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The Celtics Should Be Both Ashamed And Embarrassed For The Way They Choked Away A Win Against One Of The Worst Teams In The NBA

David Jensen. Getty Images.

After the Celts beat the Knicks on November 13th before starting their first 4 game road trip of the season, I think if you asked most fans what they expected or would deem a "good" trip, you'd get a lot of 4-0 or 3-1 answers. When you have 4 games over a 6 day stretch, I feel as if that's a pretty good baseline expectation for a team with this much talent. 

So now that the Celts return from their trip 3-1, everything's good right? 

Eh, sort of.

Big picture, yeah things are good. At 11-3, the Celts still own the best record in the NBA. Going 3-1 on a road trip with wins over PHI while missing two starters was nice. But it's how the Celts ended the trip that leaves you annoyed. Coming off two pretty lackluster performances that turned out to be wins, losing to a 3 win team by massively choking the game away in the final 2 minutes is something that certainly shouldn't have you feeling great despite the 3-1 record. Sometimes it's not always only about the result, but also how you looked. You could make the case the Celts have played some pretty gross basketball ever since the Sixers win on the 15th, so in a way last night was the game it all finally caught up with them.

The eerie part is we have literally been here before. Just last season, two of the first 3 Celtics losses were in OT. Just last season they lost to the 6-10 Bulls on the Monday before Thanksgiving to end a 3 game road trip where the Celts had been undefeated prior, and it brought their record to 13-4. Sound familiar? Two of the first three losses to start this season have come in OT. They lost to the 3-9 Hornets on the Monday before Thanksgiving on the road to end a 4 game road trip where the Celts had been undefeated prior, and it brought their record to 11-3. 

This is a long way to say, deep breaths. Things are going to be OK. It's very normal to be annoyed and frustrated with how last night went, mostly because that's how you should react when this team plays a disgusting brand of basketball and literally chokes away a win. What I think we need to remember is a singular loss in November is not a referendum on the team as a whole or on a player as a whole. It's a shitty loss at the end of a long road trip that shouldn't have happened. Simple as that. 

Even knowing all that, we still have a lot to get to. Let's begin.

The Good

- Given what happened at the end of OT it may feel weird to have Jayson Tatum in this section, but let's not be dramatic. He was still very good in this game

As I've said, when you do something on the court that puts you in a sentence with Larry Bird, I consider that a big deal. While it sucks that it came in a loss, we don't have to try and pretend like Tatum didn't show up last night. Compare this game to what we saw against MEM and it was a completely different player

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45/13/6 on 15-28 (7-15), this was the exact type of bounce back performance you expect from your star. To close out a trip, usually those are the games you want your best player to let everyone know they can get on his back because he'll carry the load. For about 99.9% of the game, that's exactly what Tatum did. You can always tell right away how seriously Tatum is taking a game or an opponent based on how he rebounds, and he was active as hell right from the jump last night. 

A disastrous situation in the final seconds of OT, but overall Tatum was one of the few players last night that I don't have too many problems with (outside of something we're also about to talk about). He certainly gave the Celts more than enough to win, which at the end of the day is all you can ask from your best player.

- Payton Pritchard is the other player last night that nobody should really have a problem with this morning. In fact, this was easily the best performance of his season. I know he broke out against IND, but that was in blowout minutes. Last night was the first time Pritchard made a huge impact in real minutes with a game that was in the balance

Safe to say, this is the type of aggressive Pritchard the bench is going to need. You could tell his confidence was a billion times better after seeing his first few shots drop, and it was Pritchard's offense that took over in the 4th quarter to help the Celts re-establish some separation down the stretch. It would be great if this was the game that broke Pritchard out of his shooting slump, similar to what we saw with Hauser. Pritchard finished the game without a single turnover in his 33 minutes, defensively he's still a pest, and last night was an example of how Pritchard can make an impact offensively outside of just making open threes. The way he scored off the dribble, the way he manipulated the defense and found open shooters, this looked WAY more like the Pritchard we saw in the preseason and on a night where the team didn't have Derrick White, Pritchard more than stepped up to cover that missing production.

- Celts also got strong showings from Luke Kornet (+25) and Oshae Brissett (+17) who I thought filled their roles perfectly. Brissett was high energy, rebounds and no mistakes. Luke was solid defensively, rebounded well, and generally didn't fuck up either. They had a combined 5 points, but the Celts were good in their minutes, especially in that response after Joe's timeout in the 4th. 

This is partly what makes last night so annoying. You got good performances from your bench. Pritchard was a +16 and Svi was a +6 to round out the second unit, which is more than good enough as long as the starters don't play like complete dickheads.

- Alright that's it, let's move on.

The Bad

- Basketball isn't a complicated game. I'd say the majority of the time if you give up 17 OREB, 20 2nd chance points, and 24 fast break points while also allowing 60 points in the paint, you're going to lose.

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Once again, the Celtics OREB issues proved costly. This was something we always knew was going to be a problem, even more so in the games Horford misses, but immediately after giving up 14 OREB 21 2nd chance points against MEM in what probably should have been a loss, the Celts were right back at it with 17 OREB/21 2nd chance points for CHA. Sorry, but that's losing basketball. 

In their 3 losses this season, the Celts give up an average of 11.7 OREB a game. That's 23rd in the NBA. In losses, the Celts give up 16.0 2nd chance points a game, which is 22nd. In wins, that number gets trimmed down to 11.9. Mark Williams had 8 OREB by himself last night! In a huge spot in the 4th quarter, guess what happened?

The Celtics gave up another dagger OREB into an extra possession, which turned into points

Jaylen has to box out better here. That is not even close to an effective box out, especially in that situation. Those are the type of mental errors everyone was making all night, and it's those small things that add up over the course of a game. A play here and there can completely swing things, which is exactly what happened in that OT. Sadly, this wasn't the only time this happened. You know the collapse that started at the 2 minute mark? How do we think that started?

A poor Jaylen box out which led to an easy Mark Williams OREB/putback

Inexcusable mental mistakes in closing minutes, both situations where you had a lead. It's not rocket science to know that losing to bad teams usually consists of shit like this. This is called playing with your food. You make mental mistakes and it gives these teams life/confidence and then next thing you know Miles Bridges is hitting game winners right in your eyeball. Gross stuff.

- Is there a chance that Sam Hauser loses his powers as a starter? As a reserve, Hauser is shooting 51/50% on the season. As a starter? A cool 22/17% in his 2 starts. His 1-9 (1-9) was very shocking considering nearly all of them were wide open outside of his heave at the end of regulation, and he's been so good for the past 7ish games I think you can mostly chalk it up to a random off night, but I do find it interesting how different his shooting splits have been as a starter. 

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- When it comes to Joe, there were certainly things we can look back on and use to evaluate his night. The first big thing is of course taking Porzingis out for the final possession of regulation. Let's have a look

On some level, I understand being super switchable with Brissett out there. At the same time, Porzingis had been awesome defensively in this game. I trust him in space, and even if someone tried to take a game winning three, at least they'd had to do it over a 7'3 dude. It certainly didn't help that LaMelo basically drove right to where Brissett was because he got caught trying to recover to Brandon Miller after being screened. Great play design by CHA, and maybe with that play it doesn't even matter that Porzingis isn't on the floor. Plus, Jrue and Jaylen are RIGHT THERE, yet neither guy comes up with the block or forces the miss

The bigger issue I have with Joe's night is what happened coming out of the timeout after this play. Sorry, but getting the ball to Tatum like this

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is not a good ATO. That does not set him up in a great position for success. For starters, he's basically trapped in the corner without a ton of space to operate. LaMelo is hedging, Mark Williams is hedging, Tatum's only real option here is what he did, which is post up from the 3PT line.

The issue here is once he starts to do that, he's basically welcoming the double. Once LaMelo comes with 3 seconds left, there's really only one play to make, which is that pass to Hauser for a contested 27fter. My problem is in no way with Tatum on this play, he made the right decision given what the defense dictated.

I just hate the play overall. Even though it was from the corner this time, the play was still give the ball to Tatum and everyone else stand around and watch. That's dogshit. Compare that with the type of inbounds play we just saw CHA run. Things were moving, the play was designed to attack the rim. Is that what we saw from Joe there? Absolutely not. 

Then in the final seconds of OT where you need a shot off, you don't even give yourself a chance with another ineffective out of bounds set. These are the areas I care about when it comes to Joe. Not timeouts. That shit is so tired. These are the things that truly matter in my opinion.

- There's no real need to sugarcoat it, Jrue Holiday was brutal last night, and you could make the case that his end of game play/decision making has been an issue all season. So far in the 4th quarter to start the year, Holiday is shooting 37.5/44% from the floor with 5 TOs. In the clutch, he's shooting 37/0% with 3 TOs. 

I thought we were done with not being able to trust point guards at the end of close games? Yet with Jrue, we're seeing a lot of the same shit we've had with previous PGs. There was his 4-16 performance against the Wolves where on a night he didn't have it, late in the 4th quarter in a tie game we had this

Then against MEM we had his mental blunder in the final 10 seconds that was a Santi Aldama 3PM away from being another loss. Last night, it was more of the same suspect late game decision making. Take the final shot for example, what is this offensive possession?

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Holiday basically kept the ball the entire possession, never passed, called his own number and attacked 3 people. Then, even after getting bailed out with a foul, he missed not one, but BOTH FTs to seal the win. 

Sorry, but let's be honest and consistent here. Holiday's late game production all season has been a bit of a disaster, and there's simply no excuse for a good FT shooter like he is to brick both with the game on the line. That's why he's here right? 

Yes it's early in the year and guys are figuring things out, but we're nearly 15 games into the season. Holiday also isn't a rookie. The expectation when the trade happened is these bonehead late game decisions from the point guard spot where a thing of the past, but in reality I'm seeing the exact same shit.

- Something to just keep an eye on is the fact that Porzingis is shooting just 26.8% from three over his last 8 games. That's more than half the season so far. A tough 1-8 last night, he's currently 1 for his last 14 from deep. He's been so good at basically everything else that it's not a huge deal, but it is something to monitor. Chalk last night up to the B2B, but he needs to find his shot from deep again pretty quickly. 

- For whatever reason, Jayson Tatum's off ball defense has been pretty dogshit over the last handful of games. He's falling asleep WAY too much on that end, and it continues to be costly. Against PHI, he kept losing his guy that resulted in 3s, last night, immediately after a huge bucket he of course got caught ball watching allowing Hayward to easily cut for a huge dunk

I mean what the hell is that? You are in the final minute of OT with a lead, right after you just made a 3PM to pull ahead and that's your defensive possession? It was like his controller froze or something. This is what I mean when I say last night was on everyone. You cannot make these type of crucial mistakes late in game, whether it's Jaylen or Tatum or Jrue. Unacceptable.

- The Celtics were up 108-99 with 2:20 left in the game. That has to be a win. Period.

The Ugly

- I'm not sure where you expected to see an 18-28 performance from the FT line, but if you want to make a list of the biggest reasons the Celts lost this game, look no further than the FT line. Absolutely fucking embarrassing for a team with this much talent, who shoots in the 80s from the line as a team, to miss 10 FTs in a game they lost by 3 in OT.

Tatum missed 2 including one that would have tied the game in OT. Jrue missed 2 that would have iced the win in regulation. Porzingis missed 4 (!!!).

I know I obsess over this, but this is why. FTs are important. When a team gives you free points, you can't throw 10 of them away. Between the missed FTs and the Tatum missed layups down the stretch, the amount of points the Celts left on the board in this loss is staggering. I can handle losing, but I cannot handle losing when you give the game away from the goddamn FT line. Grow up. 

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- We finish of course with the play of Jaylen Brown. Offensively, one of his worst shooting performances of the year at 5-17 (0-5), we saw his poor box outs above that were a huge factor in the collapse, and then of course there was this shot

In real time, the only reason I could think of as to why Jaylen shot that ball was because by the time he got the pass, he wanted to preserve the 2 for 1. Then when you rewatch it, you see that's still not a good excuse for this decision because at this moment

There is plenty of time both on the shot clock AND game clock to make this pass to KP. The funny thing is it actually worked out in the Celts favor in the sense that the Celts needed the full 6 seconds to get Tatum that 3PA and foul on their extra possession, and then he of course missed the FT. 

But the point is, these are the plays Jaylen has to figure out. There's no need to make the game more difficult than it has to be. KP gets that ball and shoots, there are probably 27-28 seconds left if he misses. Even if he takes longer and you blow the 2 for 1, you are still getting a much higher percentage look for that first possession. There's simply no justifying this shot in my opinion. A bad decision from another key player in a big spot late in a game. Add in the fact that Jaylen hadn't been shooting well in this game and there's just no need for it.

It wasn't like the Celts were down 3 and needed a prayer. It was tied. You can take your time and get the best shot possible. Instead, Jaylen went for the knockout 3PM. 

I think what this game showed us is you can add all the talent in the world (Jrue/KP), you can change the roster and add assistant coaches, but at the end of the day things will ALWAYS come down to the late game decision making/production from Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. 

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Perhaps this was the type of wake up moment the Celts needed to experience to snap them out of this 4 game funk ahead of the big showdown tomorrow night with the Bucks. If this snaps them back into reality and they win tomorrow night, then nobody will give a shit about this loss. But I think this was a reminder that while so many people were quick to talk about how different things are this year and how this year's teams is doing things late in games that last year's team never did (despite that not being true), maybe this is the dose of reality that everyone needed.