitted that tech made him mad and once he was mad it was curtains for everyone
What's crazy is it felt like Tatum was settling for the most part through 3 quarters, not really being aggressive and relying mostly on threes and creating for others. Then in a blink of an eye, he flips a switch and ends the game with 35. He scored or assisted on just as many points in the 4th quarter as the entire Knicks team. That is insane.
When I say we sort of take Tatum for granted, did anyone even realize last night was the highest scoring performance of Tatum's season? It just felt normal right? That my friends, is a luxury.
- I don't care if it was Joe's idea, Cassell's idea, Charles Lee's idea, or even Wyc's idea. I LOVE how much the Celts are pressuring the ball full court this season. I can't ever remember a Celts team pressing this much, and I hope they never stop. How many times did we see the Knicks start their offensive possession with 10-12 seconds on the shot clock? All you have to do is stop one action and then the offense is put in a tough spot with the shot clock winding down that either ends in a low percentage shot or a violation. I'm not sure if the league tracks shot clock violations, but I would bet my life the Celts are near the top of the league with it.
Who knows, the more they do it maybe teams get the tape on it and it's no longer a weapon, but until then I think it's a big reason why the Celts defense is off to such a good start (3rd in NBA). We hear Joe talk all the time about ball pressure and making the defense feel you, well that's exactly what happens when you guard 94 feet. This is something from the preseason that I'm happy has translated into the real thing.
- I want to say this as clearly as I possibly could. Kristaps Porzingis is changing my life. I don't know how else to say it. Whatever you may have hoped the fit would look like, it's better. Whatever production you thought Porzingis would have in this system, it's better. Whatever you thought his two impact might be this season, it's better.
21/6/3 with a block on 7-11 (3-6) in his 33 minutes, we're at the point now where if you let KP take at least 10 shots, he's giving you 20+. His range is ridiculous. He's not just taking shots right behind the line, he's shooting from Worcester. I'm at the point with KP where he's now entered the Ray Allen/Sam Hauser zone where every time he shoots the ball from deep my brain just assumes it's going in.
The connection he's already formed with Jaylen might be the best part of this acquisition. He has Jaylen doing things we only dreamed he would one day consistently do, and then you also hear shit like this
and it's impossible to not me over the moon. What we're seeing is complete buy in from Porzingis on both ends of the floor, because even he knows what the deal is. This team is a contender, and they become even more unstoppable when Porzingis embraces his role like this. Some nights he'll be featured a ton, other nights maybe not so much, and then last night where it's probably just right (and maybe even a little underused). The man hasn't stopped smiling since he arrived in Boston and you can see that in his game.
- Quickly, let's have a little check in on Mazzulla Ball
Yup, still rules. Another instance where the ball moved, the Celts made their open 3s, and they locked in defensively. This is why I always laugh when people STILL think Joe isn't the guy. It's almost as if they are stuck in their ways and just cannot accept what is right in front of their face. Is Joe perfect? Hell no. Does he screw up? Absolutely! But Mazzulla Ball clearly works when the players do it. The sample size is big enough.
- If we're going to talk about how the Celts seemed to bounce back well after their loss to PHI, we should also mention that a big part of that is the fact that Jaylen himself as bounced back well
More and more we're seeing Jaylen start to put together complete performances. It's not just about him scoring and then doing nothing else, which is exactly what he needs to do. A nice little 22/5/6 last night, this was now the 5th game of Jaylen's season where he had over 4 AST. He's had at least 5 AST in 2 of his last 3 games. Is that not the exact type of passing production everyone wanted to see this season? He's never going to be a Tatum level passer, but he had to give the team something in that department given his usage, and now that Brad gave Jaylen KP to work with it's no surprise his passing has gone way up.
Since the Sixers disasterclass, Jaylen is averaging 26/4/4 on 50/38% splits with under 3.0 TOs a game. I'll take that. In this win, Jaylen's impact was more than just offense, he more than held his own on the other end as well
This isn't to say Jaylen will never make a mistake or a bad read or fall asleep on defense. He's human. No NBA player is perfect. But we're seeing Jaylen get back to the version we know he's capable of, and that guy is a pretty devastating basketball player.
- Any time as a team you put up 50/44/93% against a Thibs defense, that's ending up in this section.
- Not only that, the Celts matched the Knick on the glass (37 rebounds), won the points in the paint 34-18, won the 2nd chance points battle 15-14, and won the fastbreak points battle 9-5. You check that many boxes in a game, chances are it's a win.
- Let us all take a moment and appreciate what Sam Hauser is doing from behind the arc this season
Last night was no different with another 4-6 from deep off the bench in his 21 minutes. Whatever the hell was going on in those first 3 games, I think we can officially say that shit is in the rearview mirror.
The thing is, we already knew Hauser could shoot. The most impressive start to his season is the work Hauser is doing defensively. Even if Joe doesn't want to say why
I'll tell you why. It's because NBA players think because Hauser is white, that he's slow and cannot defend. It's why he's able to bait them into taking low percentage iso looks, and the proof is in the pudding.
So far to start the season, Sam Hauser ranked in the 72nd percentile in isolation defense, allowing just 0.70 ppp and 33% shooting. Players only have a 40% scoring frequency when attacking Hauser in isolation. He is putting virtually everyone who tries it in jail, and it happens every night.
You add 50% shooting from deep on good volume with not just passable defense but good defense, and then you remember Brad is getting this for under $2M a year….I mean what else is there to say?
- It's not that complicated. When the Celts take care of the ball (11 TOs), they win. Seems simple enough, yet ya know, sometimes they forget that simple fact.
- I really liked how Jrue clawed out of his rather bizarre first half performance. He wasn't aggressive, he was overpassing, he couldn't buy a bucket, and defensively he wasn't really shutting down any Knicks perimeter player.
But the second half? Way better. 11 of his 14 points on 4-4 shooting, including a couple of big 3s to kill any sort of Knicks run late. That was important considering Jaylen's offense disappeared a bit (1-8), and that's the beauty of this team's depth. When they needed Holiday to step up and actually remember he's pretty good, he delivered.
- This had to be the first time Immanuel Quickley (1-10) didn't completely destroy the Celts in his minutes. Maybe I just have PTSD from him, but it always seems like he never misses whenever these teams play. I appreciate the off night.
- It's definitely not panic time, but the Celts are going to need Derrick to snap out of this little mini offensive slump. Since coming back, DWhite is shooting just 32/27% over his last 4 games. He of course does everything else in terms of defense, playmaking etc, but his offense is an important piece of the Celtics puzzle. I can't sit here and tell you 32/27% is good, but I also have no doubt it's just a little valley at the moment. He's too good to struggle like this for long, and a lot of his misses feel like they are in & out rimouts as opposed to shots that don't even look anywhere close.
What I don't want to happen is White stops being aggressive because of this slump. Fuck that. Shoot more. Makes and misses will come and go, but the approach needs to stay the same. Trust in the work, trust in your skill, and everyone on the team knows that they are at their best when White remains aggressive.
- As much as we all love the Tatum +/- and on/off numbers, I'd be lying if I said I wasn't at least a little concerned. The Celts have way too much talent to basically be Jayson Tatum merchants. The second he steps off the floor they cannot become the worst team in basketball. This is especially true when we see multiple starters on the floor during those minutes. Sure it may help Tatum's MVP case that he's so impactful, but the Celts have to figure out how to survive non Tatum minutes, which feels weird to say given the talent on the roster.
- The nerve of Adam Silver to join the Celts broadcast after denying their request to add the parquet to the tournament court. I'm surprised Wyc hasn't banned him for life. What an asshole.
- Why does it seem like whenever these teams play we have to live through insane Knicks prayer heaves? Isaiah Hartenstein's end of shot clock buzzer beater 3PM, Jalen Brunson's end of 3rd quarter contested heave, Josh Hart's play off Holiday that turned into a 3PM. What is it?
Not only that, but I always feel like we see a rebound get deflected out of bounds and always be the other teams ball more against the Knicks than anyone else. It's like every 50/50 play goes their way which is why these games always feel so close. Very weird.
- As awesome as Tatum was in this game, I didn't exactly love his off ball defense. Way too many times did we see him leave his assignment in Quentin Grimes only to be slow recovering and then Grimes knocking down an open 3. That was basically what kept the Knicks close, and my guess is Tatum won't love the film on it today.
- I also didn't love how much Jaylen forced things in transition, only to end up with empty possessions. There was that missed read where all he had to do was kick it to the corner for an open 3PA, instead choosing an out-of-control layup that missed, things like that. These are simple things you can correct in a film session, but mostly I just want Jaylen to remember that he doesn't have to make the game harder on himself. It's OK to make the simple play.
- For as long as these two teams exist, defensive rebounding will always be a problem. Every Knicks game feels the same if we're being honest. The Knicks don't really shoot well, but due to an insane amount og OREB and 2nd chance points they are able to hang around. Then you get a stretch where theirs 3s start to drop and you find yourself in a rock fight.
I know the Knicks are an elite OREB team, but guess what? The Celts are at the top of the league in defensive rebounding. So why does it feel like they become allergic to rebounding whenever these teams play? Eventually they figured it out down the stretch, but that entire first half was nothing but Knicks OREB/2nd chance points. It's very annoying. Just box out!
We now turn the page to tomorrow night in Philly. A pretty big game if you ask me, mostly because it sure seems like the teams are going to be pretty close to each other all year. If that's going to be the case, H2H records matter. You don't want to fall too far behind in that tie breaker, and given the fact that you played like shit the last time these two teams played, I'd like to see a big bounce back performance to kick off the road trip.