"A Good Old Fashioned Ass Whooping" Is The Perfect Description Of What Happened Between The Celtics And Clippers

Brian Fluharty. Getty Images.

In the same way that not all big wins are created equal, the same is true for ass kickings. A good example of this is to just look at what the Celts have done since January 11th. On that night, we saw them get completely stomped on the road in MIL. A beatdown so bad Joe pulled the plug at halftime. Couldn't make a shot, couldn't get a stop, it was a bloodbath. It also was a result that didn't really bother you given the context around it. 

On January 27th, the Celtics once again got their ass kicked. Completely stomped by the Clippers on a night where they couldn't make a shot and couldn't get a stop. It was once again, a bloodbath. The way I look at it, it's the MIL performance only without that context. It's worse. Rested, at home, playing a team on a B2B is not the same as going into MIL on a B2B and the 5th game in 7 days. Getting blown out in that one is something most would chalk up to a "schedule loss". Doing whatever the hell we watched last night is simply getting your ass WHOOPED.

Look, we've seen this team hand out their fair share of ass whoopings, so if anyone knows what it looks like to get your ass whooped it's us. That is what we witnessed. No team is immune to it and last night it was the Celts turn to take their whooping. Of this entire 48 minute game, I'd say there was only one section of it where you would consider it a time when the Celts weren't getting their asses kicked, and that was the first 5 minutes. That's it. The 43 following? Ass kicking.

Whenever stuff like this happens, there always seems to be a rush to one extreme or another. One side screams how this is a giant red flag and proof of what will happen in 4 months. The other side screams how this is absolutely nothing and is just a random singular game in the middle of the season.

Both are somewhat right, and both are somewhat wrong.

In order for a result like this to happen, it would mean the Celtics have played in a way we know is not successful. Maybe that's poor execution, maybe that's lazy turnovers or bad defense. The point is it's losing basketball. It is true that come a playoff run, you need to be playing winning basketball. That is seeing something in the regular season that you know will hurt you when it matters most. It's not nothing, but it's mostly just a reminder of how this team cannot play. 

If you want to expand what this means for the Celts in a larger picture, you also have to expand your sample. No singular loss is a direct reflection of what's to come the same way no singular win is either. That's not really what the regular season is about, given that you cannot prove any postseason result by regular season play. Sometimes you play like shit (LAC), and sometimes you reach a level of nirvana the NBA has never seen before (Heat). The Celts have great wins against elite teams, and disaster losses against elite teams. That's basketball baby.

When you lay the type of egg the Celts did in this loss and get your ass kicked the way they did, all you can do is take it on the chin and move on. I think we all knew even before this game that if the Celts played the way we saw, they'd get crushed. 

It won't be pretty, but let's dive in

The Good

- Don't worry, this won't take us long given the fact that the only thing we saw from the Boston Celtics that warrants being in this section is the play of Jayson Tatum

The only player who showed anything that came close to resembling a pulse early, I do have to admit that even this does feel a little bit of a stretch considering he also went 3-10 in the 3rd quarter when the Clippers ripped this game open once the Celts cut it to 12. That wasn't great. 

But on a night where the entire starting 5 made only 13 baskets, I'm not going to nitpick too much about the guy who made 8 of them. In fact, I would argue part of the issue last night was not getting Tatum involved enough, especially once it was fairly clear every other Celtic left their jump shot at home. With no real rim protection, it felt like Tatum was able to attack at will, and yet this is a game he finished with only 3 FTA. His 18 FGA led the team, but that didn't tell the whole story in terms of how he was used. 

I'm all for balance and letting guys cook and try and get into a rhythm, but I'm also in favor of Jayson Tatum touching the basketball. I think that needs to be a balance, and things skewed a little too far the other way, especially during their initial struggle.

The Bad

- Alright, where the hell do we begin? It's tough to figure out what was "bad" and what was "ugly" given how much shit there was, but that's why I'm a professional. It's why I was put on this planet. 

I'd like to start with something that I feel is maybe the root of a lot of people's uneasy feeling when thinking about this loss. It's your standard PTSD. I know because I feel it too. You take Porzingis out of this lineup and you throw an aggressive defense with size and active hands against the Celts offense, and it brought out every bad habit that has proved to be fatal for this team. 

We've seen what happens when opponents cut off the dribble drive like the Clippers did last night. The end result is a low percentage, contested, end of shot clock prayer that guess what? Isn't going to go in. We see a version of basketball that is the exact reason why Brad went out and traded for Porzingis.

We know that the teams that give the Jays/the Celts trouble are ones that can contain them on the perimeter. If you have the size to slow down the Jays on the wing and then you're taking away Derrick/Jrue's drive, you've solved the non-Porzingis Celtics puzzle. The thing is, not many teams can do both of those things. The Clippers can, and now with Kawhi back in the lineup we saw what it looks like to go up against that type of size, and the results weren't all that great. The fear is that in a playoff series against a tough defense, this is what will happen.

I will say, if you care about how the Celts offense looks against the best defenses in the league, on the season, the Celts average 118.9 points/100 possessions against the top 10 defenses in the NBA. That's 2nd in the league, trailing only PHX (121.6)

- But back to the shitty stuff. If there's one thing that troubles me more than the missed shots and the fact this team got down by like 36 points through three quarters, it's what we saw happen to their play when the shots weren't falling.

What I mean by that is I don't care about the slow shooting start. I've seen plenty of shitty Celtics shooting starts. What I care about is how those struggles started to bleed into everything else we saw this team do. If your shot is broken, then you need to be even more locked in defensively. Not only to help prevent the game from getting away from you, but also the easiest way to snap out of a slump is to get some easy buckets in transition. 

The problem here was you could tell right away the shooting was starting to negatively impact the defense, and when you combine those two things the only result is what we got. You fuck around like that against a team as good as the Clippers, and you are going to get buried. Did you get the sense at any point during the early struggles of this game that the Celts were locking in defensively and were ramping up the intensity? Hell no. We saw poor transition defense, we saw the Clippers beating everyone down the floor repeatedly after misses, we saw OREB after OREB lead to 2nd chance points. 

This is the stuff that cannot happen. There are going to be times in a playoff game where the Celts go cold from the floor. That's the playoffs. What the Celts cannot do is let their struggles bleed into every other area of their game like they did last night. That was bad.

- You really have to love coming out of the half, knowing you need to punch first, getting it down to 12 and then the next thing you know you've given up an 18-0 run and the game has ended. For a group that needed a strong quarter, this is what they did

Color me shocked that the Celtics lost a game in which they had a completely horrific 3r quarter. Oh that's right, it's basically what has happened in about 8 of their 11 losses or something along those lines. Sucking ass in the 3rd quarter isn't a one off thing, in fact it's a pattern. Everywhere you look in that graphic gets worse than the next. The shooting is rough, 4 TOs, 22-10 points in the paint, 5-14 paint FG%, 36 points allowed, 12 2nd chance points, 6 OREB….I mean holy shit. 

- While this was a night where the 3PA certainly weren't dropping (10-40), the same was also true for the Clippers (10-40). This game wasn't really decided by 3pt shooting once you take a closer look, but rather how each side did when it came to open/wide open 2FGA

I'm someone who agrees that on a night where the 3s aren't dropping, it's a good idea to be aggressive and mix it up. The thing with that though is once you get into the paint and start taking 2pt FGA, you also need to make them. As bad as the 25% from deep was, given the Clippers also struggled from behind the arc, the Celts in ability to make a 2pt FG is what made this such a blowout.

As a team, they finished just 24-51 in the paint. You can see above how great the Clippers were defensively in terms of contesting shots and making things tough where the Celts couldn't stop giving up open FGA. 

So yeah, the 3pt shooting was awful. That is true. The 2pt shooting was also awful. That is also true.

The Ugly

- I didn't think we would ever see a game in which 4 of the 5 Celtics starters shot a combined 5-37 (3-19). I mean what else is there to even say?

Jaylen: 3-13 (0-2)

Jrue: 2-11 (1-7)

Derrick: 0-8 (0-4)

Horford: 0-5 (0-4)

Look, I think we can all acknowledge that all four of those players having THAT type of a night is pretty unusual, but that doesn't mean we can pretend like it wasn't awful to watch. Jaylen and Jrue playing some broken brain basketball, Derrick missing everything from bunnies to threes, Al is really the only one who gets a semi-pass since he fucked up his finger early.

I feel confident in saying the Celtics will not win in the playoffs if 80% of their starting lineup does not show up. If a group that averages over 90 points together throws up 38, that's going to be a problem. 

Credit the Clippers defense for causing hell, but some of the decision making we saw in this game wasn't all because of what the Clippers were doing. Very weird decision making game from Jrue, who may have just been trying to step up with no Porzingis, but from looking off Tatum a bunch to firing a few too many early shot clock threes, this was a pretty different approach from him than what we've seen lately.

With Jaylen, as the 2nd best player on the team in a big game at home, I can't have 3-13. The 5 OREB were cool, but this was an egg that the Celts couldn't afford to have. This was a battle of the old wings vs the new wings and the old wings got that ass. Things were off right from the jump with Jaylen with his 0-6 in the 1st quarter, and given the fact that he's one of the best 1st quarter players in the entire NBA that's mostly whatever. What isn't whatever is that it came in a big game against a good team, and you add that with all the other non-Tatum starters struggling and that's how you get into trouble.

Not exactly the way most of us were hoping to kick off this homestand, and things don't exactly get any easier with the Pelicans coming to town tomorrow. They're coming off an ass kicking of their own on Saturday night by the Bucks, so my guess is they'll be extra motivated as well. The Celts have shown all year they have the ability to stop the bleeding immediately and bounce back, but they certainly won't if they go out there and play like they did last night. Never do that shit again.