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The Celtics Won Game 3 By Getting Back To Basics

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In what was both a “must in” and a “can’t lose”, thank fucking God the Celtics showed up. Welcome to the 1/8 series where neither team has any interest of playing well or winning at home. Fine by me…for the moment. This team finally looked familiar in their Game 3 win, and I don’t just mean because of the result, but everything that went into it. They played defense, they got a huge lead, they blew a huge lead, they got killed on the boards, they hit threes, they didn’t really turn the ball over, they had a strong third quarter, and finally they sealed it in the fourth. This was a Celtics effort we have seen time and time and time again in the 2016-17 season, and a formula that more often than not results in wins. With everything going on around this team, the Isaiah heartbreak, the 0-2 hole, hot takes left and right calling for Stevens’ job, the Celtics needed a game like this. Shit as fans WE needed to see them play like this. You go down 0-3, it’s a wrap. Now being down 1-2 is still not great, and there is a LOONNNNGGGG way to go before the Celts are truly back in this series, but this was a start.

I could make the argument that this was the best basketball the Celtics have played in nearly a month, and who knows, maybe there is something to this team about being at their best when the pressure is at its highest. Only time will tell.

But in the meantime, after living through back to back pathetic efforts, it’s only right we have a little fun now that they finally won a playoff game. Baby steps.

The Good

– There were a lot of options to start us off, but really it feels right to go in one direction, and that is with the play of Al Horford. In what was without a doubt the biggest game of the Celtics season, the max deal player showed up and had his best game of the entire series. Worth every damn penny if you ask me

18/8/6/4/1 while shooting 8-14 (2-3 from deep) and a +11 in his 32 minutes. In no way did Horford disappear, and when you look at the reasons as to why Horford had such a big night, it’s really not that complicated. Unlike the first two games, GM3 saw Horford get the ball in positions to succeed. Whether it was a wide open look that came off terrific ball movement and actually running plays, or it was through the P&R with Isaiah, Al made one small adjustment to his game and it had a drastic impact.

Instead of setting the screen and popping out for a jumper, we saw Horford slip screen way more frequently, and you could tell this caught the Bulls a little bit off guard considering he feasted on dunk after dunk. Lopez I don’t think turned his head once on any Horford roll, and that’s what having a guy like Isaiah can do. With everyone focused on him, Horford was able to move to open spots and convert high quality looks.

And with Horford it’s never just about his scoring. It should be no surprise the Celts offense looked so good in a game in which Horford had six assists. His ability to pass out of the post to three point shooters, as well as find cutters is why it makes me so mad to see this offense stall, simply because they don’t give him the ball. The Celtics needed their big guns to step up in a game like this, so seeing Horford come through was just what the doctor ordered.

– Aside from Horford, my MVP of this game has to be Avery. We have been needing this kind of performance and effort from Avery since this series started, and what a difference it makes. We’ll start with the offense. It’s no secret that the Celtics are starved for secondary scoring, something that Avery had not been able to provide in either of the first two losses. His shooting has been rough, even on wide open looks, and without it the entire offense changes. Defenses can key in more on Isaiah, all the sudden CHI goes on runs, it’s all a disaster. Well, in this game, Avery came out firing. While those 15 points on 5-10 shooting (4-6 from deep) may not seem like a lot, in reality, it was gigantic. The way he shot the ball in that first quarter (combined with Jae) was exactly what this team needed. They needed to see the ball go in then basket, and from there everything else opened up. Driving lanes were there, their confidence was sky high, and when this team makes his threes, more importantly when Avery makes his threes, we see why this team can so tough to beat.

Once Avery starts to hit the midrange, it gives this offense so many options. A large percentage of the time the Celtics get Avery open through numerous down screens. He’s at his best when he’s curling off a screen, gets the ball, and can step into his jumper. Well when he made a couple and CHI overcompensated a little bit, Avery kept his head up and did things like this


Also by rule, when we get a beautiful off ball cut from Avery we show it. Jimmy Butler caught watching like you read about


In all honesty, this looked a lot like early season Avery. The shooting is one thing, but his seven rebounds and seven assists were the biggest improvements in my eyes in GM3. People forget, Avery was practically this teams best rebounder, so it was good to see him stick his nose in there because lord knows we need help from everyone on the roster. I’ve always felt that Avery is the true difference maker in this series not named Isaiah. All the ways he helps you on the offensive end is great, but then you add in a defensive presence against Butler like there was last night, and you have something.

If you’re looking for a reason to be uneasy about a potential Avery trade, or you are looking for a reason to maybe extend him, his defense on Jimmy Butler is a big one. We haven’t seen lock down defense in a WHILE from any of our perimeter defenders, but this game was a defensive clinic.  There’s a reason Avery was +22

– On a night where he didn’t shoot the ball particularly well to start, Isaiah’s passing was beautiful.

The best part? He took care of the basketball and looked a lot more like himself (2 TOs). Here’s a question I legitimately have. Why isn’t Jimmy Butler guarding Isaiah at all times? What is Hoiberg doing? You don’t have Rondo, how was this not the adjustment? Is he worried about Avery creating his own shot? If I were a betting man, he tried to get by without it since he was up 2-0, but we will see A LOT more of Butler on Isaiah in GM4.

The work Isaiah did in the P&R as a passer was exactly what this offense needed. He took all the attention he gets and put his teammates in positions to succeed. Often times he misses the roll man in these situations, but that wasn’t nearly the case last night. We already know that Isaiah is going to split the CHI defense whenever he wants, GM3 was just what happens when you make your shots off it.

– What on earth has gotten into Terry Rozier? He has officially played himself into GM4 minutes, and holy shit was it a surprise. This was basically our version of Zipser scoring 16 points on 6-8 shooting on the road. Bulls fans are probably like “what the fuck, Terry Rozier?!?!” the same way we were about Robin fucking Lopez and shit.

But make no mistake, Rozier balled his face off. The bench needed someone to step up, and I would say Rozier’s +19 in 23 minutes fit the bill.

Love it when he goes full Summer League Terry. That player rules.

– It’s not complicated. When you move the ball and actually run an offense, the basketball gods reward you. The Celtics having 34 assists on 41 baskets is the very definition of good ball movement. When the Celtics pass the ball like this, they rarely lose. It certainly helps when you make 51% of your open looks, but after being unable to throw a pea in the ocean in the first two games, the Celts were due a breakout like this.

– It deserves it’s own video. This is what good Celtics defense looks like. Please do more of this. For me, this area is where not having Rondo hurt CHI the most. In the first two games, the Celtics defense was more reactionary. They waited for Rondo to make the first move, and when you give Rondo that much time he picks you apart. Last night, with that not being an option, we saw the Celtics be the aggressors. They were more active in passing lanes, and their rotations were much tighter.

The Bad

– The Celtics were out rebounded 52-37 and gave up 15 OREB. That’s not a beatdown in two of the first three. Yeah they won despite this, but you can’t expect to always shoot well on the road. Shit like this will get you beat more often than not. Lopez is still and issue on the glass, you can pencil him in for around four a night at this point. But guys like Cristiano Felicio coming in and grabbed five of his own, that shit has got to stop. I suppose that is due to happen when your only playing Olynyk as a big off the bench really.

– Speaking of Olynyk, he’s having a tough time on the defensive end. Jimmy Butler sees him back pedal off the P&R and it might as well be a death wish. He’s either scoring or getting to the line every single time without fail. There’s no way around it, Olynyk has had a tough playoffs. He did hit that three which was nice, but his work on the glass and on the defensive end has not been great. Add in his turnover issues and if the Celtics are going to turn this series around Kelly is going to have to wake up.

– Why do people still fall for Wade pump fakes so consistently? He’s only been doing it for like 20 years maybe pay attention.

– I thought Jae got a little lost mentally when things didn’t go his way/ The missed goaltend obviously, but then a couple of no calls later you could see Jae was spending more time complaining than getting back on defense. It’s not that he didn’t have a case, but it’s more you just need to move on. The more this team complains the less calls they get. That’s nothing new.

– Part of the price shooting so many threes is you don’t really get to the line. Perhaps it’s nitpicking, but I would have liked to see a few more than 7 FTA for the Celts. Very weird to see the Celtics win a game and Isaiah not even attempt a single FT.

The Ugly

– What a brutal, brutal second quarter. Stop me if you’ve heard that before. Much like the rest of you, there was no chance I was going to exhale when the Celtics had a 20 point lead. I knew, you knew, we all knew they were going to blow it. I would say an 11 point quarter gets that done. Shooting 22/12% and turning it over four times doesn’t help either. All the sudden nobody could make a shot. The Celts missed something crazy like 15-16 or something horrific. I don’t know what it is, both the starters and bench played in that quarter, but for some reason the second quarter has been a thorn in this team’s side literally all year. It’s incredible.

– The CHI PG situation. No chance they play a PG in GM4. Wade/Butler are going to be your point guards. Either that or Rondo is coming back and playing left handed.

One game at a time, that’s all this is. There is a GIGANTIC difference going back to the Garden 2-2 as opposed to 1-3. All a win like last night does is guarantee you get to play a little longer. By no means is this series back, by no means are the Celtics able to relax, if anything there is just as much pressure on them tomorrow as there is on CHI. The good news is they showed they have a pulse. They showed they are capable of playing their way back into this series, now they just have to follow through.

Say it with me….

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