It's Now Time For The Celtics To Punch Back After Suffering One The Largest Ass Kickings In NBA Finals History

Jesse D. Garrabrant. Getty Images.

During the regular season, the Celtics had two separate winning streaks of at least 9 games. In both cases, the streak ended with a mostly disastrous performance. Honestly in the NBA, that's usually how things go. Long winning streaks never end pretty, and during the year for the Celts this meant a 1 point loss while blowing a 20+ point lead on the road to the Cavs and a 2 point loss on the road to the Hawks in which the Celts shot 28.9% from three and once again blew a 20+ point lead. In both games, they played some of the most disgusting basketball you will ever see.

In these playoffs, the Celts were riding a 10 game winning streak overall and a 7 game winning streak on the road. How did it end? With one of the most disgusting displays of basketball in the history of the NBA Finals. It was the first time in over 30 days the Celtics had lost a game, and if you want to suggest they were due for a stinker, this is usually how it happens. A night like this where you get outplayed in every aspect of the game and you play CTE basketball for 48 minutes is almost always how these type of streaks eventually end.

The thing you have to remember about the Boston Celtics is that when they are bad, it's never that they are only kind of shitty. No no. When the Celtics are bad, they are BAD. I'm talking to the point where you aren't even sure if any of them have played the sport of basketball before. The same way when they play to their potential there isn't a team on the planet that can match them. That's the type of swing that Celtics fans deal with every night.

It was pretty obvious which one of those Game 4 was. I'd say the Celts were competitive for around 5:24 of this game, which is an issue considering NBA games are 48 minutes. They were outplayed, out-executed, out-defended, out-focused, all of it. To me what this game reminded us was what happens when you're the one who disrespects the Basketball Gods. The Celts showed up and played like the series was over, the Mavs played hard, and the Gods reward those who play the game the right way.

It's entirely understandable to chalk this up to an off night, and on some level I agree with that line of thinking. But what I would not do is chalk this up to some sort of fluke on the Mavs side. The last 5 quarters of basketball suggest otherwise, so I view this more as the Celts got punched in the mouth and need to use it as a wake up call. Nobody rolls over and just hands you the NBA title. For the rest of this series, the Celts are going to get a desperate Mavs team who is going to play like their lives depend on it, because they do.

With that said, let's dive in

The Good

- You have to be out of your mind if you think a single player or aspect of this game warrants being in this section. The Celts trailed by as many as 48 points in this game.

48 points.

So there will be no spinzone for any player or Joe or any aspect of this shit sandwich. Instead, we're going a different direction. It's my responsibility to help you calm any potential nerves you may be feeling right now. The players obviously had zero interest in doing that, so it's up to the internet to pick up the slack. Here's all the material your brain should need



Alright, now to the real point of this blog.

The Bad

- It's had to decide where to start, but let's get the most obvious out of the way first. 

When you have arguably your worst night of the entire season on both ends of the floor, it's not surprising to see you get completely destroyed. Talk about a bad time for a bad night. We've seen the Celts so far in these Finals be able to survive games where their defense struggled for stretches as well as when their offense has struggled for stretches. What you can't have is a full 48 of both of those areas being complete dogshit. Not when you're on the road playing a team with everything to lose. When you get to this spot, execution becomes the most important thing, and there was absolutely zero execution on either end in Game 4. That simply cannot happen on Monday.

- Whenever the Celts have this type of stinker, you can usually tell right away. They start the game off being slower to the ball, giving up OREBs for early 3s, and missing a bunch of clean look 3PA. In the first 5 minutes of this game, that's exactly what happened

On the other end, the defense was providing zero resistance. The Mavs started 5-10, with all of their makes coming in the paint/at the rim which is the type of start that helped the crowd get into it.

The next stage of this type of blowout comes with the Celts shifting from missing their open 3PA to missing nearly everything in the paint. From when the score was 11-10 at the 6:36 mark of the first quarter through the rest of the quarter, the Celtics couldn't stop smoking bunnies on one end while continuing to bleed points at the rim on what seemed like every trip


It was very clear the team had lost their mental focus when it came to the officiating, and that's usually what happens when you see them smoke so many plays around the rim. Those are all the ingredients that go into these terrible performances. When you're getting these types of misses early


and not getting stops on the other end, it's a movie we've all seen before when it comes to the Celts. I've seen this exact formula for a loss a million times before, especially at the end of long winning streaks. This is how those losses look.

So much is always made about the Celts 3pt shooting, but to me Game 4 was more about the 2pt/paint production. Yes, it's as gross as you probably thought

That's just not going to cut it when you're trying to win the title. As the Celtics continued to lose focus, their offense stalled. They were stagnant, the ball didn't move, and it felt like each miss was more deflating than the last. Given the fact that this was literally one of the worst offensive showings of the season, it does give you hope that it was "just one of those nights", but to ensure that's all this was the Celts are going to need to adjust to the Mavs defense in Game 5. You have to make your paint opportunities and you have to make your open 3s. The Mavs did, and they blew doors. 


- There will also of course be the Scott Foster discourse, and we all saw what happened. My bigger issue isn't with his bullshit, because we knew that was coming. My problem was how the Celtics handled it and responded to it. Yes, the whistle wasn't consistent to start and it allowed the Mavs to establish momentum. But you know what also helped? The Celtics playing CTE basketball. The Celtics being more concerned with the lack of a whistle than focusing on executing on drives. If you were being honest with yourself, it felt every bit like the previous editions of this team. 

Guess what? You're probably getting either Zach Zarba or Tony Brothers in Game 5. There will be more bullshit to deal with. The Celtics cannot let it impact them like they did in Game 4. Sometimes you go cold shooting, sometimes you shortarm floaters, that shit happens. But what should never happen is losing focus and falling victim to the refs' inconsistency. I know that's easy to say as a blogger and very different as a player when you continue to drive and get fouled and don't get a whistle, but it's just the way it is. You have to get past the bullshit.

- Every Celtics playoff loss comes down to three things. I call it the Holy Trinity Of Playoff Pain. Go back to any year, any run, any loss, these three things exist in them all.

1. High points off TOs

2. Poor 3pt Shooting

3. Poor rebounding

Let's check in on how things looked in this latest loss

1. 17 points off TO allowed

2. 14-41 3PT (10-30 when the rotation players played)

3. 13 OREB (16-2 2nd chance points)

When the Celtics hit all three of these, not only do they lose, but they almost always get blown out. Jrue Holiday who didn't have a turnover in the entire Finals, had 5. Each one more brutal than the next.

Jayson Tatum had 3, which included bizarre CTE decisions like this

I've watched this clip a thousand times and I still have no idea what Tatum thought in this moment. If he thought he got hit Al, why did he throw it like that? It was almost like he saw it for a second, tried to throw it, and then wanted to pull it back once he saw it was a terrible idea. These are the type of CTE moments that summed up the entire game. Bizarre stuff.

The rebounding, dear god. This was our first sign that not only were the Celts not ready to play, but the Mavs were going to bring the energy all night. A 52-31 rebounding difference is legitimately insane. OREBs were 13-4. Second chance points 16-2. Even misses that weren't rebounded by DAL were still kept alive to the point where they went out of bounds off Boston which allowed for another opportunity. 

It's as simple as this. If you don't rebound. You die. The more you allow extra possessions to a team that's on fire offensively and has been getting whatever they want, you die. Finishing defensive possessions cleanly is arguably the most important part of any playoff game, and this was by far the worst showing the Celts have had in that department during these Finals. 

This is losing basketball


- If you are someone who is going with the whole "the Celtics lost this so they could win it at home" angle, please be for real. That is complete bullshit. The Celts didn't intentionally punt this game, they got their ass kicked. Nobody punts NBA Finals games when a title is on the line. I saw a lot of that last night and I dunno, it irked me. In reality, they got punched in the mouth and never recovered.

- There's no other way to spin it, Payton Pritchard's lack of production is killing this second unit. Before garbage time he was 1-5 (0-3) and was 1-16 to start the Finals. Sure some rimmed out, but the fact remains they have gotten absolutely zero offensive production from his minutes so far in these Finals. With no Porzingis, that's an issue. He's going to be targeted defensively every trip, so the balance to that has to be his shotmaking. If he's not making his open looks, he almost becomes unplayable which opens up another can of issues.


If your solution for that is more Hauser minutes, well you then open up more possessions for Luka to attack. He was 6-9 against Hauser last night, which was his most targeted matchup. At least Sam looked like he found his shot during the blowout minutes, but I think giving Luka even more minutes of that matchup moving forward is asking for trouble. 

One of the biggest difference in Game 4 was the play of both benches. The Mavs "others" came out firing, they executed, they got stops, and they made their open looks. The Celts? It was pretty much the exact opposite. On a night where your starters are also no showing, that's not going to cut it.

The Ugly

- Call me crazy, but it's going to be hard for the Celtics to win a game against the Mavs if their entire starting lineup does not show up. I'm not being dramatic either, that is legitimately what happened

Remember, this also comes with zero defensive stops on the other end. Tatum got off to a good start in the first quarter, but was pretty much a non-factor the rest of the way. The backcourt couldn't make shit, whether that was open 3PA or plays in the paint. 

And Finals MVP leader Jaylen Brown? Disaster. Easily his worst game in about 4 months. The decision-making, the production, the mental focus when it came to the whistle, it was all very bad. This was an opportunity for the Jays to stamp themselves as legends, and they choked it. I think that's fair to say given what we saw. 

It's pretty unusual to see the entire starting five lay an egg like this, but again a lot of this has to do with the Mavs defense. How many times did we see any starter be unable to get past Kyrie/Luka? It was as if offensively the Celts decided to play right into the Mavs hands. Instead of imposing their will and getting to what they wanted, they instead played into the areas the Mavs wanted. Instead of playing with force, they were indecisive. Then came the low shot quality threes, and the rest was history.

I mean I don't think I've seen Derrick White airball 3-4 3PA in a single game maybe ever. Holiday morphing back into MIL Playoff Holiday was not something I saw coming, and when all of those things happen at once, there's pretty much nothing else that matters. Your stars have to show up, period. 

- While still in the driver's seat of the series, there's no denying that the Celts have given the Mavs all the life in the world. Given how they ended Game 3 and then last night's Game 4, there's real belief there. As Celts fans we know exactly what that can lead to, and why you cannot screw around despite this 3-1 lead. All the pressure in the world is now on the Celts in Game 5 as weird as that sounds, and while everyone assumes the Celts will respond well, I think we should also now assume the Mavs will play just as well. A team with confidence and nothing to lose is dangerous.


The good news is if there's one thing the 2024 Celtics have shown us both in the regular season and the postseason is that they know how to respond. At the end of the day the goal of the trip was a split, but there's no denying how disappointing it is to blow the sweep after they found a way to win Game 3. Any time you blow a chance to end a series you allow that door to be cracked open wider and wider. 

- I think we're all seeing the importance of Kristaps Porzingis. Not just in terms of the offensive threat and the spacing, but the defensive and rebounding impact as well. His absence has changed the entire series

Does he play in Game 5? I still say no. I'm at the point where I've come to peace with the fact that he's out for the rest of the Finals. It fucking sucks, but it is what it is.

- So far in the NBA Finals, the Celtics are shooting just 33.9% from three as a team. Through 4 games, on "open" 3PA they are 20-66 (30.3%). When you look at the player's production, it's ugly

Both Tatum and Brown being under 30% despite their high volume is….not great. Payton Pritchard shooting 13%……also not great. 

The hope is they will finally snap out of this and the comfort of being home in Game 5 will help. Granted they did shoot 25.6% in Game 2, but it does feel like they are due. Game 4 was the Mavs' game of magnet ball shooting, so there's no reason to think Game 5 can't be that for the Celts. As long as they generate 3PA through good ball movement and drive and kicks, they should let it fly with confidence. 

So here we go. Will the Celts use this demoralizing loss as fuel and punch back in Game 5? You could make the case if they don't and this thing goes back to Dallas that we are headed for a Game 7 where anything can happen. For the moment, I am choosing to believe in the team we saw all season long. I am choosing to believe in the most dominant homecourt team in the NBA. 


Now if you'll excuse me, it's time to pray.