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The Celtics Love Getting Blown Out At The Verizon Center

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I said it right after the game and I’ll repeat it again today. Last night was an absolute fucking blowout. Frustrating doesn’t even begin to describe the performance, but to say this was just a one time thing is a little misleading. Here is how the Celtics fared this season when traveling to the Verizon Center to play a basketball game

Game 1: 118-93 Loss.

This game started with a solid 34-8 first quarter for the Wizards. Celts came out blazing and shot 4-22 (0-8 from deep) and had 4 TOs to start. The Wizards on the other hand couldn’t miss, and shot 53% from the field and 6-7 from deep. Essentially the Celtics lost this game in the first quarter, and it would be first time the Celtics would not be able to match the intensity of WSH. In a game they nlost by 15, they had 11 TOs for 13 WSH points. Brutal.

Game 2: 123-108 Loss

Again, more of the same. The Wizards came out and shot 14-19 (73%) from the field and 4-7 from deep in the first quarter. The Celtics had 39/16% splits. For the second time on the road, the Celtics gave up a 33 point quarter. You might remember this as the funeral game. Example #2 where the Wizards came out and punched the Celtics first, and they never recovered.

Which brings us to last night. For whatever reason, this arena is a house of horrors for the Celtics, and I think part of it has to do with how much better WSH is at home than on the road. It’s as if they are two completely different teams. Down 0-2 you KNEW they were going to come out blazing and play with a desperation that the Celtics were going to have to match. Well, they didn’t.

What I’m not going to do is panic. Nobody thought this was going to be a sweep, and while an argument could be made that the Celtics should be down 0-3, they aren’t. They picked a bad time to have one of their worst performances up and down the roster probably since the March 10th blowout loss to DEN.

Even after Game 2 you knew this series was far from over. Sometimes this team needs to get punked every once in a while to get back to playing the right way. After getting blown out by GS in mid November, they responded and won the next night. They won both their games following the WSH blowouts. After getting worked by SAC on the road, they went on to win four straight. Remember that beatdown the Hawks gave the Celtics at the end of February? They came back the next game and beat CLE. We just saw what happened against CHI in the first round. This team responds well to adversity, so take that in account.

But they’ll have to wait to Sunday to avenge this disaster, so in the meantime, we relive the pain together.

The Good

I looked, I reviewed the tape, I tried to force it, but it’s not there. There is absolutely nothing good to take away from this game. Not even Horford being the only one who showed up offensively. Not even a good defensive rotation or good ball movement. There are times the Celtics lose but there are still positives to take away. This is not one of those moments. This was bad, and this was ugly. Nothing more.

The Bad

– The Celtics clearly have a first quarter problem against this team, and its plagued them all year. Totals of 33, 34, 38, 42, 39. That is HORRENDOUS. You can’t win on the road when you do that no matter who you play, and definitely can’t beat a team that’s 30-11 at home. You can’t win games in the first quarter, but as we just say, you most definitely can lose them.

The keys for the Celtics in this series are simple. Stop giving up gigantic runs, and stop shooting yourself in the foot over and over and over and over and over again. Even in the games they’ve won in this series, this has been an issue, and the reason it’s maddening to all Celtics fans is it’s very uncharacteristic of how this team plays. They finished 8th in the league in turnovers for crying out loud, so to see them AGAIN be so careless with the ball it’s no surprise it finally caught up to them.

The problem with this happening on the road is it energizes the crowd, which in turn energizes the Wizards. Anytime you put up 37/33% splits with 6 TOs and give up 59/83% splits and force just 1 TO, you’re going to be down 20+ like the Celtics found out. I joked before the game I would be pumped if the Celts only gave up 28 points to start last night. At this point it is no longer a joke. I will be truly excited if they keep the Wizards to under 30.

– It’s also not ideal when you go almost an entire half of a quarter without scoring. For me, this was the game. Jae Crowder made a layup to tie things at 12 with 6:39 left in the first. Here is how the Celtics next 5 minutes went:

Avery missed layup, Isaiah turnover, Horford travel, Smart turnover, Green foul, Smart missed layup, Smart missed layup, Smart missed 22 footer, Smart turnover, Jaylen missed jumper, timeout, Smart travel, Olynyk missed jumper, Jonas foul, Isaiah missed FT

It wasn’t until Isaiah’s second FT with 1:22 left that the Celtics would score since that Jae layup. Naturally during this stretch we saw the Wizards get to the line, make layups, and nail multiple threes. Don’t take my word for it, see for yourself

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– It was with this run that we got Brad’s first mistake of the night, that ultimately proved to be pretty costly. I thought his problem in previous playoffs was he waited way too long to call timeouts. He got better this year, but he fell back into the bad habit here. Now it’s easy to just say he should have called a timeout, but then never provide situations where it could have happened. I see at least three.

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The first is after the Otto Porter layup to make it 12-18 with 5:24 left. The Celtics missed layups and turned it over, and it was a quick 6-0 run. I would have liked to see him take a timeout and regroup there. Get a solid ATO play to stop the bleeding, and get back to what worked early.

The second was after Wall’s three to make it 12-22 with 4:03 left. Instead, they didn’t and we got a 22 footer from Marcus which shocker, didn’t go in.

At the very LEAST, there should have been one after the Bogdanovic three that made it 12-25 with 3:18 left. But that never happened, the Wizards extended it a little more to 17, and the Brad finally called the timeout. I can understand trusting your players to play through stretches like this at times, but not in the playoffs. Not on the road in a hostile environment when your team is collapsing right before your eyes. Brad has to be better about this in Game 4, has to.

– Unfortunately, once the lead started to get a little out of hand, the Celtics moved away from what they do so well offensively. Their shot selection was rushed, they stopped running an offense, and when they weren’t turning it over, they were missing jumpers. What did we see in all of these 6 consecutive wins? Part of it was Isaiah brilliance, but part of it was making a conscious effort to get Al Horford involved offensively. Well, he had 3 FGA in the first half. He did not take one shot in that first quarter. I thought Brad made a good point, in the games the Celtics came back from big leads, they stayed away from trying to hit home runs on every shot. They hit singles, defended, and climbed their way back in it. Last night was the exact opposite.

– It’s really hard for this team to win when it’s starters go 18-42, and their three primary guards are a stellar 8-25 with 10 TOs. Isaiah didn’t take a shot until around four minutes into the game, and right from the start the Celts settled for quick long twos and never ran an offense. It’ll be interesting to see if WSH really figured things out moving forward, or if this was just one of those nights for the Celtics offense.

– Is this good? I’m thinking it’s actually bad, but I’m not sure

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– If you had to pick a common theme in most Celtics losses, I think we all immediately would go to rebounding. The numbers back it up too. When rebounding is close, the Celtics are 45-11, when they get killed on the glass, they’re 11-21. Last night’s rebounding total: 50-28 advantage WSH.

Add in the 17 second chance points, and 56-28 deficit in points in the paint, this is a pretty good reason why the Celtics were never able to climb back into this game. Horford was nowhere to be found on the glass (2 rebounds) and it was the first time he’s had under 6 rebounds this entire postseason. It’s not as if he didn’t play either, he had 28 minutes, but it’s not the best look when Crowder is your best rebounder, and he only had 7.

– The Wizards finally realized that Isaiah Thomas is shorter than Otto Porter Jr, and he made the Celtics pay. He was fantastic, and even though Isaiah contested, it didn’t seem to make a difference. As a result there were times where Horford maybe helped a little too soon, or a little too hard, and again the Celtics did not help the helper.

– I’m most disappointed that the Celtics fell into the trap of the Wizards fake toughness. That Oubre play isn’t toughness it’s just stupid, but there’s no other way to say it other than the Celtics simply lost their composure throughout this game. That happens a lot with this team, and why I think mental toughness is so important in this series. Rozier fell for Jennings’ bait as well, and in my opinion the Celtics did more complaining than actually playing. The Celtics are easy to beat if you can get them to change their focus from execution, to retaliation, so I don’t blame WSH for going with this approach one bit. It’s on everyone, both the players and the coaches to make sure this doesn’t happen. Last night they fell short.

– Maybe it’s his hip, but I missed that All NBA defense from Avery. A team worse -25 was a bit of a shock considering how well he played in the first two games.

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– The Celtics never adjusted to how WSH defended Isaiah. If anything they were reactionary, the same style of play we saw them show against Rondo last series. Instead of enforcing their will on their opponent, they didn’t make adjustments and didn’t play with intensity. On the defensive end they didn’t force WSH to do anything that made them uncomfortable, instead waiting to see what Wall wanted to do. Obviously that did not work.

The Ugly

– This was the worst performance of Marcus Smart’s career. Not debatable. In his 24 minutes we saw him go 2-9 (1-4 from deep) and turn the ball over 8 times. EIGHT FUCKING TIMES. Previously in his career he’s had a high of 6 TOs three times, so I would say picking this game to have the worst performance taking care of the ball is less than ideal. Smart has 13 TOs in three games this series, and last night was the same amount of TOs as what Smart had in the ENTIRE CHI series. Mentally he is lost, you can see it on his face, and that’s a gigantic problem because Smart is pretty important to this team, and why this team wins.

– The officials were in no way the reason the Celtics lost this game. In reality the Celts took more FTs and had the same amount of fouls. But that doesn’t tell the full story. Where the officials were at fault was they allowed WSH to bait them into calls. We have yet to see Gortat get called for a moving screen it feels like, Horford getting that foul on an OREB was suspect, and then there was this

Now as a team that employs Marcus Smart I think we all need to understand that the Celts have benefitted from flops as well, but this was bad. Really bad. Plays like this are important because they are momentum changing calls. Again the Celtics played like absolute dogshit from midway through the first and deserved what happened to them, but that doesn’t excuse the fact that the officially clearly lost control of this game.

– The Celtics did not win a single quarter. In fact, I think they’ve only won maybe two quarters all series.

Last night sucked. Sucked big time, but remember the sky is not falling. The Celtics are still in the drivers seat, and we can forget all about this with a win on Sunday. At the very worst, we come back tied 2-2 for a pretty gigantic Game 5. Trust in what we saw from this team all year, this exact game is nothing new, and by no means does one loss mean a series has suddenly swung. The Celtics played like shit and they know it, chances are that doesn’t happen again.

Time to turn the page

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