Now this is how you want to close out 2016. After all the drama, the hot takes, the injuries, all I asked was that we all be patient. It was impossible to know what this team was because they barely played together healthy. Lose a close game to a good team without your best players apparently meant to some that this team “wasn’t fun to watch” or “wasn’t as good as last year”. I can understand being frustrated, and I don’t mean to pat myself on then back, but I told you so. Now it isn’t all roses, the next few games for the Celts will show me a whole hell of a lot more than beating the Pacers did, but you can’t discredit what has happened since Isaiah returned to the lineup. This four game winning streak is not only the longest current streak in the Eastern Conference, but also the second longest active streak in the entire NBA.
Since the frustrating start, the Celtics have gone 14-8 since November 11th, and most importantly, they’ve addressed their defensive issues with a defensive rating of 100.9. That’s not bad. In fact, it’s third in the league over that span. When the Celtics get back to playing good defense, we are seeing what happens. They win. When the Celtics have their original intended lineup we are seeing what happens. They win. The mark is now 11-3 when this group plays, and they’re a +9.5 when they make magic on the floor together. Basically everything we thought we were getting with this Celtics team when they made the deal for Horford, we’re getting, which has always been my entire point.
In terms of last night’s game, it was a mixed bag of emotions. Anytime you can steal a game from a team that was 11-4 at home, I’m putting that in the positive category, but there were some glaring issues that bother the shit out of me. Having said that, you don’t want to work, so let’s begin.
- While we are starting again with Isaiah Thomas, what I won’t do is go on and on about how people disrespect him and all that stuff. That battle is over, we won. What I would rather do is celebrate what a special talent he is. After his historic 44 point 6 assist performance a few days ago, Isaiah showed why he is LEGIT and backed it up with a 28 point 9 assist 0 turnover performance. That’s pretty fucking good. Elite you could say. On a night when his shot wasn’t necesarily falling, we saw the other side of Isaiah’s game that makes me feel all warm and tingly. Last night was blow by city for Isaiah, as not one player on the Pacers roster has any chance of staying in front of him. I’ve long said that Isaiah’s hesitation move is not only unguardable, but one of the best and most effective moves in the entire league. Once he saw it worked, he went back to it time and time again
That last one, my god I need a second……OK maybe two seconds (there’s a lot of cleanup). This move is really why I get so angry when the Celts move away from the P&R/P&Pop when Isaiah is on the floor. Give him a sliver of space and his height actually becomes an advantage. Now granted a guy like Al Jefferson isn’t winning any defensive awards, but that’s not the point. The point is you are always in a game when Isaiah is on the floor even if his shot isn’t falling, because there aren’t that many players that can get to the bucket like he can.
But the real reason we’re starting with Isaiah today is because AGAIN, he shook his dick in the fourth quarter. He is officially becoming the best fourth quarter player in the NBA. Of his 28 points, 14 came in the fourth which shouldn’t be a surprise since he’s a closer. He shot 4-7 in the quarter and added 5 FTs to the mix, and when the game is “tight” and you need a bucket, this is the shot chart I want from my best player in the biggest moments
Aside from the scoring though, it’s hard not to fall in love with how Isaiah passes the ball. Whether it was drawing defenders and finding Avery on a baseline cut, or finding his big men in easy position, Isaiah’s doing something pretty fucking crazy. For example, currently he has the highest usage rate of his career at 33.4%. You would think that with all this extra usage he probably turns the ball over more. Wrong. This season he has a career LOW 8.4% turnover percentage. I can’t think of another player that is doing that right now. So not only is he helping the Celtics more than he ever has before, he’s doing it while basically never turning it over. Incredible.
Oh, and I guess this isn’t terrible
..last Celtic player to avg at least 30 points and 5 assists over a 4-game span while winning all four was Bird in 1990. #elias
— Bucci Mane (@Buccigross) December 23, 2016
- If not for some moronic late fouls, the Celts held another team to under 100. We talked at the top about how much their defense as improved as they’ve gotten healthy, but never have I seen them defend like they did in the second quarter of this game. Holding a team to 14% shooting and causing 5 turnovers, no shit you’re going to get a big run that will probably change the course of the game. Remember IND was playing well after the first quarter, and the Celts clamped down and actually played some defense. What pleased me most was it came from multiple people. Both Horford and Amir played really solid defense basically making Turner a non factor, and Avery Bradley, my lord. The defense that Avery played on Paul George is perhaps the second most important reason why the Celts were able to win this game. Usually, as we’ve seen in the past, when the Celtics try and put a smaller player on him (either Avery or Smart) his size is just too much. Well, Avery did a great job of holding his ground and challenging without fouling. This play is a great example
People rarely say it, but the Celtics sneaky have one of the best backcourts in the league when you really think about it.
- What am I most excited for in 2017? The Celtics finally playing some fucking home games. They’ve played the most road games so far of any team, and now finish the year with 30 of their final 53 at home.
NBA – HOME GAMES REMAINING
1. BOSTON 30
2. San Antonio 29
Celtics days on the road
— Sean Grande (@SeanGrandePBP) December 23, 2016
I don’t even care that the Celts have struggled a bit at home, they made it through the grueling part of their schedule in pretty good shape, and this next month is where I fully expect them to start to creep even closer to that 2 seed.
- I can understand the frustration with Jae Crowder at times. I agree he finds himself settling for jumpers instead of taking it to the rim, but look at the bigger picture. He’s having a career year shooting the ball, so it was nice to see him put up a solid 15/5 on 5-9 shooting (3-5 from deep). Sure he might have one of those games where he goes 2-11, but those are few and far between. So far this season we’ve seen more performances like last night then games in which he lays an egg. For me it’s always about the health of his ankles. The reason he’s shooting the ball so much better in my opinion is because he has a stronger base. Everyone who has played basketball knows you shoot with your legs, and when you have a fucked up ankle, that impacts your shot. But now? He’s playing 35 minutes and shooting the ball great. Jae Crowder, not overrated.
- I need to give credit where credit is due. That was the best I’ve seen Amir Johnson play is who knows how long. The energy was great, the rebounding was solid, and he actually provided some offense. Coincidence that he plays well the same day my trade blog comes out which basically included him in every scenario? I dunno, just connecting some dots.
- If we’re going to say nice things about Amir, we should also say them about Olynyk. Last night was a game in which we got Aggressive Kelly Olynyk, which is not to be confused with his embarrassing alter ego Hesitant Kelly Olynyk. When we get THIS Olynyk, he can actually contribute. Second unit production has been an issue for this team, so ti was good to see Kelly grip it and rip it and actually connect. The trick has always been getting this effort on a consistent basis, but in the meantime I’ll take it whenever I can get it. The way he can space the floor is real, and that’s valuable because he isn’t just a shooter, but also a pretty good passer for a 7 footer.
- Horford didn’t have the best game, but at least he gave all the idiots out there what they want and had 11 rebounds (8 defensive which is key).
- I thought this was a great coaching performance by Brad in his home state. My favorite part was when he did something he hasn’t done all season. That’s unleash a Brown-Crowder-Smart-Olynyk-Jerebko lineup. You may think, Greenie, what’s so good about that lineup? Well, it sparked that second quarter run we all loved so much, and even though Olynyk was on the floor, this lineup’s defense was crazy. They were switching flawlessly, which is rare for a group that has never been on the floor at the same time before.
- Interesting that in a game they were outrebounded, the Celtics actually had more points in the paint and more second chance points. Sometimes basketball is weird.
- By far my favorite play from the entire night came at the end of the first half. This is so beautiful I wouldn’t be mad if you stopped reading and just watched this over and over and over and over and over
Isaiah seriously made four Pacers collapse into the paint. What a fucking Gawd. Poor Jeff Teague never stood a goddamn chance.
- I know this is where the league is trending, but taking 26 three point attempts in a half is NOT how the Celtics should be playing. They shot 4-16 in the first quarter, and it shouldn’t be a surprise they saw an early lead turn into a nine point deficit. I am all for taking threes within the flow of an offense, but I will never accept settling for threes. A perfect example came after an Isaiah layup with like 6 minutes left in the fourth, the stole the ball on the inbound, and Jae Crowder could have been aggressive and drove for what would have been an easy dunk. Instead he jacked a three when the Celtics had numbers.
- I know he made it, but this includes Amir Johnson taking threes.
- Aside from Kelly and Marcus (who did shoot 2-8), the Celtics still are having second unit issues scoring the ball. Once Isaiah came out in the first quarter, they couldn’t score. The production has gone missing from guys like Rozier, Jonas, and Jaylen. It may be OK to have these dry spells in December, but they are going to kill the Celtics in a playoff series if it doesn’t get figured out. And before you even think it, no, the answer is not to put Isaiah on the second unit. Shame on you.
- Never a great sign when a guy misses a FT, your prized big man (Horford) gets the rebound, and then gets the ball ripped away by Paul George. Gonna need Al to squeeze a little tighter please.
- Someone is going to have to explain to me why when you’re up 5 points at the end of the game you are even challenging a three point shot. Let them take it, and if they make it so what, you’re going to get fouled and get FTs. Instead the Celtics continued their love of fouling three point shooters. Even if the call was iffy, that’s not the point.
- It took maybe 37 minutes to play the last like 20 seconds of this game. Know when you’re defeated for me one time.
- Did anyone else hear Gorman and Scal talk about how they liked the grey uniforms? That could not have been more fake. They are ugly and I have no idea why they keep wearing them. Either someone within the Celtics family designed them or something but please God just put those out to pasture.
- These were consecutive plays
This very well could have come back to bite the Celts, and while I understand why Rozier did it, he needs to be better at it. He played only 7 minutes for the second consecutive game, and I think we are right in the middle of one of those tough stretches from Terry. Sort of like how he started the season. It won’t last, but man the game could have essentially been won with those two possessions and instead it gave IND life.
Now that people are realizing they jumped the gun a little bit in regards to this team, the bandwagon is getting a little tight. That’s OK I guess, it is the holidays after all. Things don’t get much easier with Westbrook coming to town tonight, but if the Celtics REALLY want to shut people up, they win this game. They opened as -3.5 favorites which is interesting, and after blowing their first meeting in OKC without Isaiah, as long as the Celts actually rebound in this game, I say they have a fair shot. It’s going to be a matchup of two of the best fourth quarter players in the NBA, and I fully expect the Garden to be a madhouse.
17 down 35 to go.