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Worst Performance Of The Season. Hands Down.

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All things considered this has to be not only one of the more frustrating performances of the 2017 Celtics season, but also really one of the more shocking. I wouldn’t say it’s a shock that they lost, Cleveland is the far and away better team, but it’s a shock because this performance was very un-Celtics like. Here’s what I mean. We’ve seen this team play down to bad teams and lose games they shouldn’t. Shit we’ve seen them get blown out by the Nuggets twice and lose to the Suns on the road. What we haven’t seen is them play this LIFELESS in a big marquee game against a good team. With how well they have been playing, big time playoff positioning at stake, it was down right shocking the effort, or I should say lack thereof, we got. Similar games come to mind, the win in GS, the big home win against Washington, the win over these Cavs in early March, hell even in the two previous losses against the Cavs were by just six each time. This team has shown more than once that they can rise to the occasion when big time games arrive.

I think we can all agree that this game was more a reminder of something we already knew, that the Celts are still a long ways away from passing the Cavs as the team to beat in the East. That really doesn’t change no matter how this game went. Having said that, they also aren’t as putrid as they played. You can tell me you expected the Celts to lose, but not one of us expected THAT. Of all the frustrating parts of this game, I would say that’s what bothers me most. The Celtics picked a terrible time to be at their absolute worst. This was just the second time all year they’ve lost by 20+ points. There’s no excuse for how the Celts played, so if that’s what you’re looking for you won’t find it here.

Sigh….let’s begin.

The Good


You have got to be out of your damn mind if you think I am going to waste time trying to put any sort of ridiculous positive spin about anything we saw in this game. Yes that includes the 26/4/6 from Isaiah. Not when the Celts spread em wide and took a gigantic shit on all of our (my) faces. You want me to SpinZone, you at least need to meet me half way. After this performance? I can’t do it, I won’t do it.

The Bad

– Ever since he came into the league, the Celtics have had a problem effectively stopping Lebron James. Lebron has played a total of 45 games against the Celtics, and there is not a team in the entire league in which he scores more against (29.5). That’s why during the Big 3 Era you often saw the Celts go to a “Lebron can score 50 we’ll just shut down everyone else” approach. Well, this season Lebron is as effective as ever, averaging 27/9.3/11 in the three previous meetings. When the Celtics play with energy and effort, they do have players that can make it tough on an offensive player. You know when this team is truly locked in. This is not what that looks like.

For the Celtics to win this game, you cannot have this type of defensive effort on Lebron. It started very early, in the game’s first few possessions.

That play right there explains a lot of how Lebron’s night went. He found a weakness, exposed it, and easy points followed. See the way he tells Kyrie to clear through, knowing that by doing that he is virtually removing Avery from being able to help. Rendering perhaps the best defender on the team useless. Now it’s time to create his own mismatch, so whoever the guy Isaiah is guarding (in this case JR Smith) sets a high screen on Jae. Now look at how Jae is positioned when that screen comes. He is hedging so hard he is practically begging Lebron to go right. The only problem is Isaiah isn’t stopping Lebron, and Bradley has been taken out of the play as a last second rotation.

In that instance there’s nothing you can really do. That';s simply Lebron showing you why he is the best basketball player on the planet. Here’s where my problem is. There is a big difference between that type of play, and defensive effort like this

That’s what you’re plan is for defending Lebron? I have never seen such a pathetic, soft, disinterested effort from a team who’s whole approach is usually the exact opposite. There is no defensive intensity in reaching, or half ass attempts to move your feet and stay in front of your man. This wasn’t a case of Lebron outsmarting his opponent, this was the Celtics putting up zero resistence whatsoever.

Let’s also not forget that Lebron repeatedly found himself in the post either against Avery Bradley or Marcus Smart. Bradley, while an elite perimeter defender is not giving Lebron any trouble down low, and despite Marcus being known to be a little better in this area, it didn’t matter. What is Marcus supposed to do here?

Look at where Lebron is as he shoots this

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I see all five Celtics, yet nobody came to help Marcus. There was no quick double or anything like that. Lebron gave Marcus one body and then took a wide open layup. Gross.

– It makes no sense so don’t ask me to explain it. This team is at it’s worst with 2+ days rest. Celts are now 4-9 in such games this season, which happens to be the only situation in which they have a losing record. Not back to backs, not with just one day of rest, it makes no sense. Throw in the fact that the Cavs had been slumping and played the night before, that plays a gigantic part in why this loss and effort is both frustrating and inexcusable.

– This season when playing at the Garden the Celtics have 45/36% splits. That’s also their splits when playing with that sort of rest. Well, they ended the night with 40/22% and believe me it wasn’t that good. For the Celtics to not only beat teams like CLE, but really for them to make progress in the playoffs, their secondary and third scoring options are essential. You can pencil in Isaiah for his 26-30 points on good shooting, this year that has proven to be a constant, the problem is when last night happens, and those guys don’t come through.

Avery, Jae, and Horford shot 10-25 and had just 19 points. That’s an absolute killer. To make matters worse, it wasn’t as if it was the Cavs defense that was the problem. These guys simply couldn’t make an open shot, Jae and Avery especially. I get that it was Avery’s first game in a week, but I was not expecting him to be that rusty. It’s also no surprise that as Jae Crowder goes, so does this team. Since the last two weeks of March, when Jae has shot the ball well the Celts’s offense is entirely different. In their losses, he shot like shit. Guess which one this was.

– The issue was this team went back to their bad habits on offense. The way they were playing was an approach that looked like they were trying to make up the deficit with one basket. With each missed long jumper came points on the other end. When that happened you could tell they panicked. The mental toughness wasn’t there to absorb a CLE run, put a stop to it, and string together consecutive stops to get back in it. Instead, they chucked it up. I don’t think they ran an offense for half the game.

Why this should piss you off is they saw how to be effective in the first quarter. Getting Al the ball in the paint and cutting, getting Isaiah into the paint with high screens, things they have done all year. Then all of the sudden you’re shooting 3-17 from deep in the first half. Sometimes it works better to see it in pictures, I myself am a visual learner.

First quarter:

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Second quarter:

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In which do you think the Celts let the game get out of hand?

– You could tell the Cavs were more engaged right from the jump. Their 8 OREB in the first quarter were all you needed to see. They were stronger to the ball, were more active on defense and as a result the Celtics were completely dominated in almost every hustle category. Outrebounded 51-38, they got killed in fastbreak points and of the 114 points that the Cavs scored, 58 came in the paint. Hard to win when you are giving up layups and dunks and doing nothing but brick outside shots.

– The Cavs took a 21-20 lead 13 seconds into the second quarter. They did not trail again for the rest of the fucking game. Not even by a point.

– When the Celts came out in the third quarter and Jae hit a three to cut it to 12 with 10:26, for a split second you thought maybe this was the spark that was going to bring things close. They then committed three fouls in the next 1:19 and were in the bonus with 9:07 left in the quarter. Nothing kills a comeback bid quicker than playing 75% of a quarter in the penalty. But that’s what happens when you play with a lazy effort, so the Celts have no one to blame but themselves.

The Ugly

– What ever happened to the notion that role players play better at home? I’ve seen the Celtics lose many a game simply because a role player has a great night at home. So how come the Celtics second unit come in the game in the second quarter and completely lose this game? A 22-4 run and just like that it was essentially over. Horrible shot selection, turnovers, no defense, everything the Celtics had done to claw back in and actually take a lead after the first was for nothing. And don’t let Olynyk’s final line fool you. Each and every one of them was absolutely horrific. The bench ended the first half shooting 1-12 (0-7 from deep). Brad tried everything, calling a timeout at 10:28 and again at 7:30. The Cavs lead went from three to thirteen during this time, and finally Brad made subs but the damage was done.

The second quarter has always been the Celts worst 12 minutes, but this was honestly the worst stretch of basketball on either end I think we’ve seen this team play all year. So annoying.

– We all collectively agree that in order for us to put up with Marcus Smart’s shooting issues, he needs to do everything else. He needs to defend, he needs to create for others, and assert himself in a way that helps the team win. We got none of that, but still got the shitty shooting. I don’t know how many times I have to say it, but I can’t ignore it. You can tell what type of night Marcus is going to have based on how his FGA ratio looks. Does he start by being aggressive and attacking the rim, or does he start off chucking threes and long twos that have no shot of going in? You guessed it, last night it was the latter. By the time he realizes and takes it to the basket for a runner or something, his struggles are already in his head and when it’s bad, it’s BAD. Smart was a -19, and it was the first game in a long time that he’s had such a negative impact on the outcome.

– Celtics had a 117 defensive rating in this game. Not one player, the collective team.

– With TOR coming back against DET, it now appears that they will most likely snag that three spot. This means seeing them in the second round is now almost a lock, as opposed to completely missing them all together had they won this game and snagged the #1 seed. That’s why this game makes me mad. Not because of what it means in terms of how the Celts stack up against CLE, but now their path to get to that ECF just got a little harder.

– Sweet. Real fucking sweet

I can’t stress this enough, it’s one thing to lose, it’s another to not even show up. I can usually stomach when the Celtics show up and still come up short, but I can’t sit here and accept this shit. It’s unreal they weren’t ready to play, simply unreal.

The beauty of the NBA is they get another chance tonight to get right back at it. Celts are 10-6 on B2B this season, and the Hawks have lost two in a row and are 2-8 over their last 10. Normally after this team gets blown out they come back out the next night guns blazing, and that’s what needs to happen so they can head into the playoffs playing good basketball.

My advice is turn the page, as Brad says…

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