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The Celtics Went To Chicago And Changed This Entire Series

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2-2. That was the goal and here we are. Home court advantage is back, and the the Celtics don’t have to win another road game to advance if they just take care of business at home (something no team wants to do but that’s OK). I don’t find it a coincidence that at a time in which Isaiah is doing his best to return to his normal self despite unspeakable circumstances, this team is starting to get back to normal as well. It isn’t worth getting too worked up about, they still have to you know, win the series, but this team looked defeated before Friday and for good reason. My problem those first two games was CHI was clearly the aggressor, and the Celtics never seemed to be able to punch back. Now after this weekend, it’s clear this teams was hurting in the first two games. You never really know how much a tragedy will impact a team that is as close as the Celtics are, and I think maybe we all didn’t give that enough credit for their struggles. What at the time may have seemed like an easy excuse or cop out, probably had more to do with it than we thought.

And look, there’s no way around it, the Rondo injury changed everything. Now let’s not go talking about Rondo like he’s Lebron fucking James or anything, but the Celtics clearly didn’t have an answer for him in the first two games and it’s no surprise things look drastically different without him. But that’s not the Celtics fault. Injuries happen. I would say how Hoiberg has adjusted to this injury is the biggest reason the Bulls have had a tough time. Just because Rondo has missed these last two games does not take away from what the Celts were able to accomplish. With their backs up against the wall and season on the line, they showed up in Chicago and played the way we have seen them play all year. The way that led to 53 wins and one of the best offenses in the entire NBA. They looked like themselves, and I for one could not have been more relieved.

We now have to wait two long days for Game 5, so in the meantime, let’s have some fun

The Good

– “Once you get a long elite defender like Jimmy Butler on Isaiah, he won’t have nearly the same success”

“Isaiah is a regular season player who can’t do anything once defenses actually try like they do in the playoffs”

“Isaiah is a selfish player who only cares about his points and doesn’t look to get his teammates involved”

“At BEST Isaiah is a 6th man. He should not be starting. He is too much of a liability”

“Greenie you are such a fucking Isaiah homer and know nothing. He will be exposed. It’s a fact”

Another 33/4/7 on 10-21 shooting performance later, safe to say Isaiah is doing exactly what I expected him to do in the playoffs which is to continue the same sort of production we saw from him during the regular season. He is just as deadly in the P&R, his passing is there (but also a bit careless at times), his defense has slightly improved, it doesn’t matter who it is, whether it’s Jimmy Butler, or Rondo, or whoever, Isaiah is getting to the rim at ease and carrying this team. Last night was vintage 2017 Isaiah in that when the Bulls made their 12-0 run and things seemed to be collapsing in the third quarter, there was Isaiah with a double digit run of his OWN to reestablish the cushion. Isaiah got better as the game went along which was another sign he’s starting to get back to normal. His 17 second half points came on 6-11 shooting, and in the fourth his 7 points on 3-6 shooting helped seal the deal.

So what’s the adjustment that stands out the most? To me, it’s how frequently Brad had a little Isaiah/Horford switch which put Lopez on Isaiah about 30 feet from the basket. It’s not rocket science who is going to win that matchup. This is the thing about Isaiah’s offensive development that has been so crucial. It legit doesn’t matter who it is, Isaiah is going to be able to finish at the rim at a high clip. That’s not to say he won’t get blocked, everyone in the NBA gets blocked, but when as a team you can’t prevent him from getting into the paint, and then you also have a tough time stopping him at the rim, how do you guard him? And that’s only half the equation! Once Isaiah knows he has you thinking about him in the P&R, the defense tends to over help, which is when Isaiah then keeps his head up and finds the open man like he did last night with Horford. When this team actually runs an offense, and it can be simple as just a high P&R, everything opens up, but it all starts with Isaiah.

I will say this, there is still a LOT of basketball to be played, but for the moment it’s a tough time for the Isaiah h8ers and I love it. They’re searching, scrambling, everything they thought they knew is coming crashing down. I fucking love it.

– It makes no sense I’ll be the first to admit it. What the Celtics got from Gerald Green in these two games legit makes zero sense. Credit Ainge for bringing him back and giving him RJ Hunter’s roster spot, credit Brad for being so desperate to turn things around that he actually went to him, and credit Gerald for being ready. As he says, you don’t have to get ready if you stay ready and boy was he ready. I mean 16/5 with four made threes in one half is not even remotely what any of us expected. It really fits how this series has gone if we’re being honest. Games 1 and 2 it was the CHI randoms who had breakout performances that led to wins. Games 3 and 4 it was our random. Don’t try and spend too much time figuring out why, because there is no logical explanation. To think that Gerald Green has played this much of a role in turning around this series is bananas.

And if we’re being honest, I don’t really care that he sort of turned back into a pumpkin in the second half (1-4 shooting), the damage was done. 2K7 Gerald, what a monster. At this point you start him for the rest of the series right? Have to.

– In the two biggest games of your season, you need your best players to step up. We saw Isaiah do it, but what about Horford? You know, the guy who has been killed by some Celtics fans ALL YEAR for being a terrible signing. Not worth the money they say. Doesn’t really make this team better they scream on Twitter. Well, Game 3 he went for 15/8/6/4 with 57/66% splits. Last night? Back at it again with 15/12/4/1 with 54/33% splits. On multiple occasions we saw Horford with big defensive rebounds over Lopez that led to easy Celtics buckets, and like I’ve been writing all season long, the offense looks SO MUCH BETTER when it’s run through Al. Things like this happen

horford1

Let me ask you, does Jared Sullinger make this play?

The one thing we needed to see from Al this series is consistency. In the four games so far one thing remains true. When he gets double digit FGA, he turns in a solid performance. Only 11 for him last night (which is a little low imo) he’s now at 14.8/9.5/5.8/1.5/0.8 with 54/50% splits for the series. At the moment I don’t really care if there was a game in January in which Horford disappeared. We got him for the playoffs right? And so far in the playoffs he’s been essentially exactly what this team needs.

– The Basketball Gods are tough but fair. You play careless and with little effort and disrespect them, they’ll burn you. You play the right way on both ends, and move the ball on offense, they will reward you. Well, the way the Celtics moved the ball in this game it’s no surprise they were rewarded. Anytime I see a first half with 12 assists on 19 baskets, that tells me they are playing the right way. The beauty of starting that way is when it gets to be the fourth quarter and you need a big momentum make, if you keep doing it they will again reward you. Like here

– I have long been of the camp that I will continue to not give a shit about the shooting of Marcus Smart if he continues to make HUGE plays and has an overall positive impact on this team. Well, last night his 2-7 shooting may as well have been 7-7 based on everything else he did. His 5/8/6/1/1 may seem like a below average night, but as with everything involving Marcus it’s more than his box score. His three offensive rebounds in the fourth quarter were gigantic, his block at the rim was a huge momentum play, and when we get Marcus The Creator like we did last night and he is making things easy for his teammates, he is such a different player. If the Celts were going to climb back into this series, they needed Marcus to get back to being Marcus.

Also, don’t look now but Smart now has 40/37% splits for the series. I’d say that’s a little better than his 35/28% he had during the regular season. If he can maintain being just an average shooter, look out.

– I threw this out on Twitter and a stoolie hooked it up. I couldn’t remember the last time the Celtics held a team to under 100 points in consecutive games and won both. It actually came in early March in the CLE/LAL wins. It had been 22 games since we would see that again, and the Celtics picked a fantastic time to get back to playing some defense.

Did you know Jimmy Butler is shooting 40/23% in this series? That’s down from his 45/36% during the year. If not for his billion FTs, this would have really been the third game in a row in this series where he really has been held in check on the offensive end. Based on the way the Celtics defended over the last month or so, this is a nice surprise.

– If you were a Bulls fan, what would make you more angry? Seeing Gerald Green go crazy, or seeing Olynyk go 4-4 for 10 points. Has to be Olynyk right? I don’t understand how it works, he comes VERY close to traveling every time he touches the ball, it’s awkward as all hell, but somehow he was able to finish. Olynyk needed a game like this in this series because quite frankly he had stunk big time before it. No matter what his future holds, Olynyk will probably go down as an all time frustrating Celtic for me. Right below Jeff Green and above Kedrick Brown.

– After all the hoopla about the rebounding, the Celtics again were able to keep this close in GM4. The totals were 44-41, but the Celts won the second chance points battle, and points in the paint battle. This is sort of the point. The Celtics are never going to be a good rebounding team, but if they can keep it close, don’t turn over the ball and actually make shots, who gives a shit.

The Bad 

– Why is it so hard to see a goaltend? This was now the second game in a row in which the ball CLEARLY hit the backboard before a CHI block, yet no whistle. Between that, the ridiculous continuation calls that I guess only count for CHI, the techs, the touch fouls, this really wasn’t the best night for the officials. I know this stuff tends to even out, and it’s not as if it cost the Celtics the game or anything, but you can’t sit there and tell me it was even remotely good for either side.

– Someone will have to explain to me why it keeps happening. Why on God’s green earth do the Celtics stop running an offense in the second quarter. If you didn’t know that big lead was going to evaporate you haven’t been paying attention. Honestly it’s so frustrating because there is no excuse for it. Every time you look up the Celtics are dribbling the ball on the perimeter with around 8 seconds left on the shot clock and everything goes to hell. This has been an issue all season, and it doesn’t look like it’s stopping anytime soon. It doesn’t matter who is on the floor, whether its the starters or second unit it, it’s gross.

– The Celtics got VERY lucky they were able to pull this game out considering Avery shot the ball like absolute shit. Granted, he had around three or four rim out but to me it looked like he was aiming, and not shooting. If the Celtics are going to win this series, they cannot have too many more shooting performances like that from Avery.

It also surprised me that they didn’t run him off screens or anything to get him some open easy baskets. That cut by Jae in the Horford gif? Why didn’t we see that same play a couple times for Avery to get his confidence up?

– Hey Fred Hoiberg, maybe stop crying so much about how Isaiah dribbles and realize you completely fucked up by playing Grant/MCW. Oh wahhhhh none of my players can stay in front of Isaiah wahhhhhh he carries all the time wahhhhhhhhh

– I was not a fan of that little dust up between Marcus and Butler. So stupid and so unneccesary. All it did was give the Bulls momentum which was the last thing we needed. Not the best look for Smart, but also not the best look for Butler with what he said postgame. He isn’t about that life? I don’t think Butler knows too much about Smart’s off the court life to say shit like that.

The Ugly

– When Isaiah forces things too much, he gets into trouble. That’s exactly what the start of the third quarter was, and it as a big reason why the Celtics blew the lead. A couple awful turnovers, some poor shot selection, and then that charge on an easy fastbreak, Isaiah can’t afford to have stretches like that moving forward. His TOs were again too high for my liking (5), and I think at times he simply needs to take a breath. It’s pretty clear when he gets into this funk, and it kills the Celts every single time. Fortunately he had a great end of the third, but that start, WOOF.

We’ll now see if the Celts can snap out of their 2 Day Rest funk which has plagued them all year. It sucks to have all this momentum and have to wait to play, but the Garden is going to be absolutely electric. Now we just need the break the trend of not being able to win at home.

Great trip, great wins, feels great to be back in the series. Say it with me…

2 down, 14 to go