After Their 4th Straight Win It Is Safe To Say The Orlando Magic Own The Celtics Until Proven Otherwise

Rich Storry. Getty Images.

One thing I think we have to be consistent with is if we're always going to talk about what a matchup problem the Celts are for teams around the league, we also have to be honest when it comes to teams they are clearly experiencing matchup problems against.

The Boston Celtics have an Orlando Magic problem. Fact. 

Last night marked the Magic's 4th straight win over the Celts, with 3 of those wins coming by 8+ points with the last two having been 113-96 and 113-98. They've won on their floor and at the Garden (twice). If the Celtics had this type of showing against any other team, we would say they own them. How do I know this? Myself and every Celtics fan just said the exact same thing about the Bucks after beating them for the 7th time in 11 tries the other night. 

The truth is, until we see evidence of the contrary, the Orlando Magic are a bad matchup. They have the size and length to give the Celts two best players fits, they have one of if not the most productive bench in the entire NBA, and what we're learning is that defensive teams with good size and length give the Celtics all types of offensive problems (more on this later). 

Let's also not try and make it seem like these are the Magic of old. They're legit. We started to see signs of growth in prior seasons, and this year looks to be the year they're putting it all together. At 11-5, winnners of 6 straight and 2nd in the East, they've already taken down MIL/DEN/BOS. The Magic have the 2nd ranked defense in the NBA. Nothing we're seeing doesn't look sustainable for them.

There are obviously two ways to look at this. On one hand, there's no shame in losing to a good team on the road. On the other hand, in another test against a good team with a legit defense, the Celtics failed. That's concerning. 

You could argue that given how the Celts have been playing since the Grizzlies game on 11/18 that it was only a matter of time before their shitty play caught up with them. You would have thought the Hornets loss was the wake-up call, but things last night were just as gross on both ends as we've seen all year. In fact, their 17 point loss was the worst loss they've had all season and their only loss by double digits. 

While it's true that at 12-4 the Celts still own the best record in the NBA, it's also true that the brand of basketball they've been playing for about a week now is nowhere close to good enough. It's also true that against elite defenses, they've crumbled. All these things can exist at once. 

With that said, let's dive in.

The Good

- What do we even put in this section when essentially the entire roster was ass cheeks? Maybe Jaylen in the first quarter only? Maybe Sam Hauser's shooting? I don't want to sound dramatic or anything but tell me something good we saw the Celtics do in this game.

Maybe Derrick White's first quarter? 

The point is, we don't have to make shit up just to have a Good section. We go by what the team does on the floor and there's no real spinzone available when you throw up a performance like what we got. 

Let's move on.

The Bad

- OK, where to start. I think it's fair we begin with the team's best player having what I would consider his worst performance of the season. I don't care that the box score says Jayson Tatum scored 26 points. Anyone with eyes who watched this game knows he mailed in about 97.9% of this game. We know what Tatum looks like when he's fully engaged, so I don't know how anyone could see his performance last night and say it was anywhere close to good enough. Not just from a production standpoint, but for an energy and effort standpoint.

I don't really give a shit about the 7-16 (0-3). What I care more about was how disengaged Tatum played with. You can always tell how serious he takes a game by his rebounding, and on a night where they needed him to help out on the glass, Tatum finishes with 5 rebounds? He hasn't had that few rebounds in about 2 weeks. When he's engaged and takes a game seriously, there's a noticable difference in his rebounding numbers


vs NYK on opening night: 11 rebounds

vs MIA: 8 rebounds

vs PHI: 15 rebounds

vs PHI: 8 rebounds

vs CHA: 13 rebounds (his random Monday in CHA game/quote)

vs MIL: 11 rebounds

See the trend? Heading into this game, Tatum had a 20% DREB. Not bad for a wing. Last night? Just 12.8%. Things with this team start with their two best players, and when your best player is mailing a game in, things usually spiral.

Offensively, I just didn't understand Tatum's approach. There were no attacking mismatches for about 90% of his minutes. He had one or two plays against Suggs and then never exploited a mismatch again. The fact that Tatum and Joe Ingles shared the floor together and Tatum didn't demand the ball and go at Ingles every time down is inexcusable. Instead, he repeatedly tried attacking Jonathan Isaac, who more than held his own due to his size and length as a defender

At a -21, I'd say that number matches the eye test. Normall when Tatum has a stinker shooting the ball, he's able to do so many other things the Celts still find a way to win his minutes. Last night? Every Tatum lineup was dogshit, whether it had Jaylen in it or not

When have we ever seen that many Tatum lineups with such a brutal negative net rating? I'm going to go ahead and say pretty much never. 

This is the thing that's sometimes frustrating about Tatum. He's so fucking good, there's really no excuse for the type of effort he played with last night. Take the shooting out of it. Just focus on the energy and effort parts. It's nights like this that ultimately represent the last hurdle that Tatum needs to overcome as THE GUY. The best of the best, the true top 3 guys of the league show up every single night. That doesn't mean they don't have bad shooting games, but they certainly don't mail in 3.5 quarters of basketball. That was gross.


- Coming off this loss, there's going to be a lot of discussion as to who is to blame for how the Celts have played for about a week. You're going to hear a lot of Joe stuff, even more Jaylen Brown stuff, but in reality, I think it's pretty simple to see how the Celts got into this position. 

In fact, we've seen this exact same stretch before, just last season.

You may remember that last year, at 21-5, the Celtics suddenly had this stretch

December 16th is when Rob came back into the lineup. With everyone back, what may have changed during that stretch? 

In the 21-5 start, the Celts even without Rob were

11th in opponent OREB 

3rd in opponent 2nd chance points 

11th in opponent points in the paint 

13th in opponent fastbreak points 

5th in TOV% 

1st in FT% 

1st in 3P%

Essentially, they limited their opponents on the glass/2nd chance opportunities, were good in transition, didn't turn the ball over, made their FTs and 3PA at a high clip.

Starting on December 10th and that skid, this is how they did in all those same areas

19th in opponent OREB

23rd in opponent 2nd chance points

14th in opponent points in the paint

24th in opponent fastbreak points

7th in TOV%

15th in FT%

29th in 3P%

We saw a big time regression in OREB/2nd chance points/fastbreak points/FT shooting/3PA shooting. Essentially, the Celts started to play losing basketball. Being that bad in all of those areas are how you lose to good teams. That was the real problem of that skid. Everyone talked only about the 3P shooting regression at the time, but the real issue is they were getting killed on the glass and we not guarding in transition which led to easy baskets. 

Now compare that to 2023-24.

Before things started to look rather gross on 11/18, here's how the current Celts ranked in these same categories

6th in opponent OREB

3rd in opponent 2nd chance points

3rd in opponent points in the paint

4th in opponent fastbreak points

4th in TOV%

8th in FT%

12th in 3P%

Near the top of the league across the board. As a result, their 10-2 record reflected the fact that the Celts had been nails in these important areas. Since that Grizzlies game?

27th in opponent OREB

30th in opponent 2nd chance points

17th in opponent points in the paint

13th in opponent fastbreak points

18th in TOV%

27th in FT%

22nd in 3P%

They've been near the bottom of the league in a whole bunch. The OREB/2nd chance points being the most glaring. We're currently experiencing the same type of slide that we saw in that Dec 2022 skid, and THAT is why the Celts are struggling. They're turning it over more, can't make a FT to save their life, and have regressed heavily in points in the paint defense, transition defense, and the ability to end a defensive possession with a rebound.


When you allow teams in the NBA to have 2-3 extra possessions basically every trip, that's going to catch up to you. When you're careless with the basketball, that catches up to you. When you leave points at the FT line, that catches up to you. 

The formula for the Celtics has never changed. Rebound, take care of the ball, move the ball. Currently, the Celts aren't doing any of those things.

- If the early part of the NBA season is about looking at trends, there is now a trend forming that we can no longer ignore.

The Celtics offense has been complete dogshit against the elite defenses in the NBA. After last night, the Celts 100.7 ORTG in their losses is tied with the Knicks for the lowest in the entire NBA. That would be a 30th ranked offense in losses if you were still confused.

Of the Celts 4 losses on the season, 3 of them have come against a top 11 defense. In games against the #1 and #2 defense (MIN/ORL), the Celts had a 98 ORTG vs MIN and a 96 ORTG against ORL. So while it's nice on the surface to see the Celts have a top 8 offense on the season, when you look closer against the teams that are actually good, they've had the worst offense in the NBA. 

You may not like those facts, but those are the facts. If the idea is the Celts are going to play good teams and good defensive teams in a playoff run, I would suggest that being the worst offense in the league against elite defenses is a bit of a concerning early trend. 

- Here's also something that's a concerning early trend. The Celtics early season passing. We've watched this offense go from the 5th best AST% last year to currently having the 26th best AST% this year. That is…not good. When you look to see where this drop is coming from, it's not hard to see

Now part of this of course is going to be due to an increase in Post Up offense (especially with Tatum), and the Celts being the 4th highest isolation team in the league (75th percentile), but that doesn't really mean you should go from 5th to 26th, especially when the Celts were also around the same iso frequency last season.

On the season, the Celts have gone from 277 passes to 260 passes a game, which is near the bottom of the league as well.

To put it simply, they removed their most consistent natural passer from the roster, added in better talent, and the passing so far this season has gotten considerably worse. Again, these are not an opinion, these are the facts of their start. 

- I think it's safe to say that when it comes to yesterday's loss, it really comes down to the fact that the Celts were completely outplayed. They allowed 13 OREB for 21 2nd chance points, including 4 OREB/10 2nd chance points in the 4th quarter alone. In fact, they were demolished on the glass as a whole 48-31. They lost the AST battle 28-17. They lost the 3PT battle and got crushed in the paint 60-40. 

Basically everywhere you looked, the Magic outplayed the Celts. 


- Then of course there was the 3rd quarter run. Everyone losing their mind that Joe didn't call a timeout. You'll hear a lot of 17-0 run and no timeout???? What is Joe doing!!!

That of course is not entirely true. While he didn't call it, there was a stoppage in play after the 12-0 part of that run. The Celtics then came out of that timeout and immediately gave up another 5-0 run. In fact, from the start of the game through the middle of the 4th quarter, the Celts were outscored 23-13 coming out of timeouts in this game. 

Imagine that, the players actually have to execute! Timeouts aren't magical fixes!

You also won't hear many people talk about the fact that in the 2nd quarter after giving up a 9-0 run to tie things at 40, Joe did not call a timeout and the players figured it out to close the half 16-8.

The point is this. Sometimes trusting your players to figure it out will work, sometimes they'll still play like assholes and things won't get turned around. Different situations call for different actions. Having just worked through a 9-0 run with no timeout, it's not crazy to think the players earned Joe's trust when it started happening again in the 3rd quarter. Then even with a timeout they still came out and played losing basketball. At some point, it's OK to say the players didn't hold up their end of the deal in that 3rd quarter. 

- Speaking of 3rd quarters, this is another early season trend that is very concerning. Yesterday was the 2nd lowest 3rd quarter point total of the Celts season, and the 4th time they've failed to crack 20 points in a 3rd quarter. I dunno, call me crazy but not being able to score 20 points in 25% of your 3rd quarters this season is a big problem.

This is now no longer a one or two time thing. This is a consistent issue. Time and time again we've seen the Celts undo all the work they did to build a first half lead all because they can't get their heads out of their asses in the 3rd. 

- While we're on the topic of concerning trends, I don't love this either

I get it, this stuff happens every night in the NBA to every team. Hell, the Heat just blew a 22-1 lead and another 21 point lead last night to the Knicks all within a week. My issue is, this is now 6 straight games where we've seen the Celts unable to maintain their double digit lead. 

Sooner or later, like with CHA and ORL, that type of shit is going to catch up with you. 

- To make matters even worse, now we all have to collectively shit our pants about this Porzingis calf strain. You absolutely cannot fuck around with that thing, so who knows when we'll see him again. It was 62-62 when Porzingis left the game, and from that moment on…gross


The Ugly

- As awesome as Jaylen was to start this game, that is how bad the remaining 3 quarters were, especially the second half. In fact, it may have been the worst we've ever seen Jaylen shoot in a half before

I mean 1-14 (0-5) is absolutely disgusting. I believe he missed 12 straight or something? You could tell he was maybe trying to shoot his way out of it which certainly didn't work, and while everyone was pretty terrible in the final 24 minutes as you can see above, there's no spinzoning 1-14 (0-5). I don't care if you are a supermax player or a vet minimum player, you cannot go 1-14 (0-5), and then even when you are able to get to the line, you're missing multiple FTs.

This is what I mean when I say things start and stop with the two best players. In one corner we had Jayson Tatum who decided to sleepwalk through this entire game. In the other corner, you had Jaylen who literally missed nearly every shot he took after the first quarter. If you add in his 2nd quarter numbers, Jaylen finished the game 2-17 (0-6) after starting it 4-5 (2-2). That is atrocious.

- Then of course there's also my biggest pet peeve, the FT line.

Since 2021-22, the Boston Celtics have had ONE game in which they missed at least 10 FTA. They have now done so twice in 6 days. Guess what happened? They lost both games!

There is simply no excuse for a team with this much talent to miss that many FTs in a game. Grow the fuck up. Practice it for me one time! Go back and look at the difference in FT shooting from the start of the year through this past week. 27th in the NBA in FT shooting? Am I being trolled? 

The good news is the Celts now return home for a massive 7 game homestand, where they are currently 6-0. The thing is, those 7 games are made up of ATL/CHI/PHI/CLE/CLE/ORL/ORL, so it's certainly not going to be a cakewalk. If we see the Celts play the type of basketball they've been playing for the last 7 days, it's going to get ugly. If they find a way to get their heads out of their asses and play like how we know they can play, things will feel much better before the first big West Coast trip of the season. You need a strong homestand because GS/SAC/LAC/LAL are on the horizon.