It Will Always Feel Great To Beat The Lakers

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Until I take my last breath, nothing will give me the satisfaction and pleasure like seeing the Celtics beat the Lakers. It doesn’t matter if both teams are amazing like in the 80s and during the new Big 3 run, if they are both terrible, or if like now, where only the Celtics are good. Fuck the Lakers now and forever as far as I’m concerned. Last night was the 285th time these two teams have met in the regular season, and the Celts have won 157 to LA’s 128. They’ve also met 74 times in the playoffs, but things don’t get better for LA there either with the Celtics having a 43-31 advantage. I know this is considered a rivalry, but the Celtics sure do beat them a lot.

At this point in time the two franchises could not be further from each other. On one hand, you have the Celtics, who are in the process of one of the quickest rebuilds in recent memory without forming a Super Team. Tons of assets, they’re challenging for the #1 seed in their conference, and their future could not look more bright. The Lakers? Their front office is a disaster, their team sucks, their prized rookie is struggle city, and even though they suck and will be in the lottery, they are at risk of losing that pick to PHI if it falls outside the top 3. Terrible times for them, but awesome times for all of us watching.

Which brings me to last night. With Pierce coming back on Sunday it would have been very Celtics for them to lose this game. We’ve seen them play down to competition at times this season, and very rarely does that work out for them. Instead what we got was was a pretty strong effort for their fifth straight win at home, and six straight win overall.

Let’s celebrate it shall we?

The Good

– Forgive me if this is starting to become repetitive, but the thing is I don’t really care. Rules are rules. I can’t in good conscience not start off with a guy who goes 38/4 with 17 points in the fourth quarter. I can’t do it. I won’t do it. Enjoy.

I am the first to admit, there are times when we can get a little carried away on this blog. Sometimes things are said out of intoxication on Kool Aid that sound crazy. Well let me be perfectly clear. We are watching a guy who not only should be an All NBA player this season, but will also have a legit shot at the NBA scoring title, has played his way into serious discussion for NBA MVP (even though it’s Harden imo), should get consideration for the NBA’s Most Improved Player, and is down right unstoppable almost every single night he laces them up.

For me, Isaiah taking this leap doesn’t have much to do with the scoring outbursts, but how much more efficient he has become this season. If you watch him play, he maybe forces just two or three shots a game. In December he had 48/38% splits while averaging 30/6. Remember how ridiculous we all thought that was? Well he followed it up in January with 49/43% and 32/7, and has started February off going for 53/41% and 41/5.5. This is INSANE.

What’s crazy is defenders really have to pick their poison. Play off Isaiah in hopes you can prevent him from getting to the paint? OK fine, but realize he is going to hit threes right in your eyeball. He made five last night, which marked the 13th time in his last 17 games that he’s had at least four made threes. Play Isaiah tight, and I’m 100% positive he is laughing to himself as he blows right by you and finishes at the rim.

While it sucks he fell two points short of making Celtics history, it just goes to show you how selfless he really is. He didn’t try and force anything as the game wound down, instead continued to make the right basketball plays and put his teammates in a position to succeed. THAT is why I love Isaiah Thomas.

– Fortunately, Isaiah didn’t have to do things alone. When looking at his supporting cast, my eyes are again drawn to the work that Jae Crowder is doing. Make no mistake, Isaiah is a gigantic reason the Celts are winning, but don’t sleep on how important a healthy Jae Crowder is to this team. He ended January with 50/46% splits, and his production has continued so far this month. In this game, it wasn’t really a fair fight. The Lakers do not have a SF on the roster who can match up with Jae and he made them pay with his 18/6 on 50% shooting. Loul Deng is 100 years old and Brandon Ingram is about 95 pounds, so it should come as no surprise that Jae had this type of night. Even though it was Isaiah that had the offensive explosion, it was Crowder that led all starters with a +6.

– In what was probably the least hyped #2 vs #3 rookie matchup, it’s hard not to come away from this game with the notion that maybe it was a blessing in disguise that the Celts got boned in the Lottery. If we’re talking right this second, Jaylen looks a lot more NBA ready. Jaylen played 32 (!!!!!) minutes in this game, his most so far this season. We’re at the point where once Avery comes back, Brad is going to be in a tough spot because this kid is playing his way into deserving more minutes. His point total was just 12, but that’s not really the point. For the third time in his last five games Jaylen has grabbed at least 7 rebounds. He’s getting to the line better than anyone not named Isaiah. It’s subtle, but Jaylen is also learning how to defend without fouling. These are all really, really important traits for this team.The biggest thing I’ve noticed with Jaylen though, is how much better his shot looks as the season goes on. Look at this form

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What you see is a much quicker release at the top of his shot, something that was a concern coming out of college. It’s clear that he’s becoming more confident, and with that confidence comes the shooting, that’s true of anyone who has ever played basketball on any level. Just wait till next year when he starts finishing more consistently around the rim. Man, this kid is going to be so good.

– I know at times it can be frustrating when Marcus can’t seem to buy a bucket. I’m with the majority of you who get upset when he takes ill advised threes. Having said that, it’s impossible to not love him. Last night was another typical Marcus adventure. Could hit dick (3-10), but basically did everything and ended with a 9 point 7 assist 5 steal effort and was a team high +11. He had four steals and five assists in his first nine minutes!! That’s the beauty of Marcus Smart. As soon as he steps on the court he makes an impact. The more he plays like this, the more I want to caution those that are eager to trade him. If he can be come even a slightly below average shooter, like max out at 41%, you combine that with everything else and you have a really intriguing player. Sometimes it’s nice to have a type of player who will do absolutely everything for you and then maybe hit a big three every once in a while.

– Don’t look now but our Summer League crush is starting to do things.

Hey with Avery out, Rozier needs to step up. Plain and simple. Well in his 17 minutes he gave us a 10/4/2 which is more than adequate. He’s sneaky been playing well on both ends, and it wouldn’t shock me if even once Avery comes back they take it easy with him. Rozier doing stuff like this certainly makes that more of an option.

– A relatively quiet night for a guy who nearly put up a triple double, if you’ve read this blog before you know how much of a sucker I am for ball movement. Beautiful passing just does it for me, which brings me to this pass

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Seems pretty simple, but it does a great job of showing how smart of a player Horford is. This is what we call giving up a good shot for a great shot, and the beauty of it is how quick Al realizes that Jonas has the advantage. He knows before he even catches the pass where he’s going with the ball, and he puts it in a spot that only Jonas can get it for the easy basket.

– Brad’s coaching the All Star Game which is nice, and I’m sure there will be no tampering of any kind because I’m not sure it will be needed. Players are going to get their first look at what it’s like to play for Brad and they are going to fall in love. No doubt in my mind.

But then Isaiah is going to illegally tamper his ass off

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The Bad

– It’s fun reliving Lakers losses and all, but there were also some things that weren’t so great. Let’s start with the defense. First, for the second game in a row they gave up multiple 30 point quarters. That’s something I want no part in seeing. They started the game disinterested in guarding the three point line, to the point where goddamn Nick Young was celebrating. Against a team that ranks 19th in the NBA in points, giving up 51 at the half felt like a lot. I don’t think the second unit defended particularly well, as three Lakers had at least 14 points.

I also thought it was a tad concerning that the Celts seemed to have no answer for Larry Nance Jr. He simply played harder than any of the bigs guarding him. Throwing up an 18/11/4, this was his best game of the entire season. Not something uncommon when guys play the Celtics this season we’ve learned.

– It would have been nice to have a GINO night against LA, but that 11-2 run to close out the third quarter but that dream to bed. Sure it would have prevented us from Isaiah’s fourth quarter performance, but they need to be better in the last two minutes of these quarters.

– Another game, another bonehead foul when someone is shooting a three. This is right up there in most annoying Celtics habits.

– It wasn’t completely awful, but this was a weird game for Olynyk. I think he deserves credit for his 9 rebounds, but it just felt off. I thought he played aggressive for the most part, just couldn’t make a shot which happens. Defensively though, woof. Oh and missing a wide open dunk doesn’t help.

The Ugly

– A total of 15 offensive rebounds. Multiple possessions where the Lakers probably got 3 or 4 straight looks. The Celtics were extremely lucky they were playing the Lakers who suck and honestly not any other team in the NBA. Given how pathetic the Celts were on the glass, it’s sad Jordan Mickey couldn’t get any run. How could it be worse? Allergic to defensive rebounding, that’s how I would phrase it.

– 15 turnovers is too many, and too many are the result of nothing more than lazy passing. If they do shit like this on Sunday, it is going to be Lob City all over our faces.

Which brings us to the most emotional game of the year. I haven’t even thought about the Super Bowl because I’ve been thinking about saying goodbye to Pierce for who knows how long. I’m crying, you’re crying and I say let the tears flow. Paul Pierce was the Larry Bird for my generation, and he is one of the greatest Celtics of all time. I of course want to see the Celts pull it out, but I also wouldn’t hate it if we saw a Paul Pierce elbow jumper game winner. I don’t know, I’m a mess just thinking about it already.

Back on a 52 win pace, some separation from the 3/4 seeds, CLE in their sights, things are getting more interesting by the day. Say it with me,

32 down 20 to go.