After the Celts pulled out another win over the Raptors the other day, I talked about how it was a great sign that even on nights when the Celts mostly play like shit, they still found a way to win. It's not surprising when the Celts beat teams while playing well, that's both the expectation and what happens in the NBA. Usually, when a talented team plays well, they win.
But the mark of a true contender is can you still stack wins when everything looks like it should be a loss? When you don't just play like shit, but you have the worst showing to date of your season. What happens then? I thought Joe said it perfectly postgame
The only thing you should truly feel good about after last night's 102-100 win is the fact that the Celts won it. That's it. Overall, this was nowhere close to the level of play (and really the last 2 games) that I would deem "good" or "acceptable" for this team. Sure it says 2-0 after these last two games, but the Celts most definitely have not played to their potential. I could make the case that had it not been against TOR and MEM, these last two performances are most likely losses. So while they sit at an NBA best 11-2 at the moment, I'm going to need things to look a whole lot better than what we saw last night. Given that the roster was also at full strength, there's really no excuse for it.
And hey, it's a long 82 game season. Off nights are going to happen to every team in the league. Hell, just look at what's going on with the defending champs right now. And it is a good thing that even on their dogshit nights, the Celts are still finding ways to win. But let's call it like it is. If Santi Aldama hit that 3 in the closing seconds, we're having a much different discussion right now.
The good news is the Celts secured an at worst 3-1 road trip and have a chance to make it a perfect 4-0 tonight against the Hornets. That's big time stuff. This is still the NBA where the other team gets paid to play too, and capping off any type of road trip 4-0 would be very impressive.
As long as they avoid the shit we saw last night, the Celts should be fine.
Let's talk about it.
- I think most people had high hopes for Kristaps Porzingis after the trade. He was healthy, the talent around him, his skillset, it seemed like a match made in heaven on paper. Well, through 13 games I can say confidently that the Kristaps Porzingis Experience has been about a billion times better than any one of us could have hoped. I don't really know how else to say it. We're watching an All NBA two way type of season from this guy
Here's what I know. If you get Porzingis at least 10 FGA, he's finishing the game with at least 20 points. He's off to a career best (and it's not even close) 56% from the floor to start this season. Not only that, but while his 36% from deep on the season looks good, if you've watched him play you know this dominance is coming all without making 3s. During the Celts 6 game winning streak, Porzingis is shooting just 28% from deep. Over his last 9 games, that number is 31%.
The good news is Porzingis is so skilled and such a giant, he's instead adjusted his game to just abusing switches and shooting right over his defender with ease. As we know, there are two areas where KP has been completely unstoppable so far, and that's in Post Ups and as a P&R Roll man
If I were to look at Porzingis' shot chart from last night, a game in which he finished with 16/8 on 9-1134 shooting, what do you think I'd see? Probably a guy who feasted inside right? Correct
Again I'll ask you, when was the last time the Celts ever got this type of production offensively from their center? This is cheat code basketball, even against a team that has the reigning DPOY. Whenever Porzingis found himself switched onto a smaller player like Desmond Bane, he immediately turned it into points (4-4). I LOVED his court awareness late in the 4th quarter when Tatum was operating into the post and he smartly cut off ball to the rim for an easy find and dunk. I don't think I've seen a Celtic player do that once in the last 3 years when Tatum is operating out of the post let alone their fucking starting center. But that's the beauty of Porzingis. It's not just his skillet that's amazing, it's how he sees the floor. He has a great sense of spacing and when and where to move without the ball, which might be the #1 thing the Celtics offense has needed.
Then of course there's the defensive end. I'm sorry, but when you do something on the floor that puts you in this type of company
it's a big deal. The game sealing block was huge. but it certainly wasn't his only massive rejection. How about the one on Aldama in a 1 point game with 2:25 left? The one where he got beat initially on a pump fake but didn't give up on the play and blocked the layup from behind? That was a MASSIVE defensive play. KP could have just landed after the pump fake and let Jaylen worry about the defense, but he remained engaged in the play and it sparked a huge stop. What else could you want from the guy?
I know it gets repetitive after every game, but every time I see Porzingis on the floor I can't really believe he's real. This is what the missing piece looks like. The fact that it already fits THIS well THIS soon is almost beyond comprehension. It was as if these two were destined to make sweet basketball magic together or something. It's beautiful, and it's only going to get better. Think about that.
- I'm just going to say it. You can try and debate it if you want, but you'd be wrong. I don't want to hear shit about sample size or any of that other bullshit because the sample size is large enough.
Sam Hauser is just flat out good. I'm talking on both ends of the floor. Whether you choose to accept that or not is your own problem, but I don't know how you could watch this
and disagree. His little 3 game skid to start the season feels like another lifetime ago. Since Game 4 of the season, Sam Hauser is currently shooting 53.8% from deep on 6.5 3PA a game. That percentage at that volume is shit that Steph Curry wishes he could do. Hauser has had 8 straight games of at least 3 3PM a game! You combine that with not just passable defense, but good defense, and I think we're seeing why Brad ultimately decided to not give Grant all that money.
He had Grant at home, a guy who is a better shooter, just as good a defender, and all for the price of $2M.
If it feels like the bench has started to actually be productive and live in the 25-30 point range which is really all they need to do, look nol further than Sam Hauser being a huge reason why. Over these last 10 games he's averaging 11.9 points a night and has been in double figures in 8 of the 10 games. Not only is that production important, but the consistency is what is going to matter most moving forward. We're seeing why you should never, ever, ever, ever worry about Sam Hauser's shooting. I don't care if he gets into a skid, the man was put on this earth to shoot a basketball.
- As bad as the Celts may have been offensively, they're going to win a lot of basketball games holding an opponent to 100 points on 38% shooting. Obviously you have to basically throw any game against MEM out the window when talking about how your defense stacks up given all the talent that's out with injury, but as they say defense travels and I'll never thumb my nose up on never giving up a 30 point quarter and holding an opponent to under 40% shooting.
Your Boston Celtics now own the #1 ranked defense in the NBA (106.5), which shouldn't really come as a surprise given they've been in the top 2 for years now. Shooting performances and scoring can come and go, but the fact that this team has been able to fall back on their defense at all times to start the season is something I think we all wanted to see. Almost as if a year plus an actual training camp has done wonders for guys to pick up Joe's system.
- Good to see the Celts pull out yet another clutch time win. This win now brings them to 5-2 on the season in clutch games, with the 6th best clutch time offense (122.4), 1st clutch time defense (87.3) and the 2nd best clutch time net rating (+35.1).
If the regular season is about getting reps in tough spots, the way the Celts have handled their end of game play in close games has been more than good enough. Not perfect, but a level that is not only sustainable, but exactly how they need to play.
- Honestly, that's about it for this section. Let's move onto the meat of this game.
- Is it possible to put every starter not named KP in this spot? I thought about excluding Tatum as well, but when he has more TOs (8) than FGM (7), I can't try and pretend like Tatum was good in this game. He is held to a higher standard than that in my opinion.
But he certainly wasn't alone. Jaylen? A pretty brutal 5-16 (1-7), Jrue played maybe his worst game as a Celtic even outside of his 2-7. Derrick had a weird game in that it felt like he couldn't make a quick decision to save his life, especially in transition which is weird because I consider that one of his greatest skills. Outside of Porzingis' +4, no starter was better than a +1. Against a depleted MEM team…..that's not great.
It's also not great when the head coach has to send a message to his stars in the 3rd quarter by essentially benching them for not playing hard enough. Credit Joe for holding his players accountable, because it did feel like the same old "we can just show up and beat MEM" issues that have gotten this team burned before.
- I know we probably just have to accept it by now, but the manner in which the Celts continue to allow teams to feast on the offensive glass remains a concern of mine. Another 14 OREB for MEM last night, that let to a 21-12 2nd chance points difference. Shit like that is how you let bad teams hang around, which is essentially exactly what happened. Good defense doesn't mean shit if you aren't finishing the possession cleanly with a DREB. Not only that, but I am convinced it is a guaranteed 3PM every time we saw the Celts give up an OREB. There's just something about the Basketball Gods sending you a message that you can bank on the opponent hitting a big time 3PM after a key late OREB. The Celts have been giving these up for years and it continues to annoy the shit out of me. Just box out and be aggressive to the ball!
- Once again, the "olds" of the world have spent time already this season crying about "the Celtics take too many 3s". You'd think we were in 1995 or something the way some still obsess over it.
Well, my hope after last night is these people now see the light. Hopefully, now they see how important the basketball math is, but if not, I can break it down.
The Celtics shot 45/38% from the floor, they won the points in the paint battle 42-32. They won the FTA battle 25-10. On 2pt FGA, they finished the game shooting 51%. So how the hell was one of the worst teams in the league a missed 3PA away from beating them?
Simple. Well, simple if you actually listen to Joe when he talks about this shit instead of trying to suggest you know more than him. The answer is basketball math. The Grizzlies were able to have a shot to win this game because of what they did behind the line. When one side dominates inside and on 2pt FG but the other team shoots 13 more 3PA and makes 5 more, that is how they stay in the game and hang around. It's no different from early in the MIA series when the Celts had like 60+ points in the paint and still lost, because they didn't stay attached from behind the arc.
Nobody is arguing the Celts don't need a diversified offense. Of course they do! They need to be able to score in a wide variety of ways. That's why they got KP. But last night is what things look like when this team doesn't play Mazzulla Ball. When they aren't taking 3s and end up trading 2s for 3s, they find themselves in games like this. The offense looks gross (just 20 AST), and in 2023 you simply have to shoot 3s.
The 31 3PA were the lowest of the Celts season. Tatum taking just 1 3PA is a big time issue. Is it a coincidence that they had this type of game on a night where they played Gary Washburn's preferred style? A diversified offense is important, and something the Celts had been doing up to last night. Yes, they took a ton of 3s, but they are also top 3 in Post frequency. Instead, people want to ignore that and just focus on the 3PA number. I now hope they see why it's important that the number not be 31.
- Everything about the final sequence is everything we love and hate about Celtics basketball
I mean Jrue, what's going on here my friend. Where is the smart end of game decision making? You literally do not have to shoot the ball there. The Grizzlies need to foul you. If you ARE going to take the layup, you have to make it. Period. What a roller coaster of a 4th quarter Holiday had in this win, but again if Aldama hits that 3PA, we're having a much different discussion today.
Why can't this team ever make things easy? Even on the final possession, they give us a goddamn heart attack. Every other team in the NBA just holds the ball and waits to be fouled, but not our beloved Celtics. Why do that when you can do the exact opposite and nearly cost yourself a win? On one hand, I love them for staying true to who they are but on the other hand, cut this shit out.
- Not a great call my Joe/his staff to challenge a play with 8 minutes to go in the 1st quarter. I dunno what they saw, but that was a tough challenge to lose. Given how bad the officiating was throughout the rest of the game, it would have been nice to have that in your back pocket. Joe and the team has been so good at challenges this year it was bound to happen, but that first quarter challenge wasn't the best decision I've ever seen this team make.
- You know the rule, we skip this section after 5 wins in a row and don't come back until they lose again.
At the end of the day, a win is a win is a win. Beautiful, ugly, lucky, they all count the same. I sure would prefer if they are able to give their top 6 an early night tonight against a CHA team that they have a pretty long history of blowing out, but if we see the same type of offensive approach as last night you're simply asking for another grind it out close game. Stay focused and play hard and a perfect road trip is feasible with al the momentum in the world behind you heading into the first showdown with MIL on 11/22. Don't take a step backwards please.