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So This Is What Progress Looks Like...Don't Hate it

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This is an important blog for yours truly. This is the first time in my history here at Barstool that I’m able to write a series clinching blog. I’ve dreamed of what this moment would be like and so far it’s living up to the hype. Feels great.

I think it goes without saying, you need to walk before you can run. So before the Celtics can actually be considered a legit contender, they had to show some form of progress, especially in the postseason. We’ve seen this team go from tanking, to overachieving and getting swept, to making the playofffs and then getting hurt which led to an early disappointing exit. Then this offseason happened. They brought in the best available big man on the market, they drafted high ceiling talent, and as we would come to see, Isaiah went to another level. The knock on what we saw during the 2016-17 season was always “Well wait until the postseason. None of this matters until the postseason”. To some extent I agree. The regular season magic was nice and entertaining, but there is no beating around the bush with this team, they had to show real progress this April/May/……June. Heading into the playoffs this year my goals were relatively simple. Get past the first round, and have a competitive second. I still believe if the Celtics lose to WSH in less than 5 this season is a bit of a disappointment. See this team doesn’t have the same excuses as previous years. They have the coaching, they have the talent, they have the system, they have the formula.

Which is why this opening series against the Bulls was such a wave of emotion for us all. Everything you feared if you’re a Celtics fan came true to start this series. Remember how we were all terrified they wouldn’t wake up defensively? They didn’t. How about the second guessing of Danny for not getting a rebounder at the deadline? They were absolutely DESTROYED by Robin fucking Lopez in the first two games. There was legit concern if Avery would be able to provide that secondary scoring that’s so important. He started off shooting 35/30%. Same goes for Jae. Throw in everything going on with Isaiah, and there was legit reason to panic.

Then Rondo got hurt, and things drastically changed.

What we then saw over the last four games was a team that gave us so much confidence in the first place. The defense woke up, the rebounding wasn’t half bad, the ball MOVED, Avery started shooting, Isaiah came up big in pressure moments, Horford did everything, and let me make this clear. When the Celtics play like they did over the last four games it does not matter who they play. It does not matter if Rondo is in the lineup, it doesn’t matter if they are playing Washington, a team that plays like the Celtics did last night is a team that isn’t close to done.

As we look forward to the second round, it again is all about progress. If the Celtics are as good as they want us to believe, they’ll win this round. But let’s start with Game 1. Now before we get too ahead of ourselves I do feel like it’s important to relive the first series clinching win since 2012.

The Good 

– A special occasion calls for a special start. For the first time this season, we’re starting with our fearless leader.


You want to know why and how the Celtics were able to pull off the reverse sweep, it starts with Brad Stevens. One of the things on my personal checklist was seeing Brad’s adjustments win a series. Well, I know he started with 2 playoff wins, and now has 6. That’s not too bad! But seriously, the way Brad figured out this series was big for us all to see. If you’re going to be considered one of the best coaches in the league, you have to do exactly what Brad just did. What I loved is he made Hoiberg adjust to him, and that never really happened. Remember last year when he waited a little too long to change up his starting lineup? He didn’t make that same mistake twice. In four games he got 18-37 from Gerald Green. His decision to go Rozier over Jaylen seemed to work. He identified that Amir wasn’t the right fit and never looked back. You don’t win every road game in a series without good coaching. So I’m happy for Brad that he finally got the monkey off his back and won a playoff series. Again as the #1 seed he SHOULD have done this anyway, but given everything that his team is going through to turn things around like he did should be praised.

– If you had to ask me who the MVP of this series was, I honestly don’t know how I would choose. Both Avery and Horford were incredible. I said before the series that for me, their most non Isaiah player was Avery Bradley, so gun to my head I’m going to lean in his direction. I’ll never understand why there are people who still don’t see the value in Avery. He’s not only improved every year, but we just saw how a healthy and confident Avery can completely change a playoff series. He essentially made Jimmy Butler a non factor in two gigantic playoff games. After carrying this team in GM5, he followed it up last night with a ridiculous 23/5/3 with 9-12 shooting (3-4 from deep).

The reason for Avery’s success isn’t all that complicated. He’s simply getting back to doing the things that worked for him so often in the regular season. He’s putting himself in position for easy buckets early, which then opens everything else up. Like this cut in the first quarter

which helped spark his 9 point start in 12 minutes. It’s no surprise the two best quarters for the Celtics came when Avery played all 12 minutes. He was instrumental in their 30 point first, and that third quarter, oh boy. Avery had 13 of their 34 and essentially wrapped this up

But the best part of his night came postgame. Give this man John Wall/Bradley Beal.

– Al Horford’s official first playoff series as a member of the Boston Celtics:

15.8 points 8.5 rebounds 6.5 assists 0.5 blocks 1.2 steals 1.2 turnovers 59/53% shooting.

His PER has been 25.46, which is up drastically from his regular season 17.77. The playoffs are when you want your best/highly paid players to show up right? Like if all that we were supposed to care about is the postseason, and a player dominates in said postseason, that’s how we should judge him right? Just trying to keep up.

In the biggest game of the Brad Stevens era, Horford turned in a 12/6/7 in 27 minutes. He did not miss a shot (5-5, 1-1). After being pushed around by Lopez to start this series, Horford basically eliminated that over the remaining four games once the lineup changed. Everywhere you look Horford clearly has elevated his game now that the playoffs have started. For example his offensive rating currently is a 141, up from 114 during the year. On the defensive end, we see the same trend (102 vs 107 defensive rating).

Now WSH will be a much different story than CHI front line, the good news is Horford averaged 18/6.7/4.0 with 63/40% splits against the Wizards during the year.

– How it worked makes no sense. There is not one of us who expected Gerald Green to make such a huge impact in a playoff series but make no mistake, the Celtics do not win this series without Gerald going all 2K7 Gerald Green. Of course he led all starters in FGA (13), but he made six of them including multiple threes! The outside/inside approach seems to be working, because Gerald is either nailing a three, or making a beautiful cut and drive into the lane for a wide open layup or dunk. I mean who is this guy!!

– Another win, another game in which the Celts a team to under 100. This is now four straight. Of course this is the area in which the Bulls clearly missed Rondo, but I’m not sure what that has to do with how Avery locked down Butler, or the fact that Jae woke up defensively. If this defensive effort is what we are going to get consistently, then that changes pretty much everything.

– In the first two games the Celtics were out rebounded 97-74 (32-23 OREB). Disaster. Aside from the GM3 win that was also brutal (52-37) this is how the Celtics finished the series on the glass

GM4: 44-42 adv CHI

GM5: 42-38 adv CHI

GM6: 45-43 adv BOS

Sure they didn’t win any of them, but the Celtics are almost never going to consistently win that battle. The whole goal is to keep it close and not give up second chance points. They accomplished that.

Factor in the Celtics only turning the ball over 13 times in the last eight quarters, the two areas that really cost them the first two games were completely turned around.

– The ball movement continues to be incredible with this team. Another 28 assists on 39 baskets, they are getting passing from multiple people on the roster. Guys like Horford and Olynyk continue to be effective passing bigs, Isaiah had 6 assists and just 1 TO, while also having the assist of the night

You could tell this was going to be one of those nights after you saw the Celtics opening play. The spacing, the cutting the awareness of Horford to catch and turn to find an open shooter. I always say the Basketball Gods reward good ball movement, and that could not have been more true for both sides in this series.

– There is nothing like a wire to wire blowout win on the road to clinch a playoff series. Celtics hadn’t closed out a series on the road since 2011.

– I believe I had Celtics in 6. Check the tape.

The Bad

– Isaiah’s shooting by no means was ideal from a percentage standpoint. He had his moments like the fourth quarters of GM1 (12 points), GM4 (7 points 3-6 shooting), GM5 (11 points), but his three point shooting this entire series has been bruuuuutal. I mean like real bad. 9-45 bad. When I watch Isaiah take some of these threes, I get the sense that he’s trying to make up for all of his misses with one shot. The shot selection has been pretty consistent with what we saw all year, but too often this series he found himself in a 1-5 hole early.

Here’s why you shouldn’t panic. The Bulls finished the year 6th in the NBA in opponent 3P FG%. The Wizards? 20th.

– Listen I don’t want to get too much on Brad since he turned this series around, but this was a blowout with a ton of time left. Jaylen Brown played 7:28. I find that both annoying and inexcusable. Who knows what matchups and lineup tweaks are going to be needed in the next series, I would have liked to see Jaylen get a little more run considering we play again on Sunday.

– Ditto James Young amirite?

– And speaking of Sunday, I’m conflicted on how to feel about all this. On one hand the Celtics are at their best when they play with just 1 days rest, but at the same time aren’t they the top seed? Shouldn’t that come with some sort of rest? Meanwhile CLE/TOR don’t play until Monday? That matchup has been determined since Thursday. Fucking Lebron.

 The Ugly 

– Nope! Not when you advance out of the first round for the first time in 5 years. Suck it easy h8ers.


I can’t stress it enough. Progress. It won’t always look pretty, there is bound to be drama in the second round, it’s going to be an absolute battle. I’ll have a full preview tomorrow before tip. But until then, spend today with a smile on your face. The Celtics are on their way.

4 down 12 to go