The Celtics Are Currently Off To One Of The Best Starts In Franchise History And The Scary Part Is They Can Still Get So Much Better

Ron Hoskins. Getty Images.

Over the last 96 minutes of basketball, we have yet to see the Celtics trail in a game. In fact, the score has never even been tied .wo full games, 8 full quarters, no ties, no lead changes. Winning both ends of a back to back is always impressive, so what exactly do we call winning both ends of a back to back while also doing it wire to wire? Especially when the second game comes against a team that not only already beat you this season, but had also won 6 straight while putting up 130+ points with ease. I'd say that's a pretty impressive last two days.

Friday night against a Jazz team that had been 7-3 heading into that game, blowout.

Saturday night against a Pacers team that had just swept the Bucks with ease and had won 6 in a row, 17 point win.

There's a reason I call this team a wagon, and we are currently seeing it. This is what wagons do. And listen, I can fully admit that when it comes to this subject, there is some bias involved. Credit to me for acknowledging that. So if you want to take what I say with a grain of salt, I get it. I would just ask you explain to me how this is not the profile of a wagon

I was so high off Celts Kool Aid flowing through my veins last night I actually fucked this tweet up. The Celts 11 road wins are actually tied for the most in the NBA, not just the East. Hopefully, you still get the idea. 

While we all know the 82 game portion of the season is not the goal, that doesn't mean that we can't sit back and enjoy some of the greatest hoops we've seen this Celtics team play in years. It's OK to enjoy the ride and the ebbs and flows of an NBA regular season. As long as you understand that the highs don't guarantee shit come the Spring the same way the lows don't guarantee shit come the Spring, it's actually a rather enjoyable experience to watch the legitimate best team in the NBA on a nightly basis.

Will any of this matter if the Celts choke again in the playoffs? No! Of course not! 

But it is January 7th. I care about what is happening on January 7th and then what will happen in tomorrow night's game on January 8th. And what we've seen through this date is better than any of us could have possibly imagined. You know the 1986 Celts? Arguably one of the greatest teams of all time, not just Celtics teams, but teams in NBA history?

Even they didn't start 28-7

If I were to tell you in September that the 2024 Celts would get off to a better start than the 1986 Celts, I would be mocked. Shamed. Laughed off the internet. But I'm just here to tell you what has happened, and you can do with that information what you will.

Personally, I'm going to use it to allow my brain to think completely irresponsible thoughts. 4-4-4-4 through the playoffs? Why not? The 1986 Celts went 15-3 and the information we have to date suggests this version is better, so you bet your ass my brain is thinking about 16-0. That's the type of delusional high the Celts have us on right now given how they're playing. At some point this shit has to break through, it just has to.

In terms of last night, I loved the test heading in. A red hot Pacers team who couldn't possibly be more confident given what happened the last time these two teams played and then both of their dominant MIL wins. This entire 10 day stretch is going to be filled with these type of battles and tests of mental toughness, which are all things we as fans need to see the Celts check off as they continue to build their contender resume. Over the course of a season there are certain boxes you'd love to see checked, and for this team last night was one of those boxes.

I'd consider it checked.

The Good

- The Celtics have shown an ability to play dominant basketball in a variety of different ways. Moreso than ever before, they are way more dynamic and diversified, both in terms of how they score and how they defend. But there is a certain version that exists where the Celts reach a level that can only be described as untouchable. When this certain thing happens, it does not matter who is across the court. The Celtics become truly unbeatable.

What is it?

I'm not going to say Jayson Tatum heard all the noise and how the internet was playing with his name, but I'm also not going to suggest he didn't either. As the calendar turned to January, Tatum continued on his typical progression which has now brought us to the time of year when he becomes possessed. 

How have things looked in 2024? I dunno, pretty good I guess. I suppose that all depends on if you consider 29.9/8.6/5.7 on 48.9/44.4% wit 4.0 3PM over his last 7 good. 

The biggest thing that stands out to you is Tatum's three point shooting, and I'm going to have to ask you to make sure you're sitting down because we need to talk about this. 

One of the main culprits of Tatum's early season 3P shooting struggles was his stubbornness when it came to his pull up three. He found himself among the leaders in attempts while being at the bottom of the league in makes. Last year we lived through 29% shooting with that type of shot, this year it's lived around that area for a while. Well, I have some news

We already knew Tatum's catch & shoot game was strong. That's something he's been able to use as a weapon all year (44.8%), and even with a subpar pull up game, Tatum is still pretty damn good. But when he takes the leap into the version we're currently seeing, his pull up starts to drop at a ridiculous rate. This stretch right now is WHY Tatum continues to stay committed to this shot, because he can make it. 

When Tatum's three is falling like this, what exactly can a defense do? If you don't close out, that's a three in your eyeball. If you do, Tatum is going to just go by you and finish strong at the rim. Sometimes he can switch it up and get you in the post, where he ranks in the 87th percentile on the season in post up offense. There simply is no way to guard Jayson Tatum when he entered this zone, and it's the level we are all praying we get to see for 4 playoff rounds. 

- Add this mentality to the talent level?

Be still my heart, our franchise player gets it. Let others cry about the MVP. We have more important things to worry about and it's great to hear this type of mindset coming from the franchise's most important player.

- If we've said it once, we've said it a billion times. The best part about having Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown on your favorite basketball team is the fact that you have BOTH Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown on your favorite basketball team

Another example of why maybe it's a little silly to have this weird type of civil war between these two every time the Celtics lose a game and one guy plays well and the other doesn't. Instead, maybe appreciate the fact that these guys are both members of the Boston Celtics for the foreseeable future, because it's one of the most dominant duos in the entire league (again). 

The Celts now move to 25-2 when both the Jays get at least 30, and as great as it was to see Jaylen score at will, including times where the team really needed his offense to come through in big moments, that's not even my favorite part of his game. I know Jaylen can score. I know he can get whatever he wants against a Pacers team that is allergic to defense and doesn't have the wing defense to consistently stop an offensive force like Jaylen. 

What I care about is seeing Jaylen continue to take steps forward in terms of his all around development. Just like we're seeing Tatum enter this unstoppable zone as a three point shooter, we are also witnessing Jaylen enter a completely new zone for him as a creator

This is the leap that matters for Jaylen. Not his scoring, not his three point shooting, we know that stuff is elite. The leap in how he's seeing the game, reading the floor, and understanding when and how to attack a defense has completely unlocked something new. When the Celts get dominant three point shooting Tatum paired with a tunnel vision-less version of Jaylen Brown, games like last night are what happen. 

When Tatum had to sit with foul trouble and the team needed Jaylen to carry the load, he did. When Tatum came back in and his role had to change and defer/create more for others, he did. It never felt at any point of this game like we had a "my turn your turn" situation with Tatum/Brown, everything felt like it came within the flow of the offense. Each guy did a great job of picking their spots and executing at a high level.

- Everyone knows how devastating the Pacers offense can be, the pace they play at is insane. They play fast, they let shit fly from deep, and defenses across the league have had a huge problem slowing them down.

That is, almost every team. All except one

Yes, the Celts nearly scored another 120 points, but the reason they won this game going away was because of the defense we saw this team play in both the 1st and 4th quarter. Starting the game allowing 17 points on 30/10% and ending the game allowing 20 points on 38/0% on the second night of a B2B with travel is very, very impressive. The Celts were WAY better on Haliburton this time around which was nice to see given what happened last game (his only triple double, dagger 3PM etc), and it was a reminder that ultimately things come down to getting stops. Coming off back to back quarters allowing 32 points, it was certainly a welcomed surprise to see the Celts lock down like that in the 4th.

- You see the thing about Al Horford is, he's perfect

That certainly looks like a guy that hadn't played in like 4 days. Look at how spry Al is! Is he 37 or 27? 

10/7/8/1/2 on 4-8 (2-5) in his 29 minutes, what more can we even say about Al that hasn't already been said. I'll still never forgive the rest of the team for what happened in 2022 and Al not getting his ring, and honestly it's VERY high up on the list of why I want the Celts to win a title this season. Al needs one. The fact that he's still this good at this stage of his career shouldn't be happening unless your name is LeBron.

I imagine KP is going to miss a few games with his eye issue, so getting Al at his best is going to be pretty important moving forward. It's clear for the second straight season his management plan is working, and if this is the level we can expect him to stay at, I'm ready for Brad to hand out another extension. 

- Another really strong showing for Oshae Brissett when it comes to thriving in his role. I'm sure he was juiced up to go up against his old team, and every time he seems to check into a game it doesn't take long before he finds a way to make an impact. Sometimes it's an immediate OREB, sometimes it's a hustle play that starts a break, it's all part of a winning formula.

He can gladly get 19 minutes a night when one of the bigs is out if he's going to give 8/8 with 5 OREBs and great energy. Coming off his strong showing against UTA, maybe he's showing Brad that he already has the big wing on his roster and doesn't need to trade for one.

The Bad

- We of course have to start this section with the Porzingis play

That's just some shit luck right there. Reckless by Nesmith? I guess? I see that more as a random unfortunate incident than anything malicious, but that doesn't mean it doesn't terrify me. Until we get some sort of update on KP's eyeball, I'm going to be worried about it.

I was mostly sad because part of the excitement of last night was we were going to see how things looked against the Pacers on the road with Porzingis, given he didn't play in their last meeting. It's also just really fun to watch him play, so for him to go out after only playing 6 minutes was pretty brutal.

Here's to hoping it's not an Amar'e Stoudamire issue and things will be fine. Maybe he doesn't play tomorrow, but I'm just praying it's nothing serious.

- Outside of Al, not a great shooting night for the second unit. Just 8-26 (4-16) with 4 TOs, it didn't exactly factor into this game, but really outside of the Jays and Al nobody really shot the ball all that well. 3 of the 5 starters were in single digits, and as a team the Celts only had 3 guys score at least 10 points. 

Part of their strength is how balanced they can be offensively, but I guess sometimes we'll have those kind of nights where the Jays just say get on our backs and we'll do it all. Can't say I hate it as long as it works.

- This had to be one of the worst officiated games we've seen all year. I mean holy shit. Bizarre whistle after bizarre whistle. 0 FTA in the first half despite 17 shots in the paint and 9 at the rim. A 12-5 foul difference against the team that is 29th in the NBA in fouls. Zero consistency on either end of the floor. Just brutal stuff.

Isn't it interesting that once things started to even out in the second half, the Celts pulled away? Once the 15-0 FTA advantage was gone, things looked different. Imagine that! 

The Ugly

- The worst thing you can do against the Pacers is turn the ball over. You cannot give that offense a chance to get out and score easy buckets, not only because it gives them confidence, but it gets the crowd going. This team on the break may as well be the Showtime Lakers the way they can fly around and finish with force, so you have to make them beat you in the halfcourt.

Unfortunately, these are the Boston Celtics which means of course they are going to be absolutely terrible with ball security and make their lives 100000x more difficult. They finished with 17 TOs which led to 24 Pacers points, and it was a huge reason why they weren't able to break this lead open much earlier.

In the first half, 20 of the Pacers 49 points came off TOs. You pair that with 2nd chance points, and those are the areas that usually lead to losses. Just because it didn't this time doesn't mean that level of play is acceptable. Weird decisions with the ball by Derrick (4 TOs), the Jays with a combined 7 TOs, the carelessness in this game was very annoying.

- That of course doesn't even hold a candle to what we saw this team do from the FT line. Look, you can't go an entire half complaining about FTA and then once you're finally rewarded with FTs, you miss a billion. I'm sorry, but 10-19 from the line, in a game that was semi-tight in the second half is pathetic. To go 6-14 in a quarter from the line for a team that is among the best in the league at FTs doesn't even make sense. Especially when it's not just Jaylen missing FTs, it's everyone!

This was now the 5th time this season the Celts have missed at least 8 FTs in a game, and the first time since after Thanksgiving. November sure was a dogshit month for FTs, considering this happened on 11/6, 11/10, 11/20, and 11/24. 

I'd make the case that you combine the points off TOs and the brutal FT shooting, the Celts are very lucky Jayson Tatum went nuclear, because you do that shit on the road against a good team and that's a game you lose the majority of the time. Tatum bailed them out for sure.

As is the case with all these mini 2 game series, the second game will have an entirely different feel. We get to see the immediate counters and then how the Celts counter to those counters. It's as close to a playoff series as you can get in the regular season, and I'm interested to see how the Celts respond. So far this year they've won both of these 2nd games in the two mini series they've played in, and given what's coming up next (MIN/MIL B2B), it would be nice to keep the momentum rolling. You know the Pacers will be motivated given what happened last night, so ultimately this is another box the Celts are going to have to check.