*Disclaimer: I may or may not be a little fired up as I write this but I promise it will not cloud my judgement
I thought about waiting until the morning, scheduling myself a nice little two hour meeting, hiding in an office and writing this blog at work, but then I remembered why I got into the blog game in the first place. This blog isn’t a place for well thought out calm takes. It’s for celebrating the wins and venting my ass off when shit like this happens. I’m mad, you’re mad, we can be here for each other. We’ll get to the end of the game fiasco in a little bit, and even though emotions are high, it’s just one game.
It certainly is no surprise that there was a shitty call by a ref in an NBA game, and had the roles been reversed, all Celtics fans (myself included) would have no problem with what happened. That’s sports. Fortunately it’s not as if this cost the Celtics a playoff game, or really fucks with their seeding all that much, so while I am filled to the brim with rage as I attempt to calmly type this, I want to remind everyone that things will be OK.
Despite the shitty ending, there were still some positives to take away, and also some pretty glaring issues that we can’t ignore as we head into the second half. I’m going to Spin Zone the shit out of this and say the Celtics heading into the break all pissed off is actually a good thing. This team often falls victim to believing their own hype, and if I know Angry Brad like I think I do, the Celts are going to use this as fuel to their second half fire.
OK, let’s get to it.
– It may be conisdered pointless to even talk about, but not around here. You set an all time Celtics record and do it with 29/7 (11 in fourth) and good shooting percentages, we are going to celebrate it. In the grand scheme of things it’s something that only really matters to Celtics fans, but maybe you’re young and you don’t realize how crazy Isaiah’s streak is. John Havlicek was one of the baddest mother fuckers to ever wear a Celtics uniform. Their all time leading scorer, when you start to do shit that puts you in the area code of Bird (points per game), and streaks like this, you are turning yourself into a special Celtic. Save all the debating about his contract, his ability to lead a team to a title, all that crap and take a second to appreciate what we’re seeing. When the trade for Isaiah happened I was excited, but even I didn’t think there’d be a day where we are talking about how he is breaking these historic marks set by absolute legends. Whatever your stance on Isaiah is, you can’t deny that aspect is pretty cool. He is doing something that not even the best Celtic of my generation was able to do, and that blows my mind.
So, you know the rules, you have a night like this, we enjoy it uninterrupted.
Something I think we can file away for the playoffs is the success that Isaiah had in the fourth despite being covered by Jimmy Butler. Yes, Butler won some battles as well, but we already know that come April teams are going to throw their bigger, stronger players on Isaiah in hopes of slowing him down. Last night gave us some tape on how he can still be successful in those situations. That’s important.
– One of my goals in this blog is to help the common reader, or common Celtics fan notice certain trends that maybe they missed because I am a basketball nerd at heart. I keep bringing up the high screen semi transition three we saw against UTA because it has become a Celtics staple. It happened against PHI, and we got another taste last night. Everybody knows the Celtics are allergic to 2for1’s. They hate them. Well, after a Brad ATO with around 30 seconds left in the half, what do you think they ran to get Isaiah open for a made three while preserving the 2for1? A high screen semi transition three. You saw it in that highlight clip above. Isaiah has shown all he needs is a sliver of space and he’ll make the shot, so this is a nice little wrinkle the Celtics have turned into a habit. Don’t hate that one bit.
– In a game like this, right before the All Star Break, you want a good performance from your second unit. Well I’d say 45 points from the bench last night fits the bill. Led by Kelly Olynyk and his 17 points on 60% shooting (50% from deep) there might not be a player on the roster heading into the break on more of a roll. I think we’re seeing peak Olynyk, the one that I dream about, and while whether he can keep up this pace is TBD, it’s hard not to love what he’s giving. Throw in this was another game in which he had seven rebounds, in a game where nobody on the Celts wanted to rebound, and slowly but surely I see more and more people tweeting me and admitting they are turning the corner on him. That’s great to see.
But I can’t forget about my Summer League Crush. With Avery’s injury you can tell Terry is becoming more and more confident with every opportunity, especially from deep. Remember, this is the first time in his career that he is getting legit minutes, so he’s going to have his ups and downs, but all I want to see from Terry is that he believes he belongs. You watch the confidence he has when he took those threes last night and you see a guy who is ready to roll.
– After the way the Celts started their game against PHI, safe to say last night was a billion times better. For one they didn’t turn it over four straight times, instead had three assists on their first four baskets. Amir Johnson came out of nowhere with 10 points on 5-5 shooting, and as a team the Celts shot 52%. Not exactly the start you would expect on a B2B, and the 6th game in their 9th city. Successful Celtics basketball isn’t really that complicated, it all comes back to their ball movement. When they move the ball and don’t settle, their offense is among the best in the league.
Well, six different players had at least three assists, and as a team the Celts had 24 on 36 made baskets. Their streak of B2B wins did end at five, but it wasn’t a result of piss poor offense.
– This was not the best night for Al Horford, Jae Crowder, or Marcus Smart. Off nights happen, call it fatigue, call it eyeing the break, call it random, they just happen. It’s pretty rare that all three lay an egg on the same night, but that’s what happened. Horford started great, but then was a non factor. Jae and Marcus just didn’t have the stroke. In fact the three of them combined shot 7-23. There aren’t too many times you’re going to beat a current playoff team when three main guys shoot like that. Again, it happens.
What bothers me to this day, and usually comes right after a Celtics loss is we get the “AL HORFORD IS NOT WORTH THE MONEY” fire takes. People need to shut the fuck up about this. Did it cost a lot of money to bring in Horford? Absolutely. Has he had games that could have been better? Yup. But look, the Celtics are 37-20, in the 2 seed, and have one of the best offenses in the league. You don’t think that’s worth $26M? You see the season Isaiah is having? Well who do you think is maybe the biggest reason that’s been able to happen? Al Horford. I get so many tweets talking about his rebounding, well guess what, he’s averaging 0.5 fewer rebounds than last year, and 0.2 fewer DREB. His rebounding rate is 0.1% lower than last year. Who did you all think you were signing? Get over this lazy take already my lord.
– But make no mistake about it, the rebounding on this team is a problem. I’m not sure how many more times the Celts need to play the Bulls before they realize that this team is crazy active on the glass. The reason the Celtics lost this game is not because of a bullshit call, but because of how they were outworked on the glass. A 51-31 difference lead to 22 second chance points for the Bulls. THERE’S YOUR GAME. How many OREB did the Bulls get down the stretch within the final two minutes, like a billion? They had 15 OREB for the entire game. You cannot win on the road if you’re going to do shit like that.
So much is made about Horford’s rebounding, but guess what Amir had two as well, and Zeller had ZERO. The Bulls had six players with at least five rebounds, and 11 of them came from their backcourt. I don’t want a big time trade in the next few days, I just want someone who will rebound the fucking basketball.
– Isaiah’s fourth quarter was more of the same, pretty brilliant. However, he was not perfect. What makes Isaiah’s fourth quarters so great is that he very rarely forces things. His point production usually comes within the offense which is why it’s so deadly. Well, I had about 3-4 shots that I felt he forced. Obviously when that happened, they didn’t go in and were as good as turnovers in my mind. I’m not saying he has to be perfect every time he plays a final quarter, but this is a fair space so I can’t gush about the good without calling out the bad. I’m sorry and it feels wrong but it’s true.
– You may have your own personal thoughts on the guy, but I will never, ever, like seeing Rondo in a different jersey. Long before I was spending hours on Twitter fighting and defending Isaiah, I was doing it for Rondo. He was part of the only title I’ve ever seen, and for that he will always have a special place in my heart. Rondo was the best pure passing point guard I’ve ever seen suit up for the Celts, and while he can at times be an asshole I will forever be #TeamRondo.
– Shame such a big defensive steal by Smart was all for nothing.
– OK, let’s talk about the end of this game. First some ground rules:
1. Smart touches the elbow. This is not debatable. I’ve watched this 100000 times.
2. The problem is when the foul was called and how late it was.
Here’s what I mean. Take another look at the photo at the top of this blog
Theoretically, if the ref thought this was a foul when it happened, he blows his whistle at this exact moment. I mean he’s looking right at the play. In real life, there was no such whistle. Here’s what it looks like in real time
Upon further investigation, here is a still of after the shot misses and time expires. Notice where the ref is looking. I will have you know at THIS point the shot has missed and time has expired. A foul still had not been called
What doesn’t make sense to me, if that they put 0.9 seconds on the clock, which would imply that the ref called the foul before the buzzer went off right? But that didn’t happen. If the ref thought that was a foul, he calls it in real time when he’s looking at the play. Not after he sees the shot did not go in almost a full second later. THAT is why I am so angry. What sucks is that by the rule, the league will say this was the correct call, because again, Smart did touch Butler’s elbow.
This is now the second game a call has gone against Smart to lose a game, but in both cases it was not WHY the Celtics lost the game. Both can be true, and both can be equally as shitty.
– Wonder why I obsess over missed FTs from good shooters? Well, the Celtics went 8-9 in the fourth quarter with the only miss coming from Olynyk. They lost by 1 point. How do you think that is sitting with me right now?
It’s right to feel anger about how this game ended, but don’t let it get in the way of taking a step back and realizing the Celtics are right where we all hoped and expected they would be at the start of the year, and they’ve done it with about 2 total weeks of good health. They have issues that can be addressed that should help prevent losses like this from happening, so while it fucking sucks to get #STERN’d yet again, it isn’t the end of the world. We now turn the page to getting rest, getting healthy, and reading multiple stories about how players are so impressed with Brad as a coach during the AS Break, and maybe Isaiah will fuck around and get MVP and win the Skills Competition because he’s still fired up.