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It Doesn't Have To Be Pretty To Count

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You know the saying, a win’s a win’s a win. After the mental collapse in Toronto and the deserved outrage from us who care way too much about this team, last night was a much needed W no matter how it happened. The Celtics now own a 3-1 head to head matchup record against the Pistons, and this is important as we head into the playoffs. This Pistons team could very well end up being a first round opponent for the Celts (but also could fall out) and their only loss came when they were still the November Celtics. Despite their record, I think the Pistons are an interesting matchup for the Celtics, because their two strengths are something that is supposed to haunt the Celtics in a few months: Rebounding and length. To see the Celtics have success anyway should be somewhat encouraging as we move forward.

There isn’t really a way to spin this one though. This was about as ugly as win as you can have in the NBA, and even though the Celtics were able to pull it out, some might say they were lucky. I don’t know if I would call it “luck”, but I would say they are fortunate their young guys stepped up at the biggest moments (more on this later). With TOR winning and WSH losing, at the end of the day the facts are this. They extended their lead as the two seed.

Personally, I’m happy with the result but not thrilled at the process. You probably feel the same way. Let’s talk about it.

The Good

– A few deserving candidates for this top spot. In fact this may be the most competition we’ve had in a long time. In situations like this, with things so close, I am using my executive powers to declare that the tie goes to the MVP candidate. Before we talk about specifically about his 33 point performance, you know the rules. We enjoy it uninterrupted.

OK so right off the bat we saw SVG go with what is supposed to shut down Isaiah Thomas, by putting KCP as his primary defender. You’ve heard this narrative before, Isaiah has a bad game here or there and all the sudden it’s as simple as putting a guy with length on him and he’s “exposed”. Well, he didn’t look too exposed to me. That’s not to say he never fucks up, he is human, but here was another example of Isaiah performing well against a good defensive playoff team (101.8 ppg), that has both perimeter length and elite rim protection. Why some choose to ignore this is anyone’s guess.

What pleased me most about Isaiah’s performance was I thought he reacted much better when blitzed and doubled out of the high screen he gets usually on every possession. His passing was much better, he didn’t panic and force too many shots (until the fourth), and it looked more like the Isaiah we are used to than what we saw against TOR.

The offensive production is nice, but expected. The most impressive part of Isaiah’s night for me, was the work he did on the defensive end. I’m not going to sit here and lie to you and say this was an elite defensive performance, but it was certainly more than acceptable. His rotations were solid, he had active hands (3 steals) and he had a defensive rating of 95. 95!!!!!! By comparison, Smart’s was 101. It is going to be a huge advantage for this team if his defense can go from liability at times to acceptable, and I think if we are going to get on him when he struggles, we should point out when he doesn’t.

– As good as Isaiah was, it is not an outrageous claim to say the Celtics do not win this game without the effort from Marcus Smart. Thank God Ainge didn’t trade this kid is all I am going to say. His 14 points on 50% shooting, 5 rebounds, 2 assists and 1 steal most definitely do not jump off the boxscore, but the impact he had, dear lord. It was so great we are doing something for him we’ve only ever done in this blog for James Young. We’re getting his performance uninterrupted too

So what stands out? Well how about the frequency in which Marcus took Reggie Jackson to the post. Part of this is credit to Brad for probably calling it, but part of it should go to Marcus and the development in his shot selection. He knew he had the mismatch, and went there time and time again. That should make you as happy as it makes me.

But the real story here is what happened in his final 10:43 of action. His 9 points and 3 rebounds (all offensive) won this game for the Celtics. Not to mention the work he did to draw a foul going for a rebound on a missed FT. Remember, he is a POINT GUARD, and I dare you to find me a guard that battles among the trees as successful as Marcus does, and as frequently. On one end he’s taking body blows from the Morris twin in the post, and the other he’s getting to the offensive glass and converting when players like Drummond are on the court. Guards like Westbrook rebound at a crazy rate, but they are of a different style. Smart’s “winning plays” might sound cliche, but it’s the fucking truth.

– Here’s something I didn’t know. I didn’t know that Jaylen Brown was going to be able to play SG. When they drafted him I always expected him to be a SF, and then play PF when the Celtics want to go small and uber athletic. Well, this kid is growing right before our eyes and it is BEAUTIFUL. His 13 points with 55/100% splits are great, but he filled out his 25 minutes with 5 rebounds and 2 steals as well. He was second among starters at +14. He did shit like this

The Eurostep, the spin move, the finishing at the rim, it’s all coming together for the rookie and it’s impossible to hold in my excitement. The pants have been removed officially. Not only did he win the game with that corner three, but it wasn’t a fluke. Over his last 7 games this is how he’s done: 23/47 FG (49%), 8/17 from 3 (47%), 17/24 FT (71%), 10.1 PPG, 26 MPG.

Not bad.

But let’s go one step deeper

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I’m not saying….I’m just saying.

– The Celtics have rebounding problems no doubt, but what if I told you they won the rebounding battle last night 52-45? Three players had at least 9 (Amir, Horford, Jae) and three other had at least 5 (Jaylen, Kelly, Marcus). Because the Celtics suck at this, they need everyone to hit the glass, especially against a team like DET who dominates in this area, and that’s what they got.

– How awesome is Summer League Crush Terry Rozier? The answer is very awesome. His game last night had the same level of confidence that we saw this summer, and we are seeing why he is sneaky unstoppable in 2K (this is not hyperbole, he really is ridiculous. Dunks absolutely everything from everywhere, it’s kinda weird). The biggest thing for me with Terry is that he plays within himself. When he plays in control, he is a very effective guard. His ability to knock down shots off the dribble is a very valuable skill in today’s NBA, and we saw that a few times in this game. A line of 13/3/2 with fantastic splits in just 17 minutes is great, but I care about having just 1 TO more. Great game by him

– Defensively, things weren’t terrible. The Celtics held a team to under 100, and didn’t give up a 30 point quarter. Add in the fact that the Celtics won the points in the paint battle, rebounding battle, and fast break points battle, it’s clear they played with great energy. When they do that, they tend to win, it’s not rocket science.

The Bad

– Please don’t get it twisted, there was a lot to not like in this game. I’ll start with the play of the second unit (minus Terry and Rozier). Let’s start with Olynyk. Not his best performance, and that’s being nice. I know Kelly used to be a PG, but I am ready to ban him from calling off a guard and bringing the ball up himself. Just give it to a guard and run to the rim and get position and get the ball back. What happened is in this game he took things a bit too far, got stuck, panicked, and his whiteness set in. Turnovers are ugly no matter who has them, but there is something weirdly awkward about Kelly’s that make them seem so much worse. The problem is the last two games he has turtled back into Hesitant Kelly. This Kelly hasn’t been around for almost two months, but here we are in back to back games. Hesitant Kelly hurts the Celtics, Aggressive Kelly wins them games, it’s that simple.

With Jonas, the guy needs to lose the mask. Until that happens, I think we need to give all his minutes to Jaylen/James Young. I sincerely do think Jonas helps this team in ways that are important. He can guard multiple positions and can knock down an outside shot, so I understand why Brad likes him. But there are guys playing better right now that deserve the minutes is all.

– I liked that right away the Celtics made a conscious effort to get Horford involved. His 5 FGA against TOR was a main reason they lost that game in my opinion. The problem is, Horford shot 2-11. That’s bad. I’ve talked before about how the more Horford dribbles, the lower his FG% gets, so I didn’t particularly like seeing him get the ball at the top of the arc, and then dribble for like 10 seconds before ultimately missing a hook shot or something. That’s not when Al is at his best, and that’s most definitely not the best way to use him. Those who STILL whine about his salary will point to the offensive production and ignore the rebounding and passing and that’s fine, because like I said last night, he couldn’t shoot for dick. That doesn’t mean he is overpaid though, because remember, they won the game.

– Perhaps it’s due to habit, but this was a game where the Celtics did not need to over help on Isaiah’s defense, and as a result it exposed them for a couple wide open threes. Good defense is all about trust and communication, and there were a couple times where the Celts didn’t have that. I can understand doing it on a night where Isaiah is struggling on the defensive end, but this wasn’t one of those nights.

– I said it before the game it all comes down to containing that damn Morris twin, and contain him the Celtics did not. I don’t get why, but Marcus Morris is officially on the list of Celtics Killers. Every time they play, he has an impact, and his 16/10/4 was just another example.

– James Young played 5 minutes in this game. FIVE MINUTES. Unacceptable no matter how you look at it.

– If I have to hear one more time about how “great” Avery feels, and that he’s “only a few days away” one more time, I am going to go on a murderous rampage. Stop lying. He’s been a few days away now for 5 weeks. He’s had great practices what seems like every day. I can’t be the only one still in fear of the season ending surgery Woj bomb right? Right??

The Ugly

– You want to know how to waste a quarter where you shoot 50% from the field, 50% from three, and 85% from the line? Watch the Celtics third quarter. The official box score has it at 9 turnovers in the quarter, but I think that’s about 50,000 short. The passing in this quarter was down right offensive. The decision making appalling. Offensively, they stopped playing and had to rely on ridiculous Isaiah shots to score. The good news is DET also turned the ball over 5 times, so basically if you love basketball and were watching this, I’m sure you were a little confused as to what you were seeing. This did not resemble NBA level basketball in the slightest.

– I counted six, SIX, offensive rebounds on missed FTs for the Pistons. How is that even possible? Like we all know the Celtics are beyond pathetic at rebounding, but rebounding on FTs is different. Make this example 4583248576304957 of why rebounding gives fans concern and I don’t blame them. It doesn’t mean you overpay at the deadline, but if the Celtics lose a playoff series because they can’t get a rebound on a FREE THROW, there will be hell to pay.

– Sure he had 8 points in the quarter, but this was another fourth quarter Isaiah was not at his best. Again he forced some shots at times, got out of the offense, and even though he was a +3 in the quarter, that’s deceiving. His one basket came with great ball movement, and a good two man game with him and Horford. That’s the type of shit that leads to great performances. Isaiah went away from what he did in the previous three quarters, and I prefer he doesn’t do that moving forward.

To be clear I think it’s valid to criticize him for night’s like last night, but I do want to point out that every once in a while he is going to have a quarter like a mere mortal. It didn’t cost the Celtics the game like his performance in TOR did, but I think Brad needs to sit him down and show him the film so he can see how drastically different his approach has been over the last two games.

Things pick right back up with a lil B2B action at home against ATL before the Celts head to CLE on Wednesday. They’ve won 6 straight at home, and can’t let up one bit. Every game from here on out is going to be crucial, and luckily B2B’s are sneaky the Celts specialty.

We just have to make it through work.

38 down 14 to go.