The Celts have an NBA leading 27 wins through 34 games on the season, and I bet you could count on one hand the amount of games where as fans, we've been able to sit down and enjoy ourselves stress free for the full 2.5 hours. I know that can sound a little crazy because the Celts also own the NBA's best point differential at +10.6 (only team in double digits) and are 17-2 in games decided by 10 points, but real ones know. You know that even if the score at the end of the game says the Celts won by 10+ points, at some point over the course of four quarters there's a highly likely chance they put us through hell in order to get it.
Last night was one of those rare nights where right from the jump, there was no stress, nothing to worry about, etc. I'll admit, while part of me did miss the torture, it was kind of nice to mix things up and have a change of pace. Sure it came against the 16-20 Jazz, but that's a team that had won 6 of 7 heading into last night and is 7-3 over their last 10 games. They may stink, but they have been playing well as of late.
Did that matter? Well considering the Celts jumped out to a 10-0 lead in under 2 minutes to open the game, I'm going to be bold and say not really.
For some, games like this are looked at as situations where you don't really learn anything, or that when the Celts blowout a bad team like they did last night, that it's mostly meaningless. I couldn't disagree more. Did this answer the big question of what the Celts will look like down the stretch in a playoff game against a good opponent? Of course not. But guess what? No regular season game, regardless of opponent, will tell us that. You only answer playoff questions in the playoffs, as hard as that is for some out there to accept.
I look at a game like last night and I see growth. The Celts now move to 13-2 on the season against teams under .500 (both OT losses), and one of those teams just so happened to be Steph Curry. Those two losses match the fewest of any team in the top 7 seeds in the East (PHI is 16-2), and it shows us that the Celts are finally doing what everyone always asked of them in these situations. They aren't playing with their food. They aren't overlooking bad teams and assuming they just had to show up to win. That feels different.
Not only that, but coming off a loss, we also see that the Celts are maintaining their ability to not let things snowball. We're nearly in mid January and the Celts have only lost back to back games once this entire season, and it came in the first week of November. With how tough their January is, it's crucial that we see the Celts take care of the games they should be winning, and at home against an under .500 Jazz team is a game the Celts should win by a billion, even with Horford sitting the front end of the back to back.
So what did they do? They won by a billion. It was awesome.
Let's talk about it.
- I'm not going to give him the credit and say that Jayson Tatum saw/heard Colin Cowherds take that his title window was over at the ripe old age of 25, but what I am going to say is Jayson Tatum looked fantastic in this game
30/9/5 on 6-12 (5-8) and 13-14 from the line in just 24 minutes to go along with a team best +34, I can't remember the time we've seen Tatum make such quick work of an opponent in such a dominant fashion. In fact, we've only seen a player have this type of night twice in the franchise's entire history!
As always, shoutout Isaiah. What a king.
Last night was an example of what things look like when Tatum's three is dropping. To put it simply, it means death. You stand no chance if you're going to have to deal with a version of Tatum that is in rhythm and is cashing every type of three he takes. Catch and shoot, pullup, side step, fadeaway, it was all working.
The thing is, we know Tatum can score and fill the stat sheet like this against anyone, but what I loved about his performance was the balance between being aggressive and then also looking for others and not forcing anything. Would you say Tatum took a single shot that was forced last night? It didn't feel like it. Instead, we got the perfect balance, including this play at the end of the first quarter which definitely stood out to me
We've seen Tatum take that contested pullup three to end the quarter a thousand times before, especially on a night when he had things going early. But this is the shit nobody really talks about when it comes to Tatum. Above all else, he is hardwired to make the right basketball play, even if that means making the extra pass and giving up a buzzer beater. As you can see, the Basketball Gods rewarded such a decision and the rout was on.
When I see Tatum playing with this approach, deep down in places we don't talk about you can tell we're in for a real treat. Not only was he outscoring the Jazz by himself, but he was completely controlling the game as a playmaker as well to go along with solid defense on the other end. What we got was one of the most complete two way showings of Tatum's season, and he only needed 24 minutes to do it.
That seems good.
- I would say over the course of a game, I whisper to myself at least 5 times how insane it is that Kristaps Porzingis is a Boston Celtic. I know it's been a few months and nearly half a season already, but it still seems so crazy to me, especially as I watch him do this
With each passing game, things continue to look better and better and better. The fit is so seamless you could have told me Porzingis has been on this team for a decade. The way he fits and works with the two best players, there's no way they've only played 34 games together.
Just like with Tatum we saw KP completely dominate while basically never shooting or even playing all that much. He finished with 19/5/2 ib 4-7 (1-3) and was a +18 in his 26 minutes. That's important because with the B2B today, keeping KPs minutes low increases his chance of maybe playing against the Pacers. We also saw once again what a weapon KP is in terms of drawing fouls, which might be the most underrated part of the impact he's making on this offense.
Another 12 FTA last night, Porzingis now has a .443 FTA rate, which is easily the highest on the team and a number that the Celts have never had at this position. We went all of last year with Al Horford attempting like 10 FTs. Now? Think of what the options are for a defense. Either you don't guard KP at the 3pt line and he buries the three. If you give it to him at the nail, he just turns and shoots over you. If it's a power post, he's either scoring or he's getting to the line where he's going to shoot 80%+. So when people say KP is a cheat code, this is why. Not only is he a 3 level scorer, he's elite at getting to the line.
I also don't want to get ahead of myself here….but…
- While part of this was the fact that the Jazz couldn't really buy a bucket, I thought the defense was flying around in this win. That probably has something to do with the fact that the Celts had 2 days off and were fresh, but if you're a team and you come out and shoot 36/17% and turn it over 18 times against this Celtics offense, you're going to lose by a billion.
Given the Jazz started this game shooting 18/8% with 4 TOs, it should surprise no one that there were 0 ties, 0 lead changes, and the largest deficit was 36 points. I don't care how shitty the team is, to hold an NBA team in 2024 to under 100 points when all your main rotation players played under 26 minutes is impressive.
- One thing most fans would agree they want to see when it comes to Jaylen is continuing to find a way to make an impact on nights when his shot might not be falling. It's something he's been improving at over the course of the season as he's been empowered to be more of a playmaker, and last night was a great example of this development.
As a shooter, Jaylen didn't start off all that great, just 2-8 in the first half. The difference this time around was he led the team with 5 assists. He was finding ways to impact the game without scoring, which was fine considering everyone else on the roster couldn't miss.
I think what most of us care about is seeing a progression in decision making when Jaylen has the ball, proving that he's able to break his bad habits. Well, I see him drive in transition, notice there's a crowd and then make the right basketball play
I see him taking his time and not forcing a play into traffic, instead showing patience and a willingness to find a teammate for an easier bucket
Not only did Jaylen tie Tatum for the team lead in assists, he led the Celtics in this game with 14 potential assists. His shot came back in his second half minutes to help him finish 5-12 (2-4), but what I liked is that it didn't change his approach when it came to moving the ball. I think it's fair to say that he found a way to make an impact while his shot wasn't falling, and then once it started dropping, things started to get out of hand.
- I dunno if I'm alone here, but I am nowhere near ready to say goodbye to Mike Gorman. The fact that we're nearly already half way through the season is very upsetting. I'm not sure I'll ever be ready tbh
I also love that Cousy calls him Michael. What a legend.
- Quick update on Mazzulla Ball for all those who observe. Fresh off his Coach of the Month honors, it was more of the same
I do think it's funny that even today, despite all the evidence that suggests this style and his approach is successful, there are still some out there who try and suggest Joe has no idea how to coach. I'm sorry, scoreboard. Instead of talking about Joe like he's running the 7th seed, maybe just admit defeat and acknowledge that he's been awesome.
It does feel more like people are take committed when it comes to Joe and don't want to admit they were wrong. Is he perfect? Hell no! Are there going to be times when he makes mistakes? Of course! But that makes him no different than any elite coach in the league.
- After hearing Brad come out and talk about trading for a big wing, it was nice to see Oshae Brissett take that personally and immediately show why that might not even be needed. I've been impressed with how he's played for about a month now as a guy who is simply thriving in his role. All I need to see from Brissett is energy, effort, some OREBs and occasionally making his open 3s. If he can do that, I want him getting 10-15 minutes a night, especially when someone is sitting on a B2B.
- It does appear that we've made it out of the Sam Hauser three point shooting slump. He's back to 53% from deep over his last 3 games on 5.0 3PA a night, which is a drastic improvement from his 21.9% from deep in the 7 games prior. That shit is going to happen from time to time but it's important to remember that when it comes to Sam Hauser, he's proven. The sample size is too large of him being a 40%+ shooter to ever freak out over a cold streak.
- As we know, when the Celts get good guard play it takes them up another level. We know what Bald Derrick can do, and while he was generally quiet in this game by his standards, I did want to shoutout Jrue
Of all the things that Holiday does well, what continues to really stand out to me is how fucking good he is at poking the ball away at the last second on drives. The way he tracks the ball is INSANE. If I see a player attack on a drive against Holiday, I'm more surprised when he doesn't strip it loose than when he does. It's something that annoyed the shit out of me every time the Celts played the Bucks, and it's such a defensive weapon for a team like the Celts who are lethal in transition. It has to be so deflating to be aggressive, get stripped clean (multiple times), and then see the Celts get off to the races and finish for an easy two.
If we want to talk about things that could show up in the playoffs, this is what I'm taking. Jrue is going to have a huge strip/steal on a drive in a big moment and it's going to absolutely rule.
- Poor Svi man. Guy was playing/shooting for his roster spot life. A guy who in theory was supposed to be a depth shooter/playmaker, we haven't really seen any of that so far this season. A brutal 1-7 (1-6) last night, Svi is shooting just 28/16% on the season. I get it's hard to get into rhythm when you barely play, but that's the job.
His looks last night were mostly all open, and frankly, none of them were particularly close. You can tell with each miss he's starting to freak out a little more given we're inching closer and closer to the trade deadline, but on a night when the Celts were getting whatever they wanted, Svi couldn't buy a bucket.
- He of course wasn't alone. Payton Pritchard had the same problem with his 3-10 (1-7). The difference there was Pritchard still made an impact as a facilitator (4 AST). Most of these minutes all came in garbage time so it's mostly whatever, but I can't sit here and tell you that outside of Hauser the bench shooting was all that great. It actually kind of stunk.
- 16 OREB for the Jazz which is way too high of a number. I don't really care that it didn't matter in terms of the score, this is a habit the Celtics have to break. Why? Because opponent OREBs are one of the main culprits we see in a playoff series that tends to go longer than it should.
Whenever we see the Celts drop games or not look like themselves, you can almost always point to the opponent's OREBs.
- I'm starting to get a little annoyed with how frequently I'm seeing opposing defenders jump into Tatum's landing space on his 3PA. We've already seen him fuck up his ankle with that stuff, and who could forget Wyc almost losing his mind on air when it happened earlier in the year.
Considering health is the only thing that can stop this team, I get nervous every single time I see a player try a closeout on Tatum. Grow up and defend him without pulling that shit.
- I'll admit, I don't really have anything for this section. I mean, the Celts had a 36 point lead and this game was over after the first 2 minutes. Nobody played heavy minutes, there was no real collapse with the score as the Celts maintained a 30 point lead basically the whole way, this is what I mean when I say this was one of those very weird Celtics performances where we could enjoy things completely stress free.
When that happens, there's usually not too much for this section. We'll check back after tonight.
We now turn the page to a 2 game mini series against the Pacers, who at the moment are scoring a trillion points a night. Thety had 150 last night with 50 AST. That is an insane number. The Pacers also beat the Celts in their last meeting, and I'm going to need to see the Celts show us they can finally solve their Tyrese Haliburton problem. He has owned them pretty much every time he's played. I can assure you the Pacers won't fail to score 100, so these next two games (and then MIN/MIL) are going to be much more of a test.
If the Celts play like they did last night, they should pass with flying colors.