Just 2 Wins Away From Returning To The NBA Finals, Now Is The Time For The Celtics To Go In For The Kill

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Since the start of the NBA season, the most important thing to do when it came to watching the Boston Celtics play was to ignore the noise. When they got off to a great start, people didn't want to buy what we were seeing. When they got to the All Star Break with the NBA's best record, everyone said nothing mattered until the playoffs. When the playoff started, the narrative around this team seems to change with every game. No team in the league has the goalposts moved quite like the Boston Celtics, that's their reality.

I'm sure there will be more bullshit that comes with last night's win, because as you remember even playoff wins are actually losses for this team, so it's important we remember the actual facts of this run.

- The Celtics are 10-2 this postseason, which is the 2nd best start in franchise history

- The Celtics are 6-2 at home this postseason, which is tied for the most home wins in the playoffs

- The Celtics have won 42 of the previous 43 series in which they had a 2-0 lead

Contrary to what the media wants you to believe, the sky is not falling. In fact, things are great. Perfect? No. But as they stand today, just 6 wins from the NBA title, the Celts need to go just 6-6 the rest of the way to reach the top of the mountain. Everything is right there for the taking as long as this team just plays to their normal level. 

At the same time, a 2-0 lead is not a 4-0 series win. I can understand the appeal of looking ahead and considering the ECF a wrap, but you will not get that from me. With a run this important, I am choosing to respect the Basketball Gods and respect the opponent. I suggest you do the same. 

Approach this the same way the team is. One game at a time. Once you get this deep into a playoff run, looking ahead and assuming things are over is how the Basketball Gods ruin your life. Remember being up 2-1 in the Finals? The talk was the series was over. It was, but for the Celtics. So I get with Haliburton's injury and KP on the horizon there's a desire to consider this series over, but I would strongly suggest fighting that urge. 

Instead, enjoy the fact that finally, the Celtics didn't fuck around and drop Game 2. This was only the 2nd time in their last 9 playoff series that they won both home games to start, and while things got dicey there for a second in Game 1, the Game 2 performance was much more reflective of the team we've been watching all year. Locked in defensively, the ball moved, shots dropped, the energy was there, and they didn't self sabotage when things started to get close.

The beauty of all this? The Celtics can play even better

We did not watch them at their peak last night, think about that. There are levels this team can still get to and will need to get to if they have hopes of winning the title.

But for now, we enjoy the moment. Let's begin.

The Good

- When Jaylen Brown was drafted in 2016, he declared he would go to war for this team and this city. If you're curious about what that might look like now in 2024, it would be my pleasure to show you


Remember, there were Celts fans out there who wanted to trade Jaylen Brown for Bradley Beal. That thought giving Jaylen a supermax was a death sentence for the team and the franchise. And yet all Jaylen does is get better. Year after year, playoff run after playoff run, and now here we are. Not only is Jaylen playing some of the best basketball of his life at the most important timeof the season, he's been their best player in the ECF thus far and I'm not sure it's all that close.

As I said last night, his explosion was pretty predictable after his All NBA snub, even if he's trying to lie to us and say it didn't motivate him or matter


You could see it the second the game started. All you have to do is watch how Jaylen played. Aggressive, with force, under control, locked in. When Jaylen plays like this right from the jump in a game, you know he's not fucking around. When we get this version of Jaylen, it usually means he plays inside/out. Well wouldn't you know….

8-11 from the FT line, just 2 TOs in his 36 minutes, a team best +18, All NBA level defense, I don't think it's a stretch to suggest that we just witnessed the best playoff game of Jaylen's career. Given what he went through last ECF, that makes me very happy. He looks ready for the moment, which is all part of the maturation process. We're entering Jaylen's NBA prime, and look at the player he is becoming. This is why you don't trade Jaylen Brown for an aging str. This is why you pay him all the goddamn money you can. This is why the franchise was patient with the Jays duo. 

People called me crazy for saying the Celtics didn't have a #1 and a #2, they had a 1A and a 1B. I'll just ask you this, does that seem crazy right now? While the talking heads will most likely spend today trying to force some sort of Jaylen vs Tatum debate, I say take that time and appreciate both instead. The Celtics are who they are because they HAVE BOTH players. For them to win the title, they will need BOTH players to play to their potential. That's how it's always been, and it's how it always will be.

If we had to describe what we as fans felt like Jaylen's ideal playoff form looked like, my guess is a lot of us would describe what we're currently seeing. Now we just need it 6 more times.

- Since the second KP went down, something flipped with Jrue Holiday. That's really the only way I can explain it. While the Jays will get most of the headlines, please do not let that overshadow what the Celtics have been getting from Jrue Holiday on both ends of the floor. Without his production, I feel confident in saying the Celtics are not 10-2 this postseason and 2-0 in this series. 


The offensive jump we've seen from Jrue since Game 4 of the MIA series when KP got hurt is borderline insane. Prior to that moment, Holiday had a 36% TS%. He couldn't make dick. He smoked every bunny, missed every 3, it was scary as shit given his previous playoff runs.

Since Game 4? Holiday has a 70% TS%

That's right. 70%.

We already know you're getting All NBA level defense and great poise offensively with Jrue. The question was always going to be about his offensive production, regardless of what role he was given. After a 6-7 (3-4) performance in Game 2 last night, I don't think it's possible for Holiday to have answered the call better than what we're currently watching. The Pacers don't have the size on the perimeter to keep him out of the paint/at the rim, he's caught his rhythm from deep to the point where now my brain assumes every catch & shoot three he takes is going in, and he's limited his questionable transition 3s (but has also made them when he's taken them) all while not turning the ball over. 

Brad Stevens traded for Jrue for these exact moments. It was never about the regular season or even the early rounds of the playoffs. As we know, when the Celts backcourt is effective, they become nearly impossible to beat. Elite defense and elite offense from players who aren't the Jays is what makes the Celts overwhelming, and that's what were getting.

- To be an NBA player, you need the memory of a goldfish. You cannot let your struggles in one half bleed into the next, and you need to make sure you remain aggressive and play with the utmost confidence, even if you can't hit a shot to save your life.

A great example of this mindset was the performance of Derrick White


Guy could not buy a bucket to save his fucking life in the first half. A brutal 1-7, the earlier version of Derrick would probably become hesitant and be afraid to shoot, which in turn would negatively impact the offense. For things to work, everyone has to be ready to let it fly when they have their opportunities. If you hesitate, it all falls apart.

Bald Derrick? Bald Derrick's confidence never wavers. He stays with it, and the second half was an example of why that's so important. 

17 points on 7-8 (3-4) with 0 TOs in his 17 second half minutes, Derrick's shot coming back to life was a huge reason why the Celts were able to pull away. When the Pacers had the score within 6 on a handful of occasions, it was Derrick's confident catch & shoot threes that gave the Celts breathing room. Nobody has it easier than Derrick in terms of the looks he's going to get since the Jays command so much attention, so really all it comes down to is just shooting with confidence. Make sure your form is straight up and down and not leaning which is what causes him to struggle and you're going to get the results we saw in the second half. 

Then you add in everything he gives you defensively, and there's a reason this is the most devastating backcourt in the NBA. Let people focus on Luka/Kyrie and their offense, I'll focus on guys who have been just as good offensively while also being the best defensive backcourt in the NBA.

- Whether the haters and losers of which there are many are willing to admit it, Joe Mazzulla has been coaching his dick off during this entire postseason run. He's been nails in every single series, and last night may have been his best performance yet. Even though his hand was forced a little bit due to injury, the decision to go with Oshae Brissett over Tillman was not only the correct call, it changed the game

Joe's adjustments were more than just that single rotation decision though. How he started Tatum on Turner as an answer to the Pacers P&R, putting Al on Siakam so he could be there for help/rim protection, every button he pushed worked. Every counter Rick Carlisle tried, Joe had an answer for.

And let's face the facts. The Pacers ORTG in this series is the lowest of any playoff series they've had thus far (116.7). Meanwhile, the Celts have a 125.1 ORTG in the ECF, which is the best of their playoff run. In Game 1, the Pacers point per possession were the 67th highest of their season. In Game 2, they only scored 110 points and most of that was in garbage time.

So maybe, just maybe, Joe Mazzulla knows what he's doing. I know that's hard for the weirdos on Twitter to accept because they have this weird hate boner for a guy who is now 21-11 in his Celtics postseason career, but the reality is Joe has been fantastic this entire Year 2.

- The best part of this entire win was the fact that Al Horford only played 24:58. Coming off his 40 minute run in Game 1, this was music to my ears. You could also give Joe credit for realizing that he can't run Al into the ground, which he certainly could have since Kornet went out. Instead, Al's minutes were kept in check and now the Celts have the chance to give him even more rest if they handle this series in at least 5 games. If so, he'll get 5/30-6/6 off. I need that.


- It's just very hard for the Celtics to lose games in which they put up 126, shoot 53/40%, only turn the ball over 10 times, win the rebounding battle, win the points in the paint battle 54-34, win the fastbreak points battle and win the 2nd chance points battle.

Everywhere you looked, the Celts found a way to win that category. Not only that, they only allowed one 30 point quarter, and it came when the game was over.

- Nice bounce back game for Payton Pritchard, who really needed it after his Game 1 stinker. A solid 12 points on 4-6 (2-2) in his 19 minutes off the bench, it does feel like Pritchard has done nothing but make big threes every time he's on the floor this postseason. It's clear he's taking that TJ McConnell matchup personally, and he won that shit last night by a wide margin.  

- I found this pretty interesting. Shocking, but somehow true.

Did you know both Oshae Brissett and Svi Mykhailiuk have more career ECF points than Joel Embiid? 

I know. I couldn't believe it either, but it's true. 

- Before the series started I wondered if the Celts were going to take out of the Knicks playbook and really put an emphasis on the offensive glass. It's a risk because it can let the Pacers get out in transition, but my thought process was I've seen the Celts go cold shooting so many times in the ECF, that maybe exploiting this weakness would be smart.

Well, that's exactly how the Celts weathered the storm early in this game. They had 6 OREB alone in the first quarter for 7 2nd chance points, and it came from crashing on the weakside and the guards hitting the glass. We saw the exact reason why mant Cs fans didn't want to trade for Turner way back when, he really struggles rebounding the ball. Outside of him, the Pacers don't really have any legitimate size. When the Celts are aggressive and attack the offensive glass, good things tend to happen. 

- Crazy to think we've gone this long and haven't even mentioned Jayson Tatum's performance yet. Much like DWhite, Tatum's first half was complete dogshit. Easily the worst he's played on both ends the entire season. He was lifeless.

But that brings me back to the goldfish mentality. There are two halfs to every game, and Tatum's second half was great


Much more engaged defensively, got to his spots offensively and finally saw some drop. Crazy a guy can basically only play one half and finish with 23/6/5 on 9-20 shooting, but that's the Jayson Tatum experience. He always seems to find a way. 

Will he be slandered today? Of course! We know by now that it doesn't matter what Tatum does, the narrative around him is insane. But none of that shit matters. What matters is that he showed up when he needed to and found a way to help his team win. I think we'd all prefer this to be a 48 minute occurrence, but when it came time for him to produce in the second half, Tatum stepped up.

- Call me crazy, but that 20-0 run seemed pretty important to the result of this game

The Bad

- First and foremost, like I said last night, it sucks that Haliburton got hurt. Granted I will not apologize for the wins because last time I checked nobody felt sorry for Celts fans when Kyrie, Jaylen, Hayward, Kemba, Rob, Brogdon, Tatum etc all got hurt in previous playoff runs. Shit happens this time of year and a successful run needs injury luck. After years and years of brutal playoff paths, things have opened up for the Celts this year. That's how it goes sometimes. You still have to handle your shit and take care of business, and that's what the Celts are doing.

There will be some who try and take away from what we're seeing, but that's just upset fanbases trying to cope. Let them get it out of their system and pay them no mind.

- I'm not sure what the answer is, but the Celts have to do something to get Pascal Siakam off this rhythm he's currently on. Maybe the idea is you live with him going crazy and shut off the water for everyone else now that Haliburton is out, but man did he have an answer for everything the Celts threw at him in both of these games. His pullup in the paint/midrange is automatic right now, and it wasn't even a case of poor defense or lazy contests. Al was right there on pretty much everything, and Siakam still buried jumper after jumper. 

- As I said, the first half from Jayson Tatum was completely unacceptable. Half like that cannot happen should this team make the Finals, and I can live with the missing 3s and jumpers. What I can't live with is not playing defense and poor body language. There should never be a time where it feels like Tatum is just floating through a game. That's the bullshit that we dealt with in his younger years, and it gets this team into trouble.

To be fair, it's been a LONG TIME since we've seen that from Tatum, so I'm willing to give him a break. But moving forward? Can't happen.

- Back to back games it did not seem like the Celts were ready out of the break. In Game 1 you had the Haliburton easy path to the rim for a layup, and in Game 2 it was Nembhard. Even though the Celts figured things out in the 3rd and won the quarter 36-29, I haven't loved how they've come out defensively in the second half in both of these games. It's felt like the Pacers punched first both times, and sooner or later there may be a moment where you can't punch back.

They've allowed 29 points in both 3rd quarters of this series, and while they won both games we've been doing this long enough to know how important 3rd quarters are. You have to lock in defensively in that frame if you want to win the title. For me, that's non-negotiable.

The Ugly

- By now you should know the rules. This team wins 5 games in a row, we get to skip this section as a treat. Well, for the first time this postseason, we have his the 5 in a row marker


So now here we go. Off to Indy with a chance to effectively end this series. You go up 3-0, and I would be even more cautious with KP. We've seen the Celts take care of business on the road all playoffs, and to me this is the most important one yet. When you're this close to the Finals, you cannot allow for any hope. You can't give your opponent any reason to believe a comeback is possible. You step on their throat and you go up 3-0. Do that, and you put yourself in the best position possible.