Safe to say this is how we all hoped the Celtics would end 2016. Now 6-1 since Isaiah’s return, this team is clicking and playing some pretty solid basketball. Maybe you could argue CHA, but last night’s 113-103 win against MEM was in my opinion the best win at the Garden yet this season. Having already beat this team in their place, it sure doesn’t suck to snap out of your home court funk by dropping that many points on the leagues best defense. Yes, they didn’t have Mike Conley who hit a couple shots in their last meeting, but the Grizzlies also had a stretch where they went 7-2 with him out of the lineup, so they are still a good team no matter how you want to splice it. Finally the Celts got a break from the scheduling Gods as MEM played the night before and lost to ORL 112-102.
But this win isn’t so much about MEM as it is about the development of this healthy group. Now 13-5 when they play together, we are seeing more and more examples of why this team is very much not dead. What has plagued Stevens in the past was his teams inability to close out close games. Well, now that he has talent, his team is 14-8 in those “clutch” situations, which ties them with MEM and SA for the most wins in the league. Now I know I shouldn’t have to say it, but I will. December wins (just like losses) mean virtually NOTHING come April. How this team looks and is playing now could be completely different in a couple of months, there is still a LONG way to go. Having said that, these games are important not only from a confidence standpoint, but with how tight the East is 3-6, every one of these wins is valuable.
OK we have a lot to get to so let’s jump in.
– If you asked me at ANY point of this season if we’d be starting this section off with Gerald Green, the answer would quite simply be no. Here’s a guy that prior to the game on Christmas had played 18 minutes since 11/18. That run included 15 DNP-CDs in the 18 games. I’m not sure what his role was intended to be when they signed him, but he doesn’t complain and more importantly stays ready apparently. Then the Celtics couldn’t hit a damn shot on Christmas to start, and there he went. Instant offense. That Christmas performance alone probably bought Gerald another month of good graces. But then last night happened. A season high 18:39 of floor time produced 19 points on 7-10 shooting (3-5 from deep) to go along with 5 rebounds an assist and a blocked shot. He got a fucking standing ovation!! I always knew that him being so dominant in NBA 2k7 would pay off for the Celtics one day, and last night was that day Gerald gave us the full arsenal, with plays where he took it to the basket, plays where he hit midrange, and plays where he made outside shots. All we were missing was a crazy tomahawk dunk. I could go on, but Steve Urkel describes all of us perfectly as we watched Gerald go bananas
– As tempting an offer as Gerald made for my heart, he was not alone. Take Avery Bradley for example. Did you see the absolute off the ball clinic he was running in this game? The way Avery was reading the defense, and the authority in which he made his cuts, proved to be a decent offensive option. Time after time when the Celtics needed a big basket, there was Avery cutting open and converting. One of the hose engaged Avery performances, his overall line was certainly nothing to sneeze at: 23 points 7 rebounds 4 assists 2 steals 1 block. He led the team in shots (17) and made 10 of them while also leading the Celtics in minutes played resulting in a starter high +5. That all sounds impressive right? Then remember he did that against Tony Allen.
My favorite example of Avery moving without the ball came with 2 minutes left in the first half.
Already half chubbed with the beautiful ball movement Avery very well could have just cleared out to the corner after passing the ball to Horford. Instead, he sticks around, waits for Gasol to turn his head for a split second and boom cuts to the open space where Isaiah finds him for an easy two. This play is why good basketball is so awesome to watch.
– It really is something that Isaiah can have 21/7 with 9 in the fourth quarter, and it feels like it wasn’t one of his better performances. When you look a little closer, he still did some pretty crazy things, despite the “quiet” line.
For example in the games first few minutes, he showed us that there is virtually no shot that you could deem impossible.
When Isaiah unleashes that pesky hesitation, a move I still stand by as being one of the most effective moves of any player in the league, it gets him where he wants, when he wants. I have yet to see a player stay in front of it
And then, just like he did to start the game, he ended it with a ridiculous circus shot for a bucket and a foul at a big time moment in the game.
I suppose I should mention his streak, 16 straight 20 point games, which just so happens to be the longest streak of any player this season. Trolls will call it selfish, I call it cool but insignificant. Isaiah is an elite scorer, it doesn’t really surprise me.
– Last night was another big night for the Marcus Smart crowd. That was one hell of an impact, and it was the type of performance that gives people hesitation when it comes to any potential deal. I mean I saw some Smart for Noel shit on Twitter after this game, and that makes me sick. Sure, he may never be an elite offensive shooter, but what if he becomes just close to below average? In the 39-42% range from the field let’s say. That’s not crazy high, and it would do WONDERS considering what he already is elite at. Please do not forget, in Avery Bradley’s age 22 season, he had 40/31% splits and he couldn’t shoot a lick so maybe it is possible Smart can one day get there.
But when I look at how he impacts a game like this, it’s easy to see why he is so valuable. First and foremost, he can guard all five positions. The Celtics best option at times for Marc Gasol was to put Marcus Smart on him. I can’t think of too many other guards who can do that. The defense and the steals are all nice, but those are expected. What I think Marcus has done this season that has been a surprise to many is how elite of a passer he can be. Marcus The Creator is a legit offensive threat, because that Marcus doesn’t shoot the ball, he gets great shots for others instead. This pass? This pass was our glimpse into how Marcus Smart can compensate for his piss poor shooting numbers
Asshole Marcus takes that FT jumper. That Marcus hurts you on the offensive end, and is the reason many want to give up on him. The more he can play like he did last night, the more I think people will be happy with his development.
– For a team with a healthy Gasol and Randolph, it makes absolutely no sense that the Celtics were able to win the rebounding battle 47-37. The most impressive part about those numbers is how the Celts were performing on the offensive glass. An offensive rebound rate of 29% is not too shabby, and with three guys with at least 7 rebounds including 10 from Amir, the Celtics handled a team that ranked 6th in the NBA in rebounding.
– Generally I think we can all agree the Celtics played pretty well. They key is despite playing Isaiah Thomas somehow the Celtics had 30 assists on 41 baskets. We call that moving the ball boys and girls and when a team has an assist% that high, against that good a defense, you know you’re cooking and more often than not that’s winning basketball.
– I had zero problems with any Jae Crowder threes. I’ll take 16/7 with good percentages any day of the week
– Credit Amir Johnson for not dying trying to go blow for blow with Zach Randolph. I can’t imagine his chest feels good today. Randolph has 20 pounds on Amir (who’s 240 himself) and you can see it.
– Finally, over .500 at home!!!
– I can understand the strategy, but doubling Marc Gasol did absolutely nothing. When they brought two guys he didn’t panic, he just found the open cutter. His 9 assists were the most he’s had since his triple double in early December, and while at the end of the day you live with someone other than him beating you, it was unfortunate to see the Celtics not able to turn him over.
– My early takeaway of the 2016-17 Boston Celtics is that layups are hard. Whether you’re Avery missing a wide open bunny, or Horford missing another wide open fast break layup, shit is just something the Celtics do not do well. I don’t know how to explain it, but it reminds me a lot of the 2013-14 team that missed maybe 10 billion layups.
– Smh, the wave? The wave really? Be better.
– I didn’t love how the team ended the half, and I didn’t love how it translated into the second half. If you don’t know what I’m referring to, it’s the turnovers. We haven’t seen the Celtics turn the ball over like this in a LONG time. It kept MEM in the game during that third quarter, and again Isaiah had tough fourth quarter turnovers that while they didn’t cost them the game, you still hate to see happen. Horford had 5 himself, which is an outrageously high number, but if you played, you turned it over. Not one player who saw the floor last night ended the game with zero.
– Green’s outburst meant 4 minutes for Jaylen, and Terry is officially out of the rotation with virtually no explanation. We’ll probably never know the real reason, but from what I’ve seen on Twitter so far, it all seems weird to me.
– Whatever the fuck Tyler Zeller did. Comes in the game and gets immediately bodied. Couldn’t rebound, couldn’t defend, but could foul. I can’t imagine what the thought process was to think “Zach Randolph is a huge physical beast….let’s try Tyler Zeller!” We talk about Green blocking Jaylen, GIVE THESE MINUTES TO JORDAN MICKEY!! Can we at least see Mickey not be able to handle it instead of watching someone we KNOW can’t?
Zeller can’t be moved until Jan 15th I believe, and at this point I consider him our version of Clay Buchholz to some degree. Give me a bag of basketballs and you can have him, but at the same time he’s a 7fter and you can’t teach height. Kind of like how you can’t have enough starters. Whatever, I don’t care. I’ve seen enough.
As we turn the page to CLE, this is will be talked about being a big measuring stick game, but I only think that to some degree. For example if the Celtics win, I don’t consider them on CLE level, and I’m sure if they lose, I’ll hear all about how far away the Celts are. I know that going in. But I do think it will be competitive considering they only beat the Celtics by 6 and it was without Horford AND Crowder (Isaiah did go for 30/6 though but nbd). This group hasn’t gotten a chance to face the Cavs yet, who are dealing with injuries of their own. I’m already angry with how many FTs Lebron is going to take and how the NBA is going to “miss” calls for them this time, but that’s all part of playing Lebron at home.
At least the Celtics are coming to town playing fantastic basketball. In the meantime they increased their lead as a 3rd seed, and are starting to hit their stride.
19 down 33 to go