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This Celtics Team Hasn't Lost A Game This Season With A Fully Healthy Roster

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What a thought, that getting players back from injury would have a positive impact on this team! For the first time all season the Celts finally had all of their top 8 healthy and active, and what a difference it made. Right at the start of the game we saw the team and style of play that we saw during the preseason (minus Kelly) and created all of this excitement in the first place. This group still needs around 10-15 games together in my opinion to really see how they gel, but this was a pretty good start. The Pistons are a good home team, and I don’t mind an early look at a high pressure situation where the Celts are forced to execute down the stretch in order to pull out a win. If anything I almost prefer it.

Having come up short in both of their first two back to back second night on the road performances, it was good to see the Celtics get back to what made them so good in years past. They’ve now won two of these in a row, which is a good sign because they are among the NBA leaders since the 2014 season in back to back records,

Also, I for one am happy Horford sat out for that long, given how he looks. I would follow that same treatment plan 10 times out of 10. He looks great.

The first of what is a little three game road trip with MIN and BKN on deck, it was important that the Celtics started it with a win in Detroit. Here’s how they got it.

The Good

– It had been 21 days since Al Horford played in a game for the Boston Celtics. That game was a win in CHA where he played OK (14/4). Then Tyler Zeller took his playing time into his own hands and fucked Horford up. Coming into this game, once we learned Horford was active, it made some sense to expect some rust. Maybe not from a skill standpoint, but at the very least with conditioning. Well, Al Horford played 33 fantastic minutes in this game, and threw up a 18/11/5/2/3. Oh did I mention he saved the game for the Celtics, twice.

For guys like me, who were giddy with this signing, this performance I think is what we all had in mind. Horford was EVERYWHERE. Think of what we talked about with how we anticipated Horford would fit into this offense. The conversation was around spacing, how he and Isaiah would be P&R heaven, and the fact that he can score from almost anywhere on the court. Here’s a look at his shot chart from last night

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Speaking of conditioning, how about Horford playing the most fourth quarter minutes on this team (10) and being a team high +6? That’s what told me is truly ready to go, he got better as the game went on instead of the other way around.

Is it safe to say the Celtics missed Horford? Absolutely.

It was clear as soon as this game even started. Look at their first 5 or so possessions, and you see Horford’s impact immediate. Take the very first offensive trip for example

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This is where having a veteran like Horford helps you. He realizes that with a smaller Tobias Harris guarding him, he needs to get his ass to the block. Once he establishes position, the real beauty happens. Watch how Horford takes his time, faces Tobias up, and is patient with the ball as he waits for Amir Johnson to establish his mismatch. Once Drummond leaves his man to double Horford because of his advantage, Horford makes the right play and lobs it to Amir for an easy bucket. A younger player maybe tries to force that hook shot, or gets a little frazzled when the Drummond double comes. Horford doesn’t.

The on the very next play, we saw what Horford can do to help free up Isaiah. Who do you think sets a better screen here, Horford or Tyler Zeller? Look at how far back Tobias Harris is backpedalling when he realizes it’s him vs Isaiah. He wants NO part of that, which frees up Isaiah for the easy runner.

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And yes, he will hit threes right in your eyeball

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The biggest sequence of his night came at the end of the game obviously. We are taking a deeper dive into it a little later so I won’t spoil it here, but shit is it great to have Al back.

– And that goes for Jae Crowder too. Another guy that made an instant impact the second the game started. Now of the two players who came back last night, this one was by far the most surprising for me. I don’t care what the reports said, I always truly felt he was going to be out until Thanksgiving. Well it was a pretty good 26 minute performance from Jae as he works his way back into game shape.

Much like Horford, Jae was all over the place, and made his imprint early.

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I’m not sure why players are sagging off Jae this season, he’s shooting 43% from three. That’s a 10% jump nbd in case you were wondering. Having Jae’s offense back is great, but I think we are all in agreement that the real happiness comes from what teh Celtics get back on the defensive end

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I do not find it a coincidence that the Celtics defense is starting to come around, Horford and Crowder come back, and have the two best defensive ratings of any player on the roster who played.

– Let’s talk a little about that defense. This win over DET now marked the second time in three games the Celts have held a team to under 95 points. They’ve won both, and the other game was GS so whatever. The good news is, the Celtics have crept up to 10th in the league in opponent FG%, and 16th in 3p%. That’s a long ways up from where they were just a few weeks ago. This is important because their offense is starting to regress back to normal. We say it in almost every blog, but for this team how they play defense comes down to effort, well you insert two high effort guys, things will usually get better. They have.

– Aside from the defense, there is something to be said about how different offensively this healthy team looks. For starters, their ball movement was basketball porn. A total of 22 assists on 33 baskets, they had 14 assists on their first 17. This starting unit moves the ball almost to a 2008 level if you want to get a little crazy with me for a second.

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Four players ended up with at least three assists, two ended up with at least five. This is a style of play I can get behind.

– Ho hum, just another 24/8 with 0 turnovers for Isaiah as he lead his team to do something no other team in the NBA had done yet. Oh yeah, and he did this. Yawn.

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– You would’t know it at the time, but the way the Celtics ended their disastrous third quarter essentially saved the game. After blowing a lead, and playing like shit for 11 of the 12 minutes, the Celtics had 7 points in the final 1:08 to make it a 73-71 game entering the fourth. They survived, and brought momentum into the final frame. Good stuff.

– His minutes are so limited it may not seem this way, but Terry Rozier is having a pretty good stretch of basketball right now. Another five points and five rebounds in just 14 minutes, Rozier is doing everything we hoped he would do this summer. His outside shoot looks GREAT (45%) and when he stays under control, he proves to be quite the asset. We are still so early in his role, and his development at the NBA level, but so far so good in my opinion after a little bit of a slow start.

– Here’s something you probably didn’t anticipate. The Celtics won the second chance points battle.

– You know what they say, save the best second chance points for last

Ok let’s take a quick look at this game winning play. First, I like everything about the play. A high P&R with Isaiah and Horford is exactly who I want involved at this stage. As he blows past Baynes, Tobias Harris is forced to fully rotate or this is a wide open Isaiah layup. Once he does, Isaiah makes the right basketball play to a wide open Jae Crowder, and you know what I don’t hate this shot one bit. It came within the flow of the offense so I’m good with it. When Jae starts his shooting motion, take a look at where Marcus Smart is

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Once it hits the rim, here’s what things looked like in the paint

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Horford has position on Baynes, and the tiny Ish Smith trying to box him out, while two Pistons players focus on boxing each other out instead of finding a crashing Marcus Smart.

By the time it comes off the rim, it’s too late Marcus has already jumped, and Horford has already worked in even greater position under the basket

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and we know what happened next

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This play right here is yet ANOTHER example of why I absolutely refuse to call Marcus Smart a bust. It’s why I get so mad when people want to ship him out of town because of his shot. He impacts the game in MAJOR ways, game changing ways. There is extreme value in players like that. He can learn to shoot, shit like this is all heart and all instincts.

Oh and yeah, and Al’s game saving block was nice too

The Bad

– It sure is annoying that just because the Celtics start a game off making threes and get off to a good start, that they almost always fall for the trap and fall in love with them. Isaiah and Jae are by far the biggest victims of this, and they went 3-12 in this one.

– I’m sure it made Brad just as mad, but sloppy shit blowing the two for one to end the half. They corrected this when they had future opportunities, but anytime you give that away you hate to see it.

– The Celtics had a 9 point 58-49 lead with 9:23 left in the third quarter. Then, like it always does, the Theory hit

They ended the quarter trailing 73-71.

– Add Marcus Morris to the list of players the Celtics allow to look like All NBA players! Move over Emmanuel Mudiay! Slide down Otto Porter Jr! This is so frustrating. Marcus Morris is going to go 10-16 (4-6) on you? The hell is going on around here?

– I know when Marcus is starting to dip into bad habits when he repeatedly takes contested step back fallaway three pointers. Those aren’t going in. Shit, even the ones he has time to line up are a question mark. The problem is his teammates keep giving him the ball at the end of the shot clock. Give it to anyone else, because these are the types of scenarios that Marcus has a tough time with.

– We knew the November schedule was going to be tough, but this was the fourth back to back with the second game that the Celtics have played so far this season. They are practically playing one a week. That feels a little excessive, especially when you consider CLE has played 2 road games all year, and on top of that, only two back to backs. They don’t play their third back to back until the first week of December. Half the losses the Celtics have this season are a combination of either back to backs on the road, or GS. This is why I was not freaking out. Things will even out over the course of the schedule.

The Ugly

– Up three points with 23 seconds left, you have one job. Do. Not. Give. Up. A. Three. Well, wouldn’t you know it that’s exactly what the Celtics did! To make it even sweeter, it came towards the end of the shot clock! Gross.

– Poor Jaylen played just 7 minutes. It sure was nice while it lasted.

I don’t think it’s hyperbole to think Green Teamers woke up feeling much better this morning. A sense of relief above all else. I want to see this team put a string of wins together, get so momentum heading into their next big test against SA. We are entering the stretch of the schedule where if they play like they are capable of, things can start to take off

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It feels great to be at full health, and more importantly it feels great to win (and cover). Sure it may have been ugly, but I’ll take it.

7 down 45 to go.