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The Celtics Blow A 21 Point Lead Against Memphis Because They Hate Winning

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What an absolute turd sandwich this past week has been for our guys in Green. If things weren’t boiling over prior to last night’s performance in Memphis, well they certainly are now. Put it it bluntly, the Celtics have been downright pathetic in 2016, standing strong with a 1-4 record since the New Year. Of this stretch, 3 of the games were decided by 5 points or less, which you guessed it, the Celts all lost. In fact, the Celts are a brutal 3-9 this year in games decided by 5 points or less and 0-3 in games decided by 3 points or less. That hurts.

Last night’s disaster was simply a microcosm of their current rut, and shit this was maybe the most frustrating of all. But I don’t want to make this simply a personal bitch session, so let’s take it to the streets to see how some other fellow Green Teamer’s seem to be taking things

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You get the idea. Honestly, it feels great to know I’m not the only one who’s frustrated. A 1-5 stretch will do that to ya, and right now the Celtics simply are not very good. They’re clearly in a rut, are dropping games they shouldn’t, and in the end may make things hard for themselves when it comes down to playoff seeding. Remember divisions don’t matter, it’s all about overall record, and with how tight the East is at the moment, those 5 or 6 games they’ve blown so far could really hurt them. That’s why this is so frustrating. These are games the Celtics should win and HAVE won this year, but when they play like last night they won’t beat anybody.

Here’s the thing about this team that will be very important moving forward. They are clearly at a crossroads of their season, despite being just 37 games into it. When shit like this happens in a locker room you can either start to turn on each other, mentally check out, and ruin your season or you can stay positive, put this game behind you and focus on the next one. Most importantly, you stick together. I think we are seeing a little bit of both of this right now, but its crucial that they get over this and move on. But before we can move on, we need to focus on what the fuck happened in Memphis.

The Good

– Not all of last night’s performance was terrible, in fact, there were a lot of positive things to take away. Let’s start how it seems we do every recap, and that’s with the Celtics first quarter. It has become this team’s MO to start really well (and then blow it) by playing beautiful basketball. Brad Stevens talked about how great their practice was on Saturday, and it clearly carried over to start the game. It wasn’t so much the 34 points and 56% shooting as it was how they scored. The Celtics did a wonderful job of moving the ball side to side, causing Memphis to really exert energy rotating, which eventually left the Celts with open quality looks. They had 9 assists on 13 baskets in the quarter, and defensively they were lights out, holding Memphis to just 26% shooting.

THIS was the team I think we all expected to see, and it was the type of start this group desperately needed. I think we saw how important Avery Bradley is to the starting lineup and what it can do to free up Isaiah Thomas and Co.

– I don’t think people are talking about this enough, but Amir Johnson continues to very efficient and productive for the Celts over the last 5 or so games. Since Jan 1 he’s averaging a solid 12 pts 8 reb 1.6 blks and shooting a ridiculous 71%. Now most of his points come off dunks and shit, but he does have a nice little jump hook that we saw a few times against Memphis’s frontline. I love Amir’s touch around the basket, and even though he loves to just try and tap the ball out instead of actually grab a rebound, I’ve loved what I’ve seen from him lately. He played last night with great energy, and I thought he did a fantastic job on Marc Gasol, really making him work for his points and cause havoc around the rim.

– Despite the offensive struggles down the stretch, it was great to see the Celts did not let it impact them on the defensive end. In fact, their defense last night was actually pretty legit. It obviously helps when Memphis is missing two starters, but holding them to 36.9% shooting, having 17 steals and causing 21 turnovers is the type of defensive effort this team is known for and will need to maintain if they want to snap this rut. For all their offensive struggles last night, Jae Crowder and Marcus Smart were absolute monsters on defense. Jae had 4 steals and Marcus had 5 which were big in helping the Celts score 23 fast break points.

Now let me caveat this by stating the obvious. Their defense in the first half compared to the second was night and day, but overall I don’t think you can blame the defense for what happened. It showed up.

– I really liked Sully’s decision making process towards the end of the third quarter, and I think it gave us a peak into his development. See Sully had just hit a 22ft jumper, and on his next posession got the ball a little outside the elbow, let’s call it 16 ft. As he faced up his defender you could see him running through all his options in his head. He could have pulled up and taken a contested jumper (which young Sully does after that previous make) or he could use his big ass, take his man to the block, and go in for an easy layup. The second option is what he chose, and it worked, at the time extending their lead to 12. This wasn’t the play of the game or anything, but it tells the story of how Sullinger had changed his game this season.

See, this year he is living more in the paint than he has before, and we’ve seen him cut his 3PA almost in half from where he was a year ago. I think this is for the best

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– Isaiah’s 35. Look I’ve said all I have to say about Isaiah and what I think about him on Saturday. If you don’t think this player is an All Star, then no one should be. And let me be very clear about this. There is a difference between having a great year, and being your franchise savior. Can the Celtics win a title with Isaiah as our best player? Maybe, maybe not. I’m just not so sure what one has to do with the other. Either way, it was great to see IT4 get out of his shooting slump and get a little bit of his swagger back. As he goes offensively so do the Celts, so the quicker he can get out of his funk the better.

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– Yup his offense struggled again, but Marcus Smart continues to make plays that just make you shake your head and laugh. We saw a couple last night that just show his value to this team. He does things that few players do and just makes winning plays. Beautiful to watch.

– Speaking of beautiful, nothing was more beautiful than how the Celtics ended the half. What a genius play drawn up by our boy wonder. That back screen on Olynyk gave me chills as someone who appreciates beautiful basketball

The Bad

– Where to start, well, how about the fact that you blew a 21 point second half lead. Watching this collapse unfold was awful, yet predictable. You see, after that strong first quarter, offensively the Celtics went to shit. Their 28% shooting in the fourth was pretty much the writing on the wall. It was like dying a slow and painful death. You cannot, just CANNOT blow 21 point leads to a team that is missing 2 starters. I’m still upset clearly.

– It didn’t help that the Celtics surrendered 21 offensive rebounds. That is an astonishing number that will lead to a loss essentially every time. The Celtics just could not stop Gasol/Randolph on the glass and that really isn’t a surprise. What was shocking was that we didn’t see Zeller since he’s 7 ft and the current group of guys were having to success whatsoever.

– As good as their defense was in the first half, holding MEM to 16 and 22 point quarters, it was just as bad in the second where they surrendered back to back 30 point quarters. The main reason for those points? The Celtics could not defend without fouling. Memphis took 40 free throws. 40!. Ad this isn’t a case where I’m bitching that the Celtics didn’t get any calls and the Grizzlies did. The Celtics literally couldn’t stop fouling. They had 5 players with at least 4 fouls, and not all of them were smart fouls.

If you look over this game, there’s your story. The Grizzlies had 35 points from the FT line, and it kept them in the game despite their poor shooting. This felt like a season high for the Celtics to surrender that many FTA, but if you can’t defend without fouling then you don’t deserve to win.

– Speaking of FTs, do you think any of the 6 FTs the Celtics missed would have come in handy? This is becoming a serious issue and frankly it blows my mind. I’ll live with bad FT shooters missing, but Avery missing 2 down the stretch in a close game makes my blood boil. Maybe don’t cancel shootarounds and practice your fucking FTs as this is now the second game in a week it’s cost you. Clean it up.

The Ugly

– I’ve about had enough of David Lee. When he first was signed I had high hopes but enough is enough. He is trash and he hurts the Celtics the minute he steps on the floor. Maybe stop your bitching about being out of the rotation and realize you are legit horrible. His 2-12 performance (-12) killed the Celtics and any momentum they had. I don’t know why Stevens kept him in, maybe it was to prove a point, but if you want to say David Lee was a main reason we lost, I won’t argue. His Celtics career has been disgusting.

– That foul from Marcus Smart with 33 seconds left was the stupidest thing I’ve seen from this team this year. A clear frustration foul because he got blocked the previous possession, he needs to be better with this. You cannot lose your composure in a close game and make a stupid mistake that kills your team. Safe to say the rest of his teammates agree

– Fuck you Evan Turner. You know what you did.

 

So look, things have obviously been better and right now there’s no way to spin in. The Celtics stink. I’ve seen comments floating around the internet that THIS is who the Celtics are, and it’s time to accept that. I disagree. Teams are allowed to go through rough stretches during a season, but I’m curious as to why when they were winning that wasn’t who they are, but now that they are losing that’s their identity? I understand losing brings out the worst in fans, but deep down I don’t see the Celtics being this bad. The numbers back it up. They are just playing shitty right now, but they’ll snap out of it. With over half a season left to play we probably won’t even remember this stretch in a month once they are back on track.

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In the meantime this fucking sucks and I think it’s fair for you to be angry with this team. This season is going to be a roller coaster ride the rest of the way, and I think a win in Madison Square Garden against the rival Knick is just what these guys need to snap out of it, Godzingis be damned.

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