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Good To See The Celtics Didn't Fall For The Trap Last Night

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I’m with you, big deal the Celtics beat the Sixers right? They didn’t have Embiid, and while they came into this game winners of three straight, they are still the Sixers. They stink. So I’m not sitting here today pounding my chest because they Celts beat a team with 21 wins, I’m happy about last night because this in my mind was a pretty obvious trap game. Coming off a long West Coast trip, two games before the break, with a game the next night in Chicago, we see NBA teams all the time lose games like this. Shit, we’ve seen the Celtics lose games like this already this season.

After two close matchups earlier this year, it didn’t surprise me that this was another close contest. Despite their inability to win games, the Sixers play hard, and if you play stupid they still have guys on the roster that are real NBA players and will make you pay for it. I think one thing we’ve seen from this team is the development of their mental toughness, and in a league where anything can happen on a nightly basis, it was good to see the Celtics bend, but not break. Now winners of 11 in their last 12 games, the Celts find themselves a full 3 games ahead of WSH and 4.5 games ahead of TOR for that two seed. Not only that, they also own the longest current win streak in the Eastern Conference if that kind of stuff tickles your fancy. It’s been a wild two months for this group, and when you consider the success they are having despite the quality of players they have been missing, I almost don’t want them to stop playing.

Before we dive in I’ll repeat what I had in the blog in the other day. This current streak is great, it’s a ton of fun to watch and is even more fun to blog/tweet about. But it DOES NOT eliminate their glaring issues, nor does it guarantee anything come playoffs. I think we can say they’ve established themselves as the second best regular season team in the East, that shouldn’t be a surprise, but guess what, if they play the way they did last night in the playoffs against a really good team, they are going to get blown out.

But let’s not kill them for something they haven’t done yet. Instead let’s celebrate what they actually did.

The Good

– On a night where Isaiah Thomas ties a Celtics legend and had another brilliant performance, he is going to have to wait. Rules are rules. You throw up a 21/5/5/8 and shoot 7-11 (3-7 from deep), you know the rules. We enjoy it uninterrupted. Marcus Smart, you fucking monster.

I said it during the game and now after sleeping on it, I still believe it. I am running out of ways to fall in love with Marcus Smart. There was just so much to love about his 34 minutes of action. You could point to his game high +22, you could point to how he started the game by going to the post and making plays, you could point to him making big time suck my dick threes, you could point to his career night defensively where he did something not done since Rondo in 2011. Last night was like a buffet of Marcus Smart goodness and I made like 5 trips piling my plate high each time.

Call me crazy, tell me it’s due to my high level of Kool Aid intake, but with every game Marcus plays, the more and more I don’t want to trade him. What have we always said? Something along the lines of “man if Smart could ever learn to shoot, he could be a really devastating player.” Well my friends, he’s shooting 46/33% this month. He shot 36% from three in January. Dare I say it looks like maybe, just maybe he’s starting to figure out that part of his game? Think of the teams that have had playoff success in the past. Either you have Lebron James, or you have a guy that is a winning player. Think Draymond Green. He can’t really shoot, but he defends multiple positions at a HIGH level, and does absolutely everything you need to do to help your team win. How is that different from Marcus? I’m not saying he’s Draymond, so don’t twist my words, but they are similar in a way that they are both high impact players. You need those guys to win. Period.

– OK now we can gush about Isaiah. Am I the only one who sees the 13 points he scored in the fourth quarter and still think he was kind of quiet? That’s wild. Tying Havlicek is nice and all, but if not for the 18 points he scored at home vs GS, we’d be talking about a 52 game streak. Last nights 33/4/3 again came on efficient scoring, he had another game with at least four made threes, he got to double digit FTAs, and when the team needed him he rose to the occasion. Basically another day at the office. The fact that these type of performances have become normalized is the craziest part of this entire season for me.

Remember in the UTA game where we saw the Celts run a bunch of high screen threes for Isaiah? A lot of that was due to their rim protection, well guess what, they brought it right back out in this game as well. My favorite sequence of his night though came very late in the fourth quarter. You want to talk about unselfish play, go watch that Al Horford three again with about 2 minutes left in the game. Isaiah could have taken the midrange jumper, he could have been looking out for himself and bring his fourth quarter total to an unreal 15 points. But he didn’t. He hooked up his teammate, made the right basketball play, and the basketball Gods rewarded him.

– I thought Jae looked much better, especially from an energy standpoint than he did in DAL a few days ago. After the horrific start (which we’ll get to), it was Jae that gave the Celts their initial spark. I’ll never complain about 18/5 from him, that’s right around where I want him to be, and I loved that he took 9 FTs. That’s a season high. He played the most of any starter in this game, and his +13 tells me those were pretty good minutes. Another guy that won’t win you a scoring title, but will help you win games by doing everything else. This was the first game in a while I can remember the majority of Jae’s baskets coming close to the rim, and while he loves to shoot threes as much as anyone on this team, when I see him play aggressive like he did last night that tells me that his ankle is definitely no longer an issue, and that could not make me happier.

– We covered the rules to start, but I didn’t tell you about the addendum! When James Young plays crunch time minutes in a fourth quarter while also having another brilliant performance, we get another uninterrupted showing. It’s a miracle!!

What’s your favorite part of that video? I can’t pick one. The threes are just the icing on the cake, how about the fourth quarter scoring, the little midrange pullup in the second quarter, how about…dare I say it…the defense!! It does not surprise me one bit that James Young is being given minutes and he has now responded three straight times with beyond positive results. I’ve only been demanding this for years. Nobody wants to see injuries on their team, but if you were going to tell me if would lead to THIS, well, maybe hold everyone out a little longer because I’m not done freaking out about this yet.

– It has been a glorious 7 weeks for Kelly Olynyk, no matter how you want to look at it. His scoring, his shooting percentage, how he’s rebounding the ball, the defense he’s playing, it’s all been great. Once you get past the fact that he’ll never ever ever ever ever ever be Giannis, when you actually look at what he’s doing you see he can be a pretty good player. Another 16/7/3 on 6-8 shooting (2-2 from deep), what has stood out to me most about Olynyk is he’s doing it from all over. He’s knocking down open threes, but he’s also putting the ball on the floor and not completely fucking up around the rim. People love to talk about that ATL series and want to reject the notion of a hurt Olynyk making a difference. Well, can’t we see what a difference a HEALTHY Olynyk is? I get that at times he looks slow and unathletic and white, but if I can look past that then you can too.

– Al Horford sneaky had another pretty strong effort against what are supposed to be two good bigs. Well not Okafor, he blows, but Noel certainly. Shmucks who don’t really understand basketball will point to his 12/5/2/2 and say “wow that’s not worth a max!”. Those people are dummies. Horford had great percentages, was second on the team with +19, and helped you win this ballgame. That is who he is, and I don’t get why that isn’t worth a premiere price. Isn’t the whole goal to win games? Would people be happy if he put up 20/10 but the Celts never won? Brett Brown who is a smart man said it himself, you can’t put a pricetag on what he gives you. That’s not me saying it, just remember that.

– You want to know why I’m never really panicking when the Celts play like shit in a first half like they did in this game where they gave up over 60 points to the SIXERS? Because I believe in Angry Brad Stevens. Do I think it is a coincidence that in the second half the Sixers had 47 points? No I do not. We also saw the trend continue of only giving up one 30 point quarter leading to a win. It’s not rocket science, if this team plays a lick of defense, they are really, really tough to beat.

– They didn’t blow it. That’s always most important.

The Bad 

– I know I just got done praising Jae for his aggressiveness, but I counted at least three times where he stopped dribbling for no reason to take a semi contested pullup jumper that he did not make. It’s probably something that only annoys me, but I would prefer he just take a few more dribbles and take the layup/FT.

– It does not matter who he plays for, or what time of the year it is, Gerald Henderson is a Celtics killer. Always has been always will be. I don’t know if he gets extra motivation playing his Dad’s old team, but I’m at the point where I’ve seen him haunt the Celts enough, it may be time to try and find a way to get him on your team. Maybe an Evan Turner 2.0 without the frustrating turnovers?

– I won’t say he was the Shitty Player Award winner because I think he’s actually pretty good, but the defense, or better yet lack of defense being played on Robert Covington to start this game was repulsive. Part of me thinks he may have been the focus of Angry Brad’s halftime talk because he was a non factor in the second half. But listen, I don’t care who it is, even Steph Curry, you can’t let dudes start a game shooting 100-100 against you. Can’t do it.

– If you didn’t know the Celtics were going to blow their 12 point lead, you haven’t watched this team play. Even when you know it’s coming it still is annoying, and I guess this is something we are going to have to learn to accept.

– You don’t want to know the points in the paint difference, rebounding difference, second chance point difference, or rebounding difference. It is not pretty.

The Ugly

– 22 turnovers. TWENTY TWO TURNOVERS. I was so offended by how the Celtics were passing the basketball in this game, in fact, it was disrespectful to the game of basketball. Lazy after lazy entry passes that not only were telegraphed 100%, but also were just weak passes. Anytime you can start the game off with four straight turnovers that pretty much sets the tone. My problem was that it came from everybody. Horford had 4, Isaiah had 4, Marcus had 6, Kelly had 3, shit so frustrating it’ll make you pull your hair out.

And this is what I mean about how this type of stuff straight cannot happen in the playoffs. You get killed on the boards and in the paint like they did, then add in THAT many turnovers against any playoff team, and you are going to get smoked.

– I also did not appreciate all the missed FTs.

So here we are, at the final game before the All Star break, with all the momentum in the world. Playing a back to back in this situation is kind of cruel, but here’s a little nugget for ya

Say it with me….

37 down 15 to go.