Ime Udoka Finally Returned To Boston For The First Time And Was Immediately Reminded Why He's An Idiot For Thinking With The Wrong Head

Brian Fluharty. Getty Images.

As I talked about the other day, there's no need to sugarcoat what took place against the Bucks. That shit was an absolute ass kicking after about the first 7 minutes. Sometimes over the course of a long season, you're going to be on the wrong end of one of those beatdowns, and while it doesn't happen often to this Celtics team, that was certainly one of those nights.

The question then became, OK, how do they respond? With Ime Udoka making his first return to the Garden since he was the head coach, and he was bringing with him the 7th ranked defense in the NBA and a team that had already beaten the Bucks a few days earlier. Coming off that ass kicking, I think we all wanted to see how the Celts were going to respond. This time around they were the team with a day of rest and the Rockets were on the second night of a B2B, and so far this season we've seen the Celts immediately bounce back every loss. This is a team that has not lost consecutive games 11/6-8, which is pretty fucking impressive. They've been great at immediately stopping the bleeding and righting the ship, getting back to playing how we all know they can play.

As much as we wanted to see how the Celts responded, the Ime return was just as big of a storyline. It's still crazy to me that even now, after all this time, we don't exactly know the whole story of what the hell happened. We have speculation, we have theories, and while I'm sure there's some sort of NBA involved, the whole thing is still weird to me. Not as weird as the section of Celts fans that still log online and beg for the Ime days despite having what looks to be a better coach and a better team, but definitely still a little weird.

And maybe it's because of how things transpired and now he's on the other side, but some of the quotes we heard from Ime pregame

just didn't sit right. Honestly, my biggest takeaway from last night might be that above all else, I'm happy with how things turned out. I don't need a head coach that cares more about fucking around than being committed to winning a title. And while no one can discredit what Ime did for this team while he was here and how he helped develop Tatum/Brown/etc, I'm still not sure to this day he thinks he did anything wrong. As we've learned, the juice isn't really worth the squeeze. Let him develop the Rockets and fight like hell for the Play In. That's all fine and good, but we're fine over here. Outside of some weirdos, I'm not sure anyone really misses Ime and that's not really something I expected to happen when this all went down.

What Ime brought was a breath of fresh air coming off the Brad Stevens era, but as we're seeing, they were not good solely because of Ime. At the end of the day, it's a players league. Last night was a great example for Ime to see what he threw away, all because he had to be a creep. Life suddenly isn't so sweet when your job is to now stop the best duo in the NBA (he couldn't), and hey for Rockets fans I do hope they get to experience a similar turnaround after so much losing, but at the end of the day, I care about the Boston Celtis. 

When it comes to the Celts and Ime, I guess I'm at a place where I think we should thank him for what he did while he was here, acknowledge that he's a creep and an asshole for being selfish and putting his dick ahead of winning a title, and finally close the book on this whole thing now that he's made his return to the Garden for the first time (and got rocked). 

In terms of the actual basketball we saw? Boy was that great for my mental health. That was the team that we've been watching all season.

Let's begin

The Good

- In 2020-21, Jaylen Brown made his first All Star team, and the generation consensus was that it was the best season of his career up until that point. Coming off the bubble ECF, Jaylen was awesome that season. His scoring took a jump, his efficiency took a jump, his passing took a jump, it was a great example of Jaylen's overall leap.

In 2021-22, Jaylen Brown didn't make the All Star team, but he backed that previous year up with a season where once again, most people considered it a step forward for Jaylen. Some may have even called it the best season of his career considering it was a season in which we saw the team break through and finally get to the Finals, obviously in part because of Jaylen's play.

In 2022-23, Jaylen Brown came back again and was even better. All NBA, All Star, 26.6 a game on 49% shooting, tied a career high in assists, it was a monster year (that had a beyond brutal ending). A season so good, it earned him a well deserved $300M. It would not have been crazy if someone called this the best season of his career.

Well, here we are in 2023-24, and I am back to tell you that we are currently watching Jaylen Brown have the best overall season of his career. Not just best offensive season, not just best defensive season, I'm talking both ends and in almost every facet

Before the season, Jaylen talked about how he wanted to make an All NBA Defensive team. That was his goal and his standard. Guess who's backing that up?

In the entire NBA, Jaylen currently ranks 19th in defensive win shares (1.7). In terms of actual "wings", Jaylen is #1 in the league with that number, tied with Kawhi. If you include the more PF "wings" like Tatum, Giannis, Paolo, KAT, LeBron etc, Jaylen ranks 8th in defensive win shares. 

We're seeing Jaylen back up what he talked about before the season. Hopefully he stays healthy enough to hit the 65 game requirement, because all I've seen so far is a guy who is putting up an All NBA defensive caliber season. How about the off ball block on Jabari Smith Jr only to then follow it up with another clean as hell block out of the post? Not only is the athleticism impressive, but we're seeing an improvement in his off ball defense as well. This doesn't mean there won't be times where Jaylen makes a mistake or falls asleep on a possession, at the end of the day this is basketball. That shit happens to every player at some point.

What matters is the consistency in which we're seeing this leap. It's not three or four times a month. It's 95% of the time. You bring a consistent All NBA level of defense and you add it to a consistent All NBA level of offense, and this is what you get

Remember at the start of the year when Jaylen couldn't really buy a bucket with his jumper? Not an awful start efficiency wise, but certainly not to the level Jaylen usually plays it. It was the one thing that made his start feel "off". Well here we are 39 games into the season, and I can honestly say I haven't had to worry about Jaylen's efficiency since before Thanksgiving.

In his last 24 games, Jaylen is putting up 24.5 while shooting 52/38%. In the last 15 games, 25.8 on 54/46%. In the last 10 games, 25.7 on 56/50%. In the last 5 games, 29.6 on 60/54%. You see where I'm going with this? The Celts are getting 30 a game from a player who is shooting 60/54% from the floor……and he's their #2 offensive option. 

Whatever concerns you may have had about Jaylen's shooting this season, I think we can put those to bed. At the rim, midrange, threes, they all look much more like what we all expected to see. Jaylen has improved his TS% to 58.4%, which is now the 2nd highest of his career, so the numbers match your eye test as well. 

So yeah, he may have been an All Star last year and made All NBA, but I know what I'm watching and THIS is easily the best overall player Jaylen has ever been.

- As fun as it was to watch Jaylen go for 32 on 11-15 (4-6), we must not forget what truly makes this team special to watch is that while defenses realize they have to worry about Jaylen Brown, here comes Jayson Tatum with his own version of destruction

As you can see, January Tatum is right on schedule. This is the part of the year where we get our first look at Supernova Tatum, which in my humble opinion is a fantastic version of Jayson Tatum. You see what separates Supernova Tatum from other equally as dominant versions is the fact that this one comes with the ability to rain hell from beyond the arc. I'm talking about back breaking threes that aren't remotely close to even gracing the rim. As pure as pure gets and it's coming in every variety you can think of. Isolation stepbacks, catch & shoot, off a high screen, in transition, what we are seeing in terms of Jayson Tatum's three point shooting is otherwordly.

Over Tatum's last 5 games played, he's shooting 57.5% from three on 8.0 3PA a night, making 4.6. Since we crossed over into January, that number is 55.6% with 4.2 3PM on 7.5 3PA. That type of production with that type of volume is legitimately insane. Now Supernova Tatum won't be around forever, that's why you need to appreciate it while we have it. Had the officials not gotten in their feelings, this was going to be another Jaylen/Tatum 30-30 performance, and here's what I think we all have to realize.

The Celtics got off to this insane start all while Tatum and Brown were shooting like dogshit from behind the arc. Now here we are with them never missing. It was already tough enough to beat this team, now you have to do it while the two best players light you up from three. That's tough.

- The other day I called my Dad and asked him how it felt that at no point in his life had he seen a Celtics team start a season this well at home. All my life all I heard about was the old time Celtics this and the old time Celtics that. Nobody would ever touch the 1986 team, etc. So you bet your ass I called to troll him about the fact that none of his precious teams could ever start a season this well at home. That not until the new age face of the franchise Jayson Tatum arrived had the Celts ever been able to something like this. 

As most true Celtics olds, he didn't appreciate it all that much. 

We'll see how it ends up, but for right now? 19-0 at home is something serious. You just don't see that all that often, and when it comes to the Boston Celtics, we've never seen it. Ever. Pick an era, any era you want, they've never done it. 

- There are a lot of reasons why the Celts have been able to start the season 19-0 at home, and not too far down the list you're going to find the name Kristaps Porzingis. Our 7'3 gift from the Basketball Gods.

39 games in and I'm still at the point where I shake my head at least 5 times a game thinking to myself how insane it is that Kristaps Porzingis is a Celtic and how perfectly he's fit since the second he stepped on the floor. However I thought this partnership was going to go, it's been a billion times better. We could tell he was the missing piece from the very first game and he's done nothing but confirm that theory every game since.

Of all the things KP did well in this game, what made me most excited was what we saw from behind the arc. A solid 3-5 last night, this is the one thing that I'd say hasn't gone as expected when it comes to Porzingis. He's shooting just 32% on open 3PA, so really we haven't even seen him at his true potential yet. It's only a matter of time before his three starts going, especially since his looks are all open/wide open. He's too good a shooter to be as poor as he has been to start the season.

Given that he's been under 30% over his last 10 games, I welcome the current trend we appear to be on. Porzingis is up to 37.5% over his last three games, and all of those were open/wide open looks (3-8). 

I don't need KP to be like the Jays and be shooting well over 40%, all I'm asking is for an acceptable 36-37% at a minimum. This offense becomes truly unstoppable if the KP (and Al) safety valve open 3s are dropping, and last night was a good example of what that can look like. 

- Crazy what can happen when the Celts have their legs and don't go 1-16 on open/wide open looks in an entire half. Instead, we saw them get back to how they've looked 99.9% of the time this season

53/57/76% with 24 3PM, it was an avalanche. Granted I could have used some of that the other night, but I'm pretty sure this answered the question as to whether or not you think the Celts had dead legs against the Bucks. To miss 50,000 straight shots from both behind the arc and in the paint is the exception, not the rule. Last night was the rule. Maybe not winning by 32 points, but seeing this team move the ball, make their open looks and not leave everything they throw up short.

- At 30-9, this now means the Celts need a 10-11 run in order to check off the all important 40/20 rule. This is the first major box every single team needs to check if they have dreams of winning a title. By now you should know why, just go look at NBA history. The 40/20 rule does not guarantee you win the title, but essentially no NBA champion has won it while not doing it.

It matters, and the Celts are pacing great so far.

- Please everyone take a moment and pray to whatever God it is you pray to that Derrick White's slump is over. Take as much time as you need, this is important. 

…..

………..

………………

Amen.

Now we wait and see.

- Part of what makes these blowouts so much fun is they allow Payton Pritchard to morph into Pro-Am Payton Pritchard, who rules. Once he starts to play the scrubs, he turns into a monster

Speaking of another guy snapping out of a slump, here's to hoping the same is true for Pritchard after his 19 points on 7-10 (3-6) last night. He's a guy who's been shooting just 32% from deep over his last 10 games, so it was nice to see him catch a rhythm at home. 

Pritchard is another guy who may have started the season slow, but has completely turned his season around. His extension looks like great value and he's been able to carve out a consistent and important role. Given how his season went last year, it makes me happy to see him get paid and then back it up with one of the best seasons of his career.

- Whether it was Will Hardy or Ime, it's clear that the former Celts coaches still think all you have to do is double Jayson Tatum. Sorry fellas, that shit doesn't work anymore. I found it interesting how in both games, neither coach had an answer as to how to stop either Jay. Where are all those in game adjustments from Ime? Did it feel like he was able to adjust on either end of the floor? Sorta felt like Joe cooked him if we're being honest. 

If a team isn't going to be able to stop the Celtics by doubling Tatum or Brown, what exactly are they going to be able to do other than pray someone misses? 

- Al Horford was a +30 in his 20 minutes. What can't that man do. 

The Bad

- Can't say I loved how this team looked defensively to start this game. Over the last 6-7 games we've seen the Celts be way too easy to score on. It hasn't mattered if it's from deep or at the rim, I just don't think we've seen an adequate level of resistance. Every team is putting up 30+ in a quarter, these games are being played in the 120s, it just hasn't been good.

So for the Celts to come out and give up 31 points on 50/40% splits to a team playing on the 2nd night of a B2B wasn't great. They tightened up towards the end of the first, but giving up 18 points in 6 minutes to start was gross. 

On the other end the Celts were careless (3 TOs) and it all in a way negated their great start offensively. In no world should the Celts score 35 points and shooting 54/40% and only be up 4 points after a quarter. That happens because you aren't getting stops.

- I remain so confused every time I see Holiday smoke a bunny. My brain just can't comprehend it. He's so good at virtually everything else offensively, but finishing at the rim. Just 2-5 in the paint last night (2-4 at the rim), Holiday is now at just 64.9% at the rim this season. That's down from 72.5% last year and 67.8% the year before.

At the same time, I LOVE when he uses his patience and size to back down an opponent in an effort to get into the paint for a turnaround floater. Those seem to always drop. But a layup at the rim? I have no idea if that shit's going to drop. It's so bizarre and very much reminds me of what we lived through with Malcolm Brogdon. So good with virtually everything else offensively, yet can't finish at the rim. Makes no sense. 

- As well as Jaylen played, we did see a few of his problem areas come up again. We got some of the ball handling TOs out of the post which seems to happen a lot with him. There were some passes off drives that weren't really there where you could tell he was probably caught in the middle of deciding what to do, things like that. Nothing major, but examples of the quick lapses in mental focus that often get him into trouble.

- I know I shouldn't complain since the Celts just went 30-31 from the line in a game, but 19-25 is gross. Jaylen missing 4, Tatum missing 2, what are we doing. 

- I mean the Celts won by 32 and were up by as much as 36, there's not really a whole lot to complain about.

The Ugly

- But what I will complain about is the Jayson Tatum ejection.

The reason this was an issue was because on a few prior possessions, Tatum was fouled on back to back layup attempts that were both no calls. For whatever reason, players are allowed to foul Jayson Tatum. So to them come back and go strong to the rim, CLEARLY get fouled for a third time and for that to also be a no call, well no shit Tatum was going to be pissed about it.

What we saw was an official who was wrong, probably knew he was wrong, got called out for being wrong, and then got emotional and decided to take that out on Tatum. To compound a mistake by ejecting a player because he called you out on your mistake is the very crux of Adam Silver's officiating problem. This is not the first time this has happened to Tatum (or other stars) and it won't be the last as long as nothing comes from it. Refs feel empowered to act this way and it's ruining the sport.

Now, the good news is this ejection was actually a blessing in disguise because it took Tatum out of a blowout and ensured he wouldn't twist an ankle or some shit. So on one hand, the ejection was bullshit and that ref should be publicly shamed. On the other hand, I appreciate Tatum getting the rest. 

Giphy Images.

At the end of the day, we as fans got the response we were all hoping for coming off the MIL disaster. The team stopped the bleeding, and now has an opportunity to start building momentum with TOR/SA both coming to town before a date with the defending champs. Play like we saw last night, and there should be nothing to worry about.