Embarrassing. That’s how I would describe these first two playoff games. This is a feeling that should hit everyone, from Ainge, to Brad, to the players, to bloggers, to fans. We should be embarrassed with what we’ve seen for the first 96 minutes of this series. I’ve written in this blog before how this was the postseason the Celts didn’t have any excuse. They aren’t injured, they have talent, and this is now at a point in their process where they have chemistry. I went on record saying I considered this season a failure if the Celtics didn’t make it past five games in the second round. As is stands now, it’s going to require some drastic improvements to even REACH the second round.
This team had everything they needed to help quiet the crowd that said they were just a regular season team and that they wouldn’t get out of the first. Instead of doing that, all they’ve done is pull a Mr. Portnoy and pour lighter fluid on charcoal that already had lighter fluid mixed in. There is no way to spin allowing a team like CHI to come into your building, on two separate occasions, and be the more aggressive team. Be the more composed team. Be the team that looks like they actually want to advance. That is something we haven’t seen from this Celtics team over the last 6 months, and they picked a pretty bad time to let this happen.
And just like GM1, you have to give the Bulls credit. The came in right from the jump and punched the Celtics in the mouth. Their role players have stepped up in both games and made a difference, and their stars have played like stars. The Celts haven’t.
Every hot take, from firing Brad to getting on Ainge for his inactivity, to the players simply turtling when things matter the most, are all warranted. We have to take it because this team has shown no signs of it not being true. That doesn’t mean they can’t turn this around, but you have to earn my benefit of the doubt. I’ve said it before, I’ll happily spin whatever as long as you show me the effort that deserves it. We haven’t even gotten close.
You know how this works, we celebrate together when things go well, and we take our medicine together when the Celtics completely shit themselves. This is one of those times.
– Much like in GM1, the Celtics came out in this game with fantastic energy. They got good shots, they rebounded the basketball, and they jumped out to an early lead. For the second game in a row, that lasted for about four minutes. There was not a quarter of this basketball game in which the Celtics won. That’s pathetic, especially at home, magnified by a billion because of what happened Sunday. If you watched this team during the year, you noticed that things tended to not work out when the Celtics give up multiple quarters in which an opponent scores over 30 points. Last night the Bulls had two. So I’d like to start there, on the defensive end.
The Celtics have allowed over 100 points in 13 of their last 15 games (two they didn’t were NYK and MIL end of the year so I don’t even want to count em). They’ve given up at least 110 five times, so nearly half. That is horrific considering there were no major injuries to any of the players who pride themselves on being plus defenders.
So when you look at their series against the Bulls heading in, it’s understandable that you may have felt a little bit of confidence on that end. The Bulls ranked 25th in the NBA in FG%, and 24th in 3P%, and the last time this team made a visit to the garden they missed their first 11 or so shots. Nothing about this team suggested they were going to kill you shooting the ball. On the glass sure, but as jump shooters? No way. Well what we’ve seen in the first two games is what happens when you give a team confidence. Their shooting is up to 46.5/36% for the series, a FG% that would put them 10th in the NBA. The Celtics dared them to beat them by making jumpers, and that’s exactly what CHI has done, from pretty much everyone.
The problem defensively so far has been every time the Celtics clawed their way back, they have been unable to get those momentum stops to help finally get over the hump. On multiple occasions in GM2 they were able to come back from double digit deficits to make it a one possession game, only to then give it right back with a double digit CHI run. That is extremely frustrating.
– A lot will me made about Danny’s inactivity at the deadline for a big, but if you think that was the reason the Celtics lost GM2, I’d say you’re missing a large chunk. The rebounding was 43-38, both teams tied in OREB, and CHI had just 14 second chance points to BOS 12. That was the story in GM1, not in GM2. In this game, it was more about their defensive strategy not working. This was about them playing with no energy, the starters playing like shit and basically giving up. Very uncharacteristic of the team we saw all year which is why this is so annoying.
So while I do think it’s fair to say Ainge missed an opportunity to make this team better, every loss the Celtics have isn’t because they didn’t trade for a big man. It’s deeper than that. Time will tell if holding on to those assets pays off, but if it’s his job to put the best possible lineup on the floor to maximize their potential, you can’t say he’s done that.
On a night where the Celtics did a good job containing Butler (22 points on 8-19 shooting, just 6 FTA), it was almost as if they decided not to defend anyone else. Let’s start with Robin Lopez. Here’s a player that scored 18 points on 8-11 shooting. This is his shooting chart
Lopez going 6-7 from around 18-20ft is such a kick to the dick. They dared him to be the one that beats you, and he came through. This isn’t a case of the Celtics not being built for the postseason, this loss is a case of leaving their worst offensive player open far away from the basket, and him simply making the shot. Why this angers me is Lopez shot 42% from this range all year. Not terrible for a 7 footer, but a shooting performance like this is hard to explain. It wasn’t as if he got all his points on OREB and scoring in the paint, the Celts chose to let Lopez beat them, and he did.
The same goes for Wade. What are you going to do when a career 28% three point shooter, a guy who shot 31% from deep THIS season, nailed a 26 footer and two 25 foot threes? Again the Celtics, who were among the best in the league defensively guarding the three, were beat by a guy who historically does not make threes. That’s tough to stomach.
Add in Zipser pulling his best Bobby Portis performance, and everything that the Bulls needed to go right did, and all of the Celtics worst nightmares came true. I’ll say it again, the Bulls stepped up and the Celtics didn’t. Sometimes it’s as easy as that.
– It is so personally conflicting to see Rondo absolutely dominate. Long before #TeamIsaiah, there was #TeamRondo. Huge Rondo guy, huuuuuuge. So part of me is he happy to see vintage Rondo is still alive and well. These were the type of performances that we saw in Boston and why I love him as a player. The guy is nails (when he tries). The problem with how the Celtics are approaching Rondo, is they are playing to his strengths. The Celtics defense has been reactionary, instead of forcing Rondo to play out of his comfort zone, they are waiting to see what he does. When he has that sort of time, he is going to pick your defense apart.
– The Celtics had only lost back to back home games twice during the regular season. It had not happened since the end of January (and it was that blown POR game).
– It is going to be extremely hard for the Celtics to beat any NBA team, regardless of seed, if their starters play like this. Isaiah/Avery/Al shot a combined 14-38 (36%) and had just 39 total points. The Celtics got what they needed from their second unit, they didn’t shit themselves, and this time the starters couldn’t hold up their end of the bargain.
By all accounts Avery Bradley is healthy. He’s currently averaging 13 points a game this series with 35/33% splits. This is obviously way down from his 16 points on 46/39% averages during the year. To me this is one of the biggest issues with this team offensively. They NEED Avery Bradley to make his open jumpers. Again I’m not sure I care about when they play the game, an open jumper is an open jumper whether it’s in January or April. This isn’t a case of Avery not being able to create his own shot because of stingy playoff defense, this is a case of a guy who showed to be a reliable shooter when given space not living up to his responsibilities.
– It annoys me that after seeing Horford have success offensively in GM1, the Celtics basically went right back to ignoring him to start this game. He took just 8 FGA in 31 minutes, which isn’t nearly enough. He had 3 FGA by halftime. Sure he hit the glass and passed the ball well, but when there is tape of how to use him effectively, and the team moves away from that, everyone is to blame, including Brad.
Take the start of the third quarter for example. Brad made the adjustment to give the ball to Horford at the top of the key and let him go to work on Lopez. It worked. Then they got him the ball in the post and cut without the ball, and that worked too. Suddenly an 8 point deficit was down to 1 simply because the Celtics went back to what has worked for them all year.
Then it disappeared.
– I’ve already seen it today, the Brad Stevens should be fired if they lose this series takes are out in full force. I’m not one to say Brad deserves zero blame for this, that would be ridiculous. It’s on Brad to ensure his players are ready to play. It’s on Brad to realize when something isn’t working and make an adjustment quickly, something he tends to be a little slow on. It’s on Brad to make sure Horford is getting the ball. It’s on Brad to realize when the team is moving away from an offense that worked and to call a timeout and get the team back on track. These are all things you can rightly get on Stevens for.
But it’s also true that it’s on his players to actually play. When you look at Brad’s rotations, he wasn’t all that bad. He plays seven guys for the most part, and made the right decision in how he managed Isaiah’s rest. I just want to ask these people who are screaming Brad should be fired. Ok, and replaced with who exactly? The one thing this organization is trying to establish is consistency. I 100% understand the frustration, but since when has it been a good idea to make rash decisions like that? Their play is inexcusable and there is no defense for it, but this is also not the final destination. If the plan is to rebuild this team anyway, why on earth do you move on from a good young coach? Does he have to get better in the playoffs? Absolutely. Is he to blame for what we are seeing? Partly of course. But look at the teams around the league that are successful, and are successful for long periods of time. Firing Brad after this season is not only ridiculous, it goes against this entire rebuild in my opinion. Again I understand the hot take and understand the Celtics deserve it, but that doesn’t make it correct.
– Long ago I accepted the fact that the Celtics are in love with shooting threes. For the most part I don’t have a problem with this approach, they certainly showed they can make enough to warrant this approach. My problem is the type of threes they take. Not all are great. For example, Jae Crowder getting an OREB 2ft from the basket, and instead of going up strong deciding to dribble to the corner and take a fadeaway contested three is not the best idea. Having a 3-on-1 fast break and seeing Kelly Olynyk take a three like he’s Isaiah Thomas, also not great. When the Celtics move the ball, make the extra pass and take a three within the rhythm of their offense, they can take as many threes as they want in my opinion. That is in NO way what we got in GM2, and it’s no surprise it burned them.
– I was told the TNT Bulls were not a thing in the playoffs. Liars.
– Another game in which the Celts had more FTs, tied OREB, had the same amount of threes, were close in second chance points, and had more points in the paint and they still lost. This makes almost zero sense.
– I cannot believe Isaiah Thomas missed 6 FTA. Most in his career in a game if I’m not mistaken. Obviously it feels weird to criticize a guy who is battling through shit we can’t even imagine, but that is not something I ever imagined would be possible, and it did have an impact.
– I was really disappointed in the Celtics mental toughness down the stretch of this game. Rondo said it himself, the Celtics quit and he’s right. They look defeated, and like they’ve given up. When that happens, it snowballs and effects everyone. I can’t help but look at Marcus in these situations. He wasn’t getting calls at the rim, and it fucked his shit up. He couldn’t hit an outside shot to save his life, and he let fans chirping get to him
That is fucking pathetic. You don’t want to get chirped? Make a shot. I think we’re seeing something important when it comes to Marcus. I am with the camp that is willing to put his shooting aside if he does everything else well. In this game for the most part that was the case, but look, teams are giving him the Rondo treatment. His shooting is something you can deal with in the regular season, but this is now the second game in a row in which his outside shot has been brutal.
– Once again, turnovers were a gigantic problem. Five more for Isaiah, and 16 by the team, the Celtics are turning the Bulls into a transition team, and their 23 points off turnovers is a big deal. This team is not good enough to play sloppy basketball, and in the playoffs every mistake you make magnified.
– The Celtics had a lead of 10-9 with 8:22 left in the first quarter. They would not lead again for the rest of the game. Same story as GM1. Incredible.
Now I won’t say the Celtics are dead….yet. They are 100% on life support, and if they go into CHI and play the way they did in BOS, they are going to get swept. Historically, this has happened before, we’ve all heard about the 1993 Suns, but no matter how you spin it this is a gigantic uphill climb, and the odds are not in their favor. The goal now is just to make sure this series gets back to Boston. Who knows, they somehow win both and this series is tied 2-2, none of this really matters. Again that is a TALL task for a team that seems very lost at the moment, but it’s not impossible.
The way the Celtics have played so far in the 2017 playoffs is inexcusable. It’s embarrassing, it’s frustrating, but it’s also reality. They can’t feel sorry for themselves because they did this to themselves. They can show us a lot by coming out and winning on Friday and start to put some pressure on CHI, but until that happens they have been nothing more than a disappointment thus far.
Crazier shit has happened, just remember that