NBA history has been filled with incredible teams. There's the 1986 Celts, the Showtime Lakers, MJ's Bulls, the 73-9 Warriors, the list goes on and on. While all those teams were good in their own ways, I feel confident in saying none of them come close to what we see whenever the Hospital Celtics take the floor. When that happens, you are witnessing true greatness. I don't know how they do it, you don't know how they do it, but somehow when the time comes for the Hospital Celtics to put this team and this franchise on their back, that is exactly what they do.
Think about this for a second. One of the biggest storylines to the great Celts start to the season has been how brutal their bench has been. I'm not even talking about the deep bench either, because that has basically never played this season. The entire unit hasn't exactly blown doors to start the year.
Then you have last night, with over 40 points of offense unavailable in a rematch against a Sixers team that Maxey/Embiid/Harris/Melton etc all active. The Celts frontcourt depth was Al Horford and Luke Kornet. Dalano Banton got early first quarter minutes. Svi played 15 minutes after basically not playing all year.
And what did the Hospital Celtics do?
They won. Just like they seem to always do, regardless of opponent. This time it was the 8-2 Sixers on their own floor. Let's face it, with how good the Sixers have started the season, this game should have been a blowout. Embiid playing at an MVP level, Tyrese Maxey I'm being told is basically a 1st Team All NBA guard, Tobias Harris is off to a great start, Nick Nurse has fixed everything etc. Well, that looked like the same old shit to me. This isn't the first time the Hospital Celtics have taken down the Sixers in a game Embiid plays, and I can almost guarantee it won't be the last.
Given the fact that the Celts dropped the first meeting between these two teams while at full strength, this was a massive game. Not just for the immediate swap in seeding, but for the H2H tiebreaker. I think we can all agree that most likely these two teams will be battling each other for seeding all year, so it was imperative that the Celts didn't fall into an early 0-2 H2H hole.
I can only imagine how frustrating this must be for the Sixers and their fans, after once again convincing themselves that this version of the Process was finally different. Maybe it will be over time, but last night was something all too familiar, regardless of what version they threw out there.
Let's talk about it.
- We're starting with Al Horford. I don't care if others may have had better performances, we are starting with Al Horford. When you go on the road at 37 and do what he did last night to Joel Embiid, you get the top spot.
For the Celts to win this game, they were going to need vintage Al. They not only were going to need him to stay on the floor by defending without fouling, they needed his jumper to fall. Again, 40+ points off offense was in street clothes for this game, so someone was going to have to overachieve a little offensively to help close the gap. For a guy that has basically been shooting 28% from three since the start of last year's playoffs, I'm not sure how many expected that shooting to come from Al and yet…
….he finished 5-9 (4-8) with dagger three after dagger three. That's Part 1. Seeing Horford get back to making the open threes we expect him to make was a beautiful sight. Seeing him talk shit and blow kisses to triggered Sixers fans after he buried them (again) was incredible to watch. Watching him do historic shit was intoxicating
But that's only half the story. The bigger reason the Celts won this game was because Al Horford once again, for the billionth time, had Joel Embiid in absolute hell. The entire league has no chance when it comes to guarding Joel Embiid, and Al Horford does it without breaking a sweat at age 37. It's honestly insane
There is simply no debate at this point. Joel Embiid has an Al Horford problem. Fact, not opinion. Horford is doing the same shit against Embiid in 2023 that we saw him do in 2018. This isn't exactly a new development, this is how the matchup has basically always gone, only now Embiid is at the height of his powers/in his NBA prime. Did that matter? Of course not. This is Al Horford we're talking about.
The best part of nights like this have to be the fact that Al's doing it in Philly right in front of that fanbase. Years later they still try and deflect like Al Horford stunk or something as a Sixer as opposed to maybe looking in the mirror. Who can't make Al Horford work? Pretty tough indictment on Embiid if you ask me. He's been awesome everywhere else he's been, and every time he's in Philly you can tell it means more to him to rub it in their faces. For such a reserved guy, it's great to see.
Then you listen to Joe after the game and yeah, lifetime contract
- If I've said it once I've said it a thousand times. Derrick White is a tremendous Celtic. At this point there is not a extension number for him that I would consider too high. It could be 100M, 200M, 300M, I do not give a single fuck. You pay that man every last penny you can because Derrick White has been nothing but sensational since the second he arrived in Boston.
Remember last season when Derrick (with hair) had to go into MIL with the all bench lineup and he went nuts and they almost pulled out the OT win? That was the type of performance the Celts were going to need last night, and what we learned was that Derrick (the bald version) was more than up to the challenge.
For a guy that had been in a little bit of a scoring slump since coming back (32/27%), to see Bald Derrick start the game aggressive and then keep that aggressiveness all night was a thing of beauty. That's mental toughness right there folks. Not letting your previous struggles keep you down on a night where your team needs you. He finished with 27/3/5 on 58/50% splits with 4 3PM, including massive three after massive three in the 4th quarter (14 points). Every time the Celts needed a big momentum bucket before Tatum woke up, it came via Derrick White.
Then you also factor in what he did defensively
and like I said
There are few players more locked in right now than Tyrese Maxey, and he wanted no part of Derrick White. He was a complete nonfactor whenever Derrick took that assignment, something that was much improved compared to the first meeting between these two teams.
- I'll be honest, I did not see the Celts getting off to a 37-22 start in this game. You could make the case that the Hospital Celtics currently own the best quarter of Celtics basketball this season. It was about as close to perfect as you can get with good ball movement, great shot selection, and stifling defense. Holding the Sixers to 32/22% right out of the gate while also taking care of then basketball was the exact start this group needed and I think gave them the confidence that a win was a legitimate possibility.
- If it's OK with you, I'd like to take another little check in on Mazzulla Ball after going up against one of the best defenses in the NBA
OK just what I thought. It still rules. I continue to laugh at all these weird anti-Joe people who complain about how the Celtics play and how he has no idea what he's doing etc. Well shit, if this is what it looks like when Joe has no clue how to coach, imagine what it looks like once he learns? All that crying about 3PA and blah blah blah, I dunno man. I care about the results. And last time I checked, the results look pretty fucking good (again)
- Much like Derrick White and Al Horford, last night was a game where we were going to need to see Jrue turn back the clock to his MIL days when he was comfortable carrying the load while Giannis was out. I thought all things considered, this was easily one of Holiday's best overall games as a Celtic
I loved his approach early in this game, mostly because whenever you're shorthanded like this, efficiency matters. Taking the right shots and finding easy looks is how you set the tone. That is exactly what Holiday did in the first quarter (10 points on 5-8)
It was very clear early on that the Sixers didn't really have the size or strength at that position to prevent Holiday from simply getting into the post and bullying his way to the rim, but I also thought he was great as an off ball cutter for easy buckets. Honestly his night would look even better if he didn't smoke so many bunnies, but overall there are zero complaints about Holiday's performance on either end of the floor
Add in 2 more blocks in the 4th quarter, and when you combine this performance with what we saw from Bald Derrick, I don't know what opposing teams are supposed to do. They are a devastating pairing on both ends, and both guys showing up in a game like this is exactly what the doctor ordered.
- Then of course there is our lord and savior Jayson Tatum. I'd say one of the most tramatic things as a Sixers fan has to be Tatum's Game 6 performance. The way he was dogshit all night only to explode late and rip their hearts out (again) had to be very tough to handle.
So the fact that last night Tatum had essentially the exact same performance as Game 6, again on the Sixers floor, had to give those fans a brutal case of PTSD. He basically sold for 3 quarters and then the next thing you knew Tatum had 29/8/6 with 10 4th quarter points
delivering the final knock out blows to cap off the win. What I loved most about it was the fact that most of his big buckets late didn't come off the usual give the ball to Tatum and let him dribble into a dagger shot. No no, we saw him off ball. We saw him relocate and catch and shoot. We saw him get to the line. Tatum entered the 4th quarter at the 10 minute mark in a 87-82 game, and by the 5 minute mark it was 99-98. From that point on Tatum had all 10 of his points to pull the Celts away.
We've seen Tatum show up late plenty of times, so this shouldn't really be surprising. He's a great clutch time player, regardless of what narrative is out there. The proof is in the pudding. This isn't the first time we've seen Tatum bury the Sixers in their own building, and I can guarantee you it will not be the last.
- Shoutout to the bench unit, seriously. I thought Banton changed the energy of the game with his early minutes, and as infuriating as Luke Kornet can sometimes be, I thought he held his own with his 9/6 on 4-4 shooting in his 19 minutes. Especially when it felt like maybe the Celts were letting things slip, Luke's putbacks are what kept them in it. Even Pritchard was fine in his minutes without really making a difference from deep.
For the Celts deep bench to outscore the Sixers bench 21-19 was not something I expected, but it was a factor in the win.
I will say this though, I need Svi to stop jumping to pass. That shit is a turnover every time he does it. Just go up with the layup/floater! I can't be too mad given he's barely played, but that needs to stop.
- Really impressive that the Celts won the rebounding battle 45-41, and I'm going to thank Jrue Holiday for that. The fact that he already has a handful of 10 rebound games to start the season is NOT something I expected or thought he was capable of considering he never did that shit while he was a Buck. His rebounding is easily the most surprising part of his Celtics career.
- Celts caught a bit of a break that they survived a 3-9 (2-8) Hauser showing. Especially since it took a while for Tatum to show up offensively, they didn't get too much from their wing offense with Jaylen out. A lot of Hausers misses seemed to rim out, and he's been so good these last 5-6 games it's mostly whatever, but he didn't exactly shoot the ball well with a ton of open looks.
Good news is he still held his own defensively, so it wasn't like he had a bunch of empty minutes, I just was shocked he missed so much after being so locked in.
- I'm trying to not be concerned with how easily the Celts give up OREB/2nd chance points, but after last night (10/16) and the Knicks performance, I feel like that's just playing with fire. I feel like Joe needs to fire this thing up so everyone can remember how to box out
- Why does it feel like every time the Celts have a block of any kind, it always still ends up in points for the opponent? I've never seen anything like it. I feel like with every other NBA team if someone blocks a shot, it starts a break the other way. The Celtics? They block a shot and it goes perfectly to the other team for a bucket or a foul time and time again. I dunno if this is tracked, bu I guarantee the Celts lead the league in it.
One second you're pumped about a great defensive play, the next you look at the scoreboard and it still resulted in points. Very frustrating.
- Boy was that 2nd quarter gross. As awesome as the first quarter was, that's how poor the 2nd looked. To blow a 17 point lead all because you throw up a 36-20 quarter is very embarrassing. Offensively they couldn't make shit and turned it over 6 times, defensively they allowed 70/62% shooting, and this is with Embiid only scoring 2 points. You should never blow a 17 point lead and be trailing at the half when the Sixers get virtually nothing from Embiid to start a game.
Losing non Embiid minutes with Tatum on the floor in that 2nd quarter was despicable. They were a team worst -16 with him on the floor in that quarter! How does that even happen?
In the end, the Hospital Celtics did what they had to do and walked out of that arena with a much needed win. What a great way to kick off this 4 game road trip, and now it's time to keep things rolling against TOR. My guess is they'll be pretty motivated for that game given what happened the last time these two teams played, so I would like to see the Celts continue to take steps forward and not regress. Your road trip doesn't end with a win in Philly. Keep this train moving and let's build some separation in the standings, because you know teams like PHI/MIL/etc will be at their heels all year long.