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Like He Has So Many Times Before, Isaiah Saved The Day Again

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It’s fitting that in a game that finally broke the losing skid, not even that could come easy. That’s just so 2017 Celtics. They refuse to blow teams out, the refuse to play a consistent 48 minutes, and yesterday they were VERY fortunate that this game ended the way it did. For what seems like the 345876348th time this season, Isaiah Thomas saved the day. The Celtics best player took it upon himself and willed this team to a win they desperately needed, not only in terms of the standings, but also their psyche.

And honestly I don’t really care that CHA was basically a shitty team that’s missing the playoffs and has a league average defense. The reason the Celtics won this game wasn’t so much about CHA as it was about the Celts getting back to playing the style of basketball that got them to 51 wins in the first place. At this point of the season the opponent is irrelevant to me, I care more about how they are playing than the result, and you should too. Collectively we have been waiting for this group to snap out of their funk, and for the most part we our first sign that they are on the mend. While it wasn’t perfect, far from it, at this point I’ll take whatever I can get.

Now after two back to back gloomy blogs, let’s have some fucking fun

The Good

– WE’RE BACK! Boy does it feel good to not have to skip this section again, although we came pretty close! Not only does it feel great to be back, but it feels even better to start with you know who. Enjoy.

Ho hum, just another 32/6 with 55/45% splits (five made threes) including 9 points with 50/50% splits and a +11 in the fourth quarter single handedly securing this win. When looking for reasons as to why Isaiah is having yet another breakout career year right after he just did that last season, I can’t start anywhere other than how impossibly effective he is coming off a high screen and stepping into a three. The frequency in which he makes that shot is shit only like Steph Curry does. It doesn’t matter if it’s early in the first, or late in the fourth like it was yesterday. I have the utmost confidence in Isaiah when he takes this shot, and it’s why he is the only player on this roster who can do whatever he wants on the offensive end. Transition three? Sure. A 35 footer off a high screen? Go nuts. He has proven he can make it, and there’s also something to be said about having the stones to take it.

The thing is, we all know Isaiah is an offensive maestro. What I loved to see from his performance early was how active he was on the defensive end. The box score shows him with just one steal, but he had probably 3-5 deflections early that either broke up fast breaks, or caused turnovers. Don’t confuse this with me trying to tell you Isaiah is an All NBA defender, but do take note that with all the talk about how poor of a defender Isaiah is, that’s not always the case.

The biggest takeaway for me about this game is the reinforcement that as long as you have Isaiah, you have a chance. His last two minutes of this game are the exact reason why I trust Isaiah during the playoffs. He got to the rim, he drew fouls, he hit threes, he won the game. Look at the play by play and tell me he didn’t put his foot down and say enough was enough

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Looks like a star to me.

– It’s absolutely maddening how much better this team looks with they run actual plays, and then also move the ball. Take this out of bounds play from early in the first quarter.

This isn’t anything overly special, but it does give us a glimpse into some patented Celtics basketball. First you have a cutter in Jae going through to create space as Bradley comes off a Horford “screen”. Once Avery has the ball and realizes Horford is going to consumer both defenders, he gets into the paint while at the same time Jae realized his man had to help and had the court awareness to cut to the basket, where instead of forcing a tough runner Avery made the unselfish pass for the easy basket. That mentality of making the extra pass would help propel the Celts to their best offensive half of the entire season.

Good passing is contagious. When the ball moves quick and multiple players touch the ball the Basketball Gods reward you. When the Celtics do it, their entire offensive arsenal opens up. Here are two PRIME examples

Do you this it’s a coincidence that the Celts started so well offensively and had 11 assists on 13 baskets in the first quarter? The backed it up with 10 assists on 14 baskets in the second? You want to know how to bust out of an offensive slump, just watch this game film. This team struggles to shoot the ball when they aren’t running an offense and guys like Isaiah or Marcus or Horford have to take contested shots at the end of the shot clock. When this team is locked in and moves the ball, you see the secondary scoring show up.

– Speaking of secondary scoring, you don’t have the most road wins in the Eastern Conference without it, and yesterday it finally showed up. A nice 16/4/7 with 45/40% splits from Horford, Jae threw in 19/9/3 with 66/50% splits, and more importantly there was Avery with his 15/6/4 with 42/42% splits. Basically Isaiah got the help he needs and boom the Celtics won. That’s the beauty of this team, with how good Isaiah has been, we just need everyone else to not completely shit their pants, and things look DRASTICALLY different.

– I want to spend a little more time talking about Avery. As wonderful as Isaiah was in the fourth, the Celts probably don’t win if Avery didn’t snap out of his slump in a big way in his 11 minutes of action. His 11 points on 4-7 shooting (3-5 from deep) could be just the thing to finally put this slump to bed, and that would excite me very, very much.

– If you don’t know by now, I am a big time sucker for Brad ATOs. Well we saw something midway through the second quarter that I don’t think we’ve seen all season. The Jae pin down?

Usually when Avery is on the floor, this is the type of thing Brad runs for him. Instead, seeing Jae be the one to be on the receiving end and him making that midrange jumper immediately caught my attention. Just goes to show you Brad always has something up his sleeve.

– Few things are as pleasing as seeing Jaylen shoot the ball well. He led all bench scorers with 10 points on 4-7 shooting (2-3 from deep) and it’s no surprise his makes came from the corners. We’ve talked about how he is WAY above league average in this area, and based on how this team plays, he is going to be given that shot a whole lot in the playoffs. Teams will dare Jaylen to beat them, and the way he shoots from the corner, that should be no problem whatsoever.

Because guess what, in addition to the shooting, we also get this from Jaylen

Calling me giddy watching Jaylen in this game would be a drastic understatement.

– You know how the other day I was talking about Smart and basically said that we can deal with his piss poor shooting as long as he continues to do everything else and make a positive impact that leads to wins? Well, who gives a shit about his 2-8 shooting with the way he did everything else. He rebounded (4), he distributed (6 assists), and more importantly he had several beautiful strips down under the basket to spark fast breaks. No surprise that in his 33 minutes he was a game high +12. THAT is the type of Smart that this team needs if he’s going to shoot like an asshole.

– We talked about the extra passing early in the game, but how about this play at the game’s biggest moment? I thought Isaiah was a selfish player who only cared about his own stats and never looks to facilitate. Weird.

Isaiah 100% could have taken that shot, he had made a three right before this, but instead made the correct basketball play, to which the Basketball Gods again rewarded him. Love it.

– A quick look at the effort stats we see the Celts won the rebounding battle, fast break points battle, second chance points battle, points in the paint battle, and turned it over fewer than 10 times. You can’t ask for more than that.

The Bad

– Like I said at the beginning of the blog, this was a far from perfect performance. What the hell was that start? Turnovers left and right, and a quick 7-0 deficit, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little concerned with the effort. To be honest it was some of the laziest passing we’ve seen, and you can be assured that if they start off this way in a playoff game, chances are things will not work out.

– A very weird night for Isaiah in terms of his ball security. His 6 TOs were weird because I’d say four of them came as the result of the correct basketball idea, just poor execution. Trying to force some passes that might not have been there, you can’t be mad that he tried to setup his teammates. but he needs to be MUCH better considering how much he has the ball. This is now the third time Isaiah has had at least 6 TOs in a game, and the Celts are 2-1 in those games. Again it wasn’t as if he was having a tough time working around the CHA defense, his passing was just not ideal.

– I’ve noticed this trend over the last few weeks, and it makes me a little nervous going forward. This team LOVES to play to the whistle, especially shooting threes. What we’re seeing is this is getting called less and less as the season winds down. Isaiah usually tries this a few times a game, but we also see it from Marcus and Jae. Personally I hate it because when these shots don’t get called for fouls, they may as well be turnovers.

The one thing this team cannot do in a playoff series is rely on the refs to bail them out and call fouls. If anything you can almost guarantee it will go the other way. What happens when the Celts don’t get these calls is they usually complain about it and don’t get back on defense, and next thing you know the other team is on a run.

– After such a good first quarter, who didn’t see that third coming? The #Theory has two sides my friends, and yesterday was the shitty side. Almost too predictable to be mad at really.

The Ugly

– OK but seriously what the fuck. Another 19 point lead blown to a team that was ready to mail it in, it’s inexcusable to go from that lead to down 7 with around four minutes to go. I know this team can’t blow anyone out, but if the first half was perfect Celtics basketball, then the second half was more along the lines of what we saw the previous two games and frankly it’s disgusting. No defense, poor shot selection, the works.

– 28, 26, 32, 28. Those are the points allowed each quarter in this game. The Celtics giving up 114 points to a team that scores 105 on the season isn’t going to cut it. The Celts need to figure out what the hell is going on on the defensive side and they need to do it quick because I do not expect them to be able to put up 120 points on the regular in the playoffs. We haven’t seen a solid defensive performance since GS, and that shit was over a month ago.

– Stop fouling three point shooters. Just stop it. It’s enough already.

It’s wild to think about, but the season has just two games left. What a journey it’s been, and with BKN and MIL on deck there is every opportunity to end this season strong and have positive momentum heading into maybe the biggest first round series in a decade.

In the meantime, say it with me

51 down, 1 to go.